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When swiping and texting don’t work

Naza Shelley is Founder and CEO of CarpeDM, an exclusive member-only dating community, created for singles seeking meaningful relationships with professional Black women.

Naza is the daughter of military parents, so she lived in many places growing up. She eventually settled down in Virginia for high school, and then the University of Virginia for college. From a young age, she had aspirations to become an attorney. She pursued this journey, with a law degree from Howard University. Naza says it was a year post law school teaching in China that reinforced her desire to practice. And so she did when she returned to the US. As a successful black professional woman in DC, she still found something missing.

As she explored the various online dating experiences, she became more and more frustrated: why wasn’t there anything for her specifically? And so, the idea for CarpeDM was born. Fast forward through milestones, like landing a co-founder, going through Techstars, and launching a truly unique hybrid service that is part online dating and part matchmaker service. Naza has closed an oversubscribed pre-seed round, gaining her membership into the group of black women founders who’ve raised over $1M in venture capital.


“There’s too much money in the ecosystem for it to be this hard for us to raise…
~ Naza Shelley

In this episode Naza and Dan discussed:

  • Growing up in a military family
  • The impact of spending a year in China after law school
  • How dozens of dates in a year left her exhausted, with no real connections
  • The power of ‘friends and family’ signals
  • Why $86,000 was the right amount for her first fundraise



“…I was running to pitch meetings on my lunch break.
~ Naza Shelley


“…our goal is really to be that household name…when people say ‘black love’
~ Naza Shelley