Frustrated with online dating, Scott Valdez decided to leave flirting to an expert. Now, it’s his business.

The owner of Atlanta-based VIDA Select explains why single people need an online dating coach

Scott Valdez VIDA select
Scott Valdez thinks you need a wingman.

Photograph by Darnell Wilburn

Busy with work and unsuccessful in love, Scott Valdez decided to leave flirting to a pro. Now, it’s his business. —As told to Sonam Vashi

In 2006, I had graduated from the University of Georgia and was working long hours as a sales and marketing manager at a translation service. I didn’t have many daily opportunities to meet people. I tried online dating. I sent 37 messages total and didn’t get any responses.

I have always used some kind of method—at the gym or in my daily routine—that helps me optimize my time. This was no different. I started tracking in a spreadsheet the response rates to changes in my profile text, photos, opening messages. I wrote down every messaging idea I came up with for certain scenarios. After fine-tuning my approach, I started getting good results.

Work got busier, and I didn’t have time to keep up with online dating, so I hired a creative writer to search, ghostwrite, and set up dates for me. As we refined the process, I started getting great results, and I realized there were a lot of busy professionals who would love to have a service like this. That’s where the idea for VIDA Select came from, and I soon started hiring more writers and marketing the service.

Men sometimes are frustrated online because they haphazardly throw together a profile. They’re hesitant about the whole thing, so they throw a few adjectives into their bio, upload some photos, and start to send random messages. You get good results online basically by having the best possible photos—put energy and thought into them, and find a friend to take them—and by standing out in your profile text and your messages. (People respond well to food- or travel-related openers—“If you had a free trip to go anywhere in the world, where would you go?”—or questions that involve little thinking and a lot of creativity.) With data, we can see exactly what words or emojis or photos work best. The person we’re messaging with doesn’t know the person is using VIDA Select.

Some people think this method is deceiving, but we’ve been successful in representing our clients in a way that they feel is accurate. It’s like having a friend help you write your dating profile. Every message we send goes through our clients. We discourage our clients from misleading people about their age or height and instead highlight their most attractive traits. The reality is: Relationships don’t begin on dating apps, which are simply screening tools. Relationships start after two people meet face-to-face (in person or, these days, on a video call) and start to feel chemistry.

I think dating largely has been a waiting game, to hope that you cross paths with someone. Online, you can be proactive. And Covid has further eroded the stigma. For people who’ve never used dating apps, now, it’s like, How do you meet people? Covid made everyone nervous about their livelihood and their romantic prospects. By July, we had our best month ever.

We have in-depth conversations with our clients, really getting to know them, their voice, and what they’re looking for. There’s sometimes a bit of translation involved: Someone who thinks their match should make at least $100,000 often is really looking for someone intelligent and passionate. One client wanted only matches that had a certain personality type from a niche test, and they had to be within a two-inch height range and have natural blond hair. He was sure that this was the person he needed to marry. He ended up in a relationship—but it took several months and a nationwide search. Other women have said, I want a man to be at least 6 foot 2. If we do that, the reality is you’re automatically weeding out 96 percent of men. Height alone is not an indicator of relationship success or failure. So, what if you consider someone who’s 5 foot 11?

I always thought that I wanted someone who would be career driven, ambitious, and as busy as me. I realized that, when both of us are really busy, we don’t have enough quality time together. I don’t want to be with another entrepreneur who doesn’t turn work off. I’ve spent so much time talking to people about the qualities that made someone a good or bad match that what I was looking for became really clear to me by the time that I met my current partner. We’ve been together almost five years.

This article appears in our February 2021 issue.