Secret Crushes Connect on the Internet lets you know if the person you're pining away for feels the same way

| September-October 2000

Thanks to the ever-entrepreneurial Internet generation, an efficient, humiliation-free, high-tech approach to finding romance is now available., which launched on Valentine's Day 1999, lets visitors post notice of their crushes anonymously. Geared toward the sensitive, web-savvy love seeker, the free site then sends an e-mail notice to the object of your affections saying that an unidentified person has a crush. The crushee then visits the site, and if she or he enters your name in return, a "match" is made and you may proceed in your courtship with a modicum of confidence. had a tremendous start for a new website in a crowded market. Co-founders Clark Benson and Karen DeMars boast 400,000 users and say they have facilitated 80,000 matches. Every day, more than 2,000 new people sign up for the service and 400 people with crushes are electronically notified of potential amour. Advertising revenues are putting the site in the black.

Benson and DeMars are as startled as anyone by the success of their Internet venture. But like any idea that works, ECrush, they say, was born out of a need and a desire. "Clark got shut down a lot," jokes DeMars, who has known her business partner, a 31-year-old blond with all-American looks, since high school in Chicago.

"I'm an entrepreneur," responds Benson, unflustered. "I started three other businesses in the music industry and was looking for something Internet-oriented when I had a particularly gruesome dating experience. Someone I thought was really interested in me turned out to have no interest in me at all. I thought, 'This is so annoying. You never know what the other side is thinking.' And then it just sort of hit me: We could make this work on the Internet." Worked it has. Benson invested $100,000 of his own money, and less than a year later has succeeded in raising half a million in investor capital.

Benson and DeMars, who are both single, seem to get a lot of joy from the responses of their users. The site offers an archive of pick-up lines, a celebrity fantasy crush list (Jim Morrison is listed as number 7), and a small database of horror dates: men with waxy ears, toothless escorts, a young woman whose silicon breast pads popped out of her bikini.

The setup they are most proud of is a garbage man who sent an e-mail explaining he was infatuated with a woman he spotted while collecting trash. "She was so beautiful and successful. One of those career women. Every once in a while we would strike up a conversation, but, boy, I would just never have the guts to ask her out," says DeMars, paraphrasing the e-mail. After being urged to "e-crush" this unattainable woman, the garbage man’s wish came true. She e-crushed him back, and "the last time we heard," says DeMars, "they were still dating."

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