Catering to Black Women Professionals, CarpeDM Takes the Stress Out of D.C. Dating

CarpeDM combines traditional, human-led matchmaking with the convenience of modern online dating.

Written by Charli Renken
Published on May. 24, 2022
Catering to Black Women Professionals, CarpeDM Takes the Stress Out of D.C. Dating
CarpeDM co-founders Naza Shelley and Sali Hama
CarpeDM co-founders Naza Shelley and Sali Hama. | Photo: CarpeDM

Sure, the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In has launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of D.C.’s rising startups from last quarter here.

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Dating apps can be exhausting, particularly for people of color who often face racially biased algorithms and higher rates of online harassment than white users. According to a now-deleted 2014 blog post from OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, Black women, in particular, are more likely to be rated lower than other ethnic groups on its app. This was something CarpeDM co-founder and CEO Naza Shelley was fed up with, and in 2018 she decided to create a solution. 

With co-founder and CMO Sali Hama and an all minority women team, Shelley launched CarpeDM, a dating service made for Black women professionals and singles seeking relationships with them. Hama and Shelley had met previously at Howard University School of Law and bonded over their love for travel, culture and food. The two also helped each other cope when each of their long-term relationships ended at the same time during their first year of law school.  

CarpeDM combines traditional, human-led matchmaking with the convenience of modern online dating. Instead of swiping for hours on end, users set their match requirements and are sent both handpicked and algorithm-created matches to either like or pass. Users can also share additional detailed dating insights directly with their matchmaker for even more tailored results. 

“When I started CarpeDM, all I wanted was to make a better dating app. Now my mission and passion is so much greater than myself. ... I’m excited to bring a service to market that I truly believe is superior to anything I’ve ever used, and I’ve used them all.” 

“Our matchmakers are industry experts who have put tens of thousands of hours into online dating and matchmaking, designing proprietary matching algorithms and working with psychologists and behavioral experts to curate compatible matches for our members,” Hama told Built In in an email. “Our matchmakers have [previously] created matches that have led to happy marriages and growing families; they are professionals with exceptional work ethics and a sincere commitment to helping singles make meaningful connections.” 

Once matches are sent out, users decide who they’re interested in. If one user likes another, they have 48 hours to respond or they lose that match. If both users like each other, they get 72 hours to respond via a five to 10-minute in-app video chat, after which both members must agree to remain matched in order to continue communicating.

To ensure safety and high-quality matches, CarpeDM users are screened for community fit and undergo both an interview and a background check before they’re given membership and access to the app. 

“When I started CarpeDM, all I wanted was to make a better dating app. Now my mission and passion is so much greater than myself. I dream of the day we have our first CarpeDM engagement, marriage and baby,” Shelley told Built In in an email. “I’m excited to bring a service to market that I truly believe is superior to anything I’ve ever used, and I’ve used them all.” 

CarpeDM members also have access to resources and exclusive content like Black Women Deserve, a curated video series where industry experts share dating advice. 

While CarpeDM is currently only available to users in the D.C. metro area, the company is soliciting suggestions for where it should take its platform next. Those who are interested outside of the D.C. area can sign up for a waiting list on the company’s website.

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