Sugar daddy dating site CEO uses his own creation to see the light

A Damascene conversion? A cynical rebrand? What should one make of "the world's largest upscale dating website" and its sudden change of heart?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Dating app or site on mobile phone screen

The unsweetness of love?


In a week when so many profess their love, I profess confusion.

I was intently ignoring the tawdry spectacle of Valentine's Day when a press release muscled its way onto my laptop, claiming to smell like a rose.

The headline was joyous: "Seeking.com Cuts the Sugar and Rebrands for Success-Minded Individuals Looking to Date Up."

From 'love doesn't exist' to 'I'll never divorce.'

A tricky maneuver, rebranding.

There's always the suspicion that you're running away from what you were before. Especially if you used to be called SeekingArrangement.com and your founder and CEO once declared that "love doesn't exist."

The clue to the rebrand, however, seems to lie in cutting the sugar. Seeking.com, you see, was rather known for being the place for highly sweetened relationships.

Or, in the company's own words: "What started as an elite dating site for finding honest, authentic connections based on success-minded interests has become misrepresented over the years, with the phrase 'sugar dating' taking on a more negative, transactional connotation."

Also: Microsoft quietly released a little feature and suddenly it caused outrage

Oh, the tragedy of misrepresentation. The ghastly nuance of cynicism polluting true love.

But now things have changed, says "the world's largest upscale dating website."

"Seeking will ditch the sugar," proclaims the company. It will be "relaunching as the largest platform for like-minded individuals looking to date up and forge relationships on their own terms."

Dating up is a curious concept. Does it mean dating someone far more physically fetching than you are? Or does it merely mean dating someone who's got more money than you do?

I feared the latter; I really did. Somehow, money is a currency that embraces far more than numbers and things. It conveys, in too many minds, a desirability that really shouldn't be there. And I'm not referring to any famous tech CEOs when I say that.

But never let it be said that tech CEOs are egotistical, purely driven by their own self-involvement and self-regard.

Then again, here are the thoughts of Seeking's CEO, Brandon Wade: "When I started Seeking in 2006, my dating life flourished. I was arrogant and openly embraced non-monogamy. But everything changed when I met my soulmate Dana."

"Oh, Dana," I hear you wail. "How I hope you're a lot richer than Brandon."

I also hear you wail: "So arrogance and openly embracing non-monogamy are the pillars of a flourishing dating life?"

Please hold those thoughts, as Wade wants you to wade through more drama: "The evolution of Seeking now reflects my personal journey." So much so that Wade says he's giving up his legal right to divorce.

Dating up or diving down?

I can hear you moan: "What? Are you totally off your chump?"

I can tell, though, that you want to be taken by this Damascene conversion. I can also tell that, as a committed ZDNet reader, you're concerned about updating security. Headlines such as "Hacker leaks data of 2.28 million dating site users" are all too familiar.

Our newly self-discovered, sugar-free CEO has thought of that.

Also: Google's new motto: Don't be evil, be Apple

Seeking declares: "The security team uses both AI and human-in-the-loop (humans using AI) technology, in addition to state-of-the-art protection and security monitoring of all profiles. Overseeing more than 2.5 million pieces of content daily, Seeking offers the most sophisticated dating bot detection on the market."

You're desperate to believe, aren't you?

I was desperate to wonder what the difference is between sugar daddyism and dating up. So I asked Seeking for its definition.

The company replied: "Dating up is the belief that one can do better on the dating scene than one currently is."

Doesn't that cover just about everyone? Except for Wade, pre-conversion?

But Seeking's definition has only just begun. This is, as apparent British Prime Minister Boris Johnson might put it, all about leveling up.

"Evaluating one's self-esteem, worth, wants, life goals and judgment to at least one level up to live as they choose versus society dictating the terms, typically targeting a more exciting and fulfilling lifestyle," the company says.

At least one level up. Who's measuring the levels? You are, I suppose. But wait, Seeking levels up further, with some hilariously taut philosophy.

It adds an additional definition: "The act of being truthful in what one wants out of a relationship and elevating one's status in the process."

The truth will not only set you free, but it will also elevate your status.

I fear many feel they elevate their status when they go online and buy the latest MacBook. So, on hearing that Seeking intends to place its definition of dating up in the Urban Dictionary, I asked for a more, well, urban interpretation.

This is what I received: "I can't believe Matt was dating cheugy Karen. What a simp. She was so cringe. Natalie is the blueprint -- hot, bougie and all sass. It's about time bruh is finally dating up. Props to Matt for upscaling his options in the dating experience."


Here, then, is your ultimate definition of dating success, should you wish to accept it: Hot, bougie and all sass. 

I suppose they call that a business model.

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