As painfully addictive as dating..
Don't misunderstand. I enjoyed my twenties. Probably too much.
But in truth I realise that in fact one part of the bachelor lifestyle always cast a cold shadow of anxiety over the whole proceedings..
... the uncertainty of dating.
From a very young age the thought of approaching a girl unannounced, of soliciting that first conversation and the crescendo of fear that accompanies the advance - fear that your advance will most likely be rejected, perhaps brutally - has always filled me with utter dread.
In hindsight I realise that part of the problem is that this was never a meritocratic system. You're going to get rejected irrespective of the potency of the pitch because you're the one on the approach, on the attack. You're inviting a defence. That's the game.
And once in a while you might break through the defence or out-flank your opponent, diving into conversation, flirting, posturing, assessing, selling and buying..
And sometimes you win the battle. You make arrangements. You make a date.
But it doesn't stop there. In fact that's just the beginning and in the months that follow the fear doesn't subside. Will she turn up for the date, how did it go, why hasn't she called me, will she reply, should I reply, am I playing to hard to get, do I appear to keen?
Always on edge. Always uncertain.
Why on Earth then do I find my self, six years after removing myself from the dating scene, right back where I started?
No, I'm not dating again... I'm fund raising and it's the same all over again.
I have another business besides Deep Blue Sky and it's called twiDAQ. It's a start up; a game, a second-screen app, a loyalty & rewards platform and a vast crowd-sourced real-time sentiment analysis tool. It's very cool and I'm very excited.
Having proven the concept with a successful MVP I've reached the stage where it needs the funds to become a real business and I find myself going through the same painful process as I endured on the dating scene.
So you find someone you'd like to persue; they seem a good fit, they look [financially] attractive. The seem on your wavelength and of course in the market and available. You make the approach. You feel worried, you feel nervous. You fear rejection.
Often you're rejected, you lose more than you win but once in a while the magic starts, you make a date, you arrange a call, you have the call, you give your pitch and for a moment you're filled with excitement - the possibility, the potential, the future.
But soon enough you're back to the fear; will they call me, won't they, why not, why haven't they replied, didn't they like what I said, was I too keen, didn't I seem hungry enough....?
... the uncertainty of dating.
What I realise now, having learned a lot more about selling, marketing and human behaviour is that this process has all the hallmarks of an addiction.
The frequent losing, the excitement of the reward and background-noise awareness that as painful as it is you might just like playing the game as much, if not more, than winning... these all play to two primordial responses of the brain; adrenalin & dopamine.
Throw in a co-founder (or a wing-man when you're out on a Friday night) and you can probably add the community brain-drug oxytocin into the mix; that intimate sharing of success.
The irony here of course is that for twiDAQ to grow and succeed it too needs to be heavily addictive and we've spent some months engineering the gameplay to appeal to precisely these chemicals.
It's fitting then I guess that I find myself playing my own game; swimming in the adrenalin of the chase looking for that little burst of dopamine when I agree a call, when the phone gets answered and perhaps, very soon, when the deals are done.
It's little wonder why the start-up scene has taken off so much over the past few years. Silicon Valley and London's Old St are becoming the Las Vegas's of my generation in more ways than one. The stakes are high, the losses are greater and for entrepreneurs and investors alike the thrill is in the chase as much as it ever will be in the success of the businesses they're attempting to launch.
This is not for me.
As I say, don't misunderstand. I enjoyed my twenties and I'm enjoying immensely being an entrepreneur. But I am now increasingly aware that it's the stability of the relationship I enjoy; the trust, the openness, the longevity... the charm of it all that deep down makes me happy.
I think that's why Deep Blue Sky will always be a part of my life, why it will always play incubator to new ideas... it is a safe haven, a soft landing.
But it's time for twiDAQ to go out on it's own. To get a date and to settle down with a partner, or partners who can treat it the way it deserves to be treated and for that reason I now find myself facing the excitement and fear of the funding scene.
Wish it well - and if you or someone you know would like to take it on a date, don't be shy!
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