It’s an old plotline: Boy meets girl, boy wins girl, the girl decides it might be time to break up with the boy. For Rashied Amini, that’s when the story takes a twist. As a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, he’s trained to think about risk, probability, and failure potential.
Back in 2014, Amini’s girlfriend had even said, half-jokingly: How about a cost-benefit analysis of our relationship? As Stephen Marche writes this week on Backchannel, that got Amini’s wheels turning. Before he knew it, he was building an elaborate spreadsheet charting the costs and benefits of his relationship. As he recalls, the bottom line was that the numbers showed they should stay together. The girlfriend left anyway.
But the work didn’t go to waste. Amini thought his deep dive into what makes a relationship tick—when it’s worth staying when it’s time to let go—might be useful for a lot of people.
Thus was born an unusual dating app, Nanaya. It’s not so much a matchmaking service as a utility for predicting where you are in your journey to finding “the one” and how to maximize your chances of meeting an optimum partner—or not if the numbers say you’re not ready. (It will also tell you if you should break up with your current SO.) The service has amassed hundreds of thousands of users.
Amini, who is still single, admits he doesn’t use the data himself when he’s dating, although it has helped him know himself better. As Marche writes: “Take it from the systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab: Some matters of the heart cannot be quantified.”