For women, salary doesn’t affect how many winks they receive – until they earn 50,000 yuan or more, when they see the number of winks tail off slightly.
Sharing other insights into Zhenai.com’s data, Li says that on average, women prefer men who are three years older than them, while men seem to prefer women three years younger than them, but that changes the wealthier the men are.
This is because the Chinese government aims to migrate an additional 250 million people from the countryside to the cities over the next decade – and he expects many of them to be potential customers.
offers two broad services: one is what Li calls a “self-service dating service” where members pay 400 yuan (US$60) a year to browse members’ profiles, chat and arrange dates; the other is a more exclusive offline, face-to-face matchmaking service that costs 4,000 yuan for six months.
The self-service platform allows members to send each other digital “winks”.
says it has 120 million registered users, and new users join the dating platform at a rate of 40,000 to 50,000 a day.
Born in a suburb of Shanghai, Li trained as a molecular biologist at Cornell University in the US and, after realising he wasn’t suited to fiddling with Petri dishes in a lab, switched to Columbia University, where he earned a Ph D in finance.
Following a one-year “lock-up period” imposed by Sina he set up a music sharing company that eventually pivoted to become
“I wanted to create an online community for music lovers, but we noticed that the people who came to this community were really there to meet other singles so I decided that I’d just go straight to dating,” says Li, who met his wife Kathy at a drinks event in Hong Kong.
“The higher the earning power of the man, the more likely he would [be to] ask to date a younger woman,” Li says.
The more affordable “self-service” dating site is popular with those in their 20s, but he says there is a very definite trend that when women reach the age of 27 they opt for the more pricey matchmaking service.
She was a private equity fund manager at the time – now she’s a venture capitalist – and he was an executive director of equity derivatives at Morgan Stanley.