Meet Naza Shelley of CarpeDM and Learn Why Matchmaking is the Future of Online Dating for Black Singles

Gone are the days of traditional dating trends for young black professionals. CarpeDM seamlessly marries the accessibility of an award-winning dating app with the personal touch of a dedicated human matchmaker.

CarpeDM Founder and CEO, Naza Shelley, shares her frustration with dating apps. While they are convenient to use, she found herself wasting countless hours swiping on low-quality matches, engaging in dead-end and sometimes racist, insensitive messaging, and going on disappointing first dates.

CarpeDM’s CEO and Founder, Naza Shelley.

Naza was so frustrated with online dating (she must have gone on over fifty dates in one year), she even considered traditional matchmaking services, but even on her attorney’s salary most exclusive dating sites were just too expensive and their clientele didn’t look like her. It was clear that dating successfully required more than just a short bio and a few cute travel photos. It needed to be intentional. She kept asking herself, “Where were the dating sites for educated professionals? Where were the amazing dating apps for black women?”

Naza became so committed to solving her own dating dilemma that she quit her job to tackle this problem head-on. After all, if there’s one thing Black women are good at, it’s solving their own problems!

As Naza started growing her all-minority-women-led team to build the next best dating app, she looked to her best friend and one of CarpeDM’s first investors, Sali Hama, who she’d met at Howard University School of Law. Sali became CarpeDM’s Co-Founder and CMO. The women startup founders clicked over a mutual love for travel, culture, and food. But they truly bonded during their first year of law school when they both experienced the heartbreak of losing their first loves as their respective long-term relationships ended at the same time! Law school is tough but getting through 1L year with a broken heart is damn near unbearable; they helped each other cope.  

It’s their love for each other and empathy for the struggle singles face trying to survive in a swipe-driven dating culture that makes them the perfect duo for helping millions of professional Black women and men all over the country find love and the meaningful relationships they deserve.

CarpeDM's Co-Founders and best friends, Naza Shelley and Sali Hama

When she started CarpeDM, all Naza wanted was to make a better dating app – something she herself could use to find love. Now her mission and passion are so much greater. Naza, Sali, and their team set out to cure the current dating culture by not just creating a dating service that caters to black female business leaders, the most under-served segment of the dating market, but also by addressing many of the dating pitfalls experienced with some top dating apps for black professionals in general.

As the CarpeDM community continues to expand, Naza encourages Black women and everyone seeking to date them, to join one of the best black dating sites, a vetted community of high-quality singles, all committed to finding love with the most amazing people the DMV area has to offer.

Women startup founders are a growing percentage in the modern business realm. Black women founders are growing even more rapidly. Naza and Sali personify that growth, creating a dating website that is inclusive and uplifting for the successful black business woman.

Let’s get to learn more about Naza, the CarpeDM Community, and the behind-the-scenes of creating a dating app!

How did you go from lawyer to entrepreneur?

NS: “As the child of an Army veteran, I’ve lived in many places and experienced many cultures. My parents always expected excellence from me but were never disappointed if I tried my best and failed. I was always encouraged to try new things when I was growing up – from sports to leadership positions, volunteerism, music. They really gave me the space and support to explore my passions. My family settled in the D.C. area when I was entering high school. I studied abroad in Spain during undergrad at UVA (University of Virginia) and I moved to China for a year after graduating from Howard Law to teach English. My upbringing and life experiences have made me a confident and adaptable person.”

“I was a rising D.C. attorney in the utility regulation space before turning my attention to CarpeDM full-time. While I pursued a conventional career, I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum. I really believe life is too short not to pursue your passions or to live by the expectations of others. Attorneys often hang their own shingles as we say, go into business for themselves. We are also problem solvers. I experienced a very real problem with dating, and so I decided to solve this problem for myself and the millions of Black women being ignored by dating apps and matchmaking services.”

CarpeDM’s CEO and Founder, Naza Shelly.

What was your entrepreneur ‘aha’ moment?

NS: “One morning, after a particularly bad date the night before, I was reading Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance, which Sali had loaned to me, on the bus commuting to work. The book was very insightful, with a lot of scientific rationales for why dating is so hard. I came across a passage that talked about how asynchronous communication (texting) is actually a horrible way to meet someone for the first time. It really resonated with me and I thought, why do we use texting as the first means of communication on 99% of dating apps? Why don’t people meet over video chat first instead? That thought kept coming to the forefront of my mind over the next few weeks. I’m a firm believer that great ideas demand to be made and you’re blessed if you’re visited by one. I also believe if you don’t act the idea will bless someone else until it’s brought into the world. So I started sketching a concept for a dating app I would want to use. That’s how CarpeDM was conceived.”

What makes CarpeDM different from other apps for black women and dating apps?

Unlike most dating apps and matchmaking services, CarpeDM verifies and runs background checks on 100% of our members. Every Black professional woman granted membership is assigned a personal matchmaker and receives personalized dating insights that display how their dating behavior impacts their success in the community.

