I Turn 44 Today: A Reflection of the Year that's Past.
Today, I turn 44.
Wow, these months and years are going by too fast.
This is me turning 5.
Not a care in the world, wearing the world worst headband and rocking dark under eye circles (I had tonsils issues lol). The outfit in hindsight was not cool.
I wonder sometimes what this 5 year old would think of her life right now? That she would grow up to be a solo IVF mum, running two business which include a matchmaking dating app?
I know I haven't written a founder's blog for such a long time, so I felt I owned you a little update and what better time than on my birthday.
Now, whilst I am a huge optimist, I am also a huge realist, and I truly believe honesty is always the best policy. So, whilst this blog might sound rather self indulgent, I do hope that there are elements which speak some truth to you.
So, let's dive straight in....
Well, firstly this year has taught me A LOT, in fact the past few years have not only taught me a lot about myself, but also my relationship with others. I guess when you launch a dating app, especially one built around the science of attachment it is inevitable that I would find myself on my own learning journey too.
I also think that the old adage of 'wisdom comes with age', maybe more true than my 20 year old self would have me believe. The last few years more than ever, I have found myself less able to tolerate poor behaviour from others and I've become much better at applying my own personal boundaries. This has had a direct effect on my personal relationships in particular.
As someone naturally high on affection (and subsequent learnt 'environment' behaviour from work) as a personality trait, I instinctively give more than I receive. In fact, I'm so high on affection (9/10 for those personality profilers out there) that I can be taken advantage of - this is where I have seen the most impact or change.
As a solo/single person I have felt myself more than ever gravitate towards secure/safe types. I have felt a strong desire to be cared for, for the first time in my life I feel more vulnerable than ever, but also stronger than I have ever been. As a consequence, I feel that I am investing more in those, who equally invest in me. I seek only the kind of relationships whereby you turn up everyday for one another, even when the going gets a little tough (no relationship is perfect). This has been a wonderful revelation I must say.
I also don't know if it is to do with becoming a mother - as I guess you could align my desire to spend more time with those I trust, simply more to do with the fact I simply have less time on my hands, so I need to spend it wisely. However, whilst this maybe a contributor, I