From Semiconductor To Matchmaking: The Road To Dating Sauce

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By Lien Nguyen (Co-Founder, Dating Sauce) I arrived in Silicon Valley full of energy, passion and optimism, as any new graduate should be in May 2004. I had finished my finals on a Thursday and then spent the following two days cleaning my entire apartment and shipping everything that I owned. I started my new job at Intel as a hardware engineer, leaving behind the calm and gentle cornfields of Illinois only four days after my last final exam.

When I was in school, I thought very little about my career. I always admired some of my friends who knew exactly what they wanted the minute they left college, but for me early on it was never quite clear. I loved engineering, but I wanted to work with customers too.

I never saw myself doing just one specific task, but a mixture of tasks put together. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be in Silicon Valley. In fact, it was an inside joke among my friends that my next job title was going to be “California”.

I had received a few job offers upon graduation, but the one offer I took was Intel’s. I thought that by joining a big company like Intel, I would be given more career opportunities. Thus begin my career in the “semis”, the nickname we give to the semiconductor industry.

During these years, however, my insights about my career have changed in unexpected ways, and I am now launching Dating Sauce with my co-founder, Esther Resendiz.

Dating Sauce is a dating site powered by experts that allows users to retain privacy while being introduced to compatible dates. While this is a departure from “semis”, founding a dating site is the culmination of what I’ve learned over the past few years.

After I left Intel, I worked at two startups in the “semis”, where I was able to understand what it takes to run a company. Working closely with people who have previous success at running semiconductor businesses definitely inspired me to think like an entrepreneur. I had an idea for a restaurant recommendation startup in 2009 which would have been similar to what Oink is today.

When the “semi” startup that I was working at was acquired in 2010, the time was right to pursue my idea. I teamed up with a friend. He had a full-time job, however, so he didn’t want do the web development for the site. We hired developers from Vietnam, which seemed like a great idea since we are both fluent in Vietnamese.

After 2 months, I learned that it was a disaster to rely on external developers as primary developers, so we decided to build the site ourselves. Shortly thereafter, my co-founder’s wife became pregnant so, with a full-time job and a baby, he couldn’t devote any more time to our project.

It became clear to me that if I was going to build a product, I had to learn web development, so I did. Around this time, I also reconnected with a friend from graduate school, Esther Resendiz. Esther was finishing her PhD in computer vision and had founded a startup in graduate school. As she and her co-founders graduated, the startup turned its focus to the Asian market as her co-founder took over, and Esther moved to Silicon Valley to start a new venture. The timing was perfect for both of us.

We set out to create software tools for people who run small businesses, with a particular interest in using software to overcome scalability issues inherent in certain businesses. Esther and I worked on several ideas before conceiving Dating Sauce.

Because Dating Sauce allows singles to receive private introductions from matchmakers, we make it possible for matchmakers to manage their own clients and run their own businesses while providing access to a large network of singles. In turn, singles can keep their privacy and can choose to work with someone whom they trust.

We are in private beta, and currently looking for singles who are interested in providing us with feedback on the user experience before our launch in the upcoming months. Please email me at lien@datingsauce.com if you are interested!

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Lien Nguyen is the co-founder of Dating Sauce, where singles receive introductions from a matchmaker they trust. After experiencing life at Intel and two startups, she decided to start her own. She lived in 7 countries growing up and spoke 3 languages fluently. Before Dating Sauce, she was a team member of ZeroG Wireless and launched the company's first Wi-Fi module, and stayed until its acquisition until 2010. Follow her on Twitter at @lienista.