NS: “CarpeDM is designed with the professional Black woman in mind. Our elevated dating experience removes the competition from “others,” and provides a way for high-quality candidates interested in dating Black women to connect. Our members range from doctors, lawyers, engineers, and government professionals to entrepreneurs, academics, creatives, and artists. Each invested in building generational black wealth. Not only has our team built a single’s network through strategic partnerships, but we’re also relentless about getting the best of the best to join our community.”

How does matchmaking work? Why is matchmaking essential to the Black community?

Our team consists of matchmakers with backgrounds in emotional intelligence, relationship coaching and wellness. We work one on one with our members to learn their true relationship desires and introduce them to members within our trusted community who we believe they’ll have chemistry with. We pair personal matchmaking with technology, allowing our algorithm to also suggest matches so that our members get the best of both worlds. Meet our matchmakers here!

Unlike in other cultures (Indian Matchmaker) where the value of matchmaking is well known, most Black Americans do not have any experience with black dating sites for professionals. So we’re also sharing the value of having someone helping you on this journey with a new culture. For us, having a personal matchmaker is similar to having a personal trainer, assistant, chef, or driver. The goal is to enhance your life by taking something important off your shoulders that the other person is better suited to do. And we’re better suited to help you find love.

NS: “We’re so passionate about helping Black women find love because we also understand the deeper implications of the continued degradation of the Black family. Building strong two parent/income households will help reduce the racial wealth gap, bring more Black families out of poverty, and strengthen our community overall. It’s a core aspect of our mission and we’re committed to adding positively to the Black cultural narrative, which includes shining a positive light on the intrinsic value Black women bring to society as a whole.”

CarpeDM's Co-Founders secured over $1 million in funding.

Female founders raised just 2% of venture capital money in 2021. Black founders raised 1.3% of last year’s $330 billion worth of U.S. venture investment. Given these incredible stats, can you tell us about your recent funding success with CarpeDM’s $1M oversubscribed pre-seed round?

NS: “Speaking from the perspective of a Black female founder in the tech industry, I consistently deal with issues like imposter syndrome and a lack of financial backing. These aren’t new or unique. But we’re also in a space socially where there is a greater focus on supporting Black businesses from both within our own community and from others. There also seems to be a raised social consciousness about the unfair disadvantages Black businesses face and a concerted effort to address those disadvantages by providing more access to capital, resources, training, and even media coverage. While there is a long way to go to reach equity, I have seen positive changes. For example, black women entrepreneurs. In the past year alone, three of my Black female founder friends have raised sizable rounds from VC capital. This is a huge win even though the numbers still show that we’re being woefully underfunded. Ultimately, however, I don’t believe in dwelling on excuses to explain a lack of success. While it’s not fair that we have access to less, I do believe necessity is the mother of invention. As a Black woman business owner, I’m focused on building a business on sound fundamentals, networking, resource sharing, and staying scrappy to succeed.”

“I am grateful to our investors, like Elevate Capital, who not only believe in our mission, but also respect us as business women and see the huge market opportunity in what we’re building by inspiring black community leaders to connect.”

“Naza Shelley and Sali Hama are impressive professional leaders who embody the spirit and ethos of Elevate Capital: maximizing human potential to effect change,” said Nitin Rai, Elevate Capital Founder and Managing Partner. We believe CarpeDM will disrupt the dating experience for professional Black women by helping them spend less time searching and more time experiencing meaningful connections. We look forward to helping Naza and Sali realize their vision and achieve success.”


CarpeDM’s other investors include: Virginia Venture Partners, Conscious Venture Fund, Overlooked Ventures, Forefront Capital, Pipeline Angels, Gaingels and CAV Angels. Additionally, CarpeDM is currently participating in the inaugural class of the Techstars Washington DC Powered by J.P. Morgan accelerator. Techstars, a highly competitive, elite tech accelerator, accepts less than 2% of applicants, making it harder to get into than any ivy league college in America. CarpeDM’s acceptance is a testament both to the capability of its founders and the viability of CarpeDM as the next big dating industry disruptor.

You can read the official press release about CarpeDM’s funding round here.

What is your ultimate goal for CarpeDM to become in the future? Do you have plans to expand beyond the DC area?

NS: “My ultimate vision for CarpeDM is to be the most trusted dating service in the world helping professional Black women connect to those interested in dating us. My hope is that our black women-empowered dating app will serve the community at the root by inspiring real black love. When I started CarpeDM, all I wanted was to make a better dating app. Now my mission and passion is so much greater than myself. I dream of the day we have our first CarpeDM engagement, marriage, and baby! I’m excited to bring a service to market that I truly believe is superior to anything I’ve ever used (and I’ve used them all)! We have a long way to go but we’re excited by the overwhelming interest we’ve received in joining CarpeDM from singles across the country and even internationally (looking at you, London).”

CarpeDM is on track to be the best dating app for black women currently accepting new members in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area so apply now! If you’re outside of the DC area, we’re expanding quickly. So, tell us where you’re located at and we’ll let you know when it’s time to become a member and meet professional black singles in your city!

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