It is 8 pm on a Wednesday evening, and the cafes and bars in Bengaluru are buzzing with activity. As I take my place at the bar to wait for a few friends, I notice that the pub is filling up with couples of all ages.
I enjoy the hum of activity around me for a while but soon I am drawn to the conversation of a couple at a table that is next to mine. I cannot help but eavesdrop as they are speaking rather loudly.
They are talking about their business ventures and I catch words like founder, startup, monthly growth, investor and investment.
It takes me a while to figure out that the two people at the next table are not friends catching up over drinks but a couple on their first date.
Over the course of the evening, the man tries his best to impress his lady friend, much like he would pitch to an investor, and anyone listening would easily believe that his startup was offering solutions to the world’s problems.
That conversation, and many other eavesdropping incidents later, I am left wondering – while normal people on a date try to impress with books and movies and life experiences, why do founders behave differently? Is dating in startup city a different ball game alltogether?
There was a time when you heard the words “startups” and entrepreneur and you immediately associated them with “insanity” rather than gumption.
It’s no wonder then, that many people have suffered bouts of low self-esteem as they struggled to make a mark in the industry. Not anymore. Talk about a startup today, and everyone is curious about you.
India’s median age is 29, and more people are opening up to the idea of dating or marrying a startup entrepreneur.
Varun Mayya, founder of Enkidu, says that being an entrepreneur today portrays a philosophy, an ambition, a vision and an adventure. “It is what attracts employees and other people in social life,” he says.
Does the same apply to romance?
The entrepreneur of a gaming startup who wished to remain anonymous says, “So many founders actually try to woo women with their founder titles. I have also seen many of them adding that designation to their Tinder profiles. However, it is not sustainable, considering it is not a valid point and your startup may or may not be successful tomorrow.”
A lot of founders, he says, talk a lot about their startups on dates. “That’s because not a lot of life exists for us in the initial stages of starting up,” he explains. “Also, more than looking at it from the perspective of boring the other person, it depends on how the founder puts his or her story together. I’ve gone on dates where I’ve described the story about my startup so well that I received a lot of inquisitive responses about it immediately.”
The power game
Despite the image of power and money that a founder may portray, many concede it is not easy to find a date. “There are several women who have bios that clearly mention that they don’t care about startups,” says startup owner Nikhil Jois.
“However, there have been times when I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Tinder matches who’ve taken the time to research my company after initial conversations,” he adds.
According to Nikhil, on a first date, the details of his startup life is always an easy way to start a conversation. “We begin by sharing some startup stories,” he says. “But at the end of a date, I’ve had women who referred their friends into my startup as interns. One of them asked me to be a judge at a college fest.”
It is not easy maintaining a relationship when you are a startup founder. “Texting regularly with your date is hard,” says Nikhil. “We are past that college phase of lovey-dovey moments, and keep-me-posted 24X7 expectations. The startup will always be a priority and I have had times when I had to attend a customer’s call in the middle of a date. I had to reschedule a first date twice in the last week. If you have an understanding partner, he or she will get why this is so and make it work.”
At the end of the day, most entrepreneurs agree that nothing is fixed about dating and being a founder, you really don’t have the time to waste.
Time is short
I realised after that evening that the dating landscape in startup city Bengaluru had undergone a sea change. Gone were the days when a successful date depended on your ability to sparkle with scintillating conversation on politics and culture.
If you are a startup founder on a date – the writing on the wall is clear. No time for banter. You need to flaunt your business and let your company do the talking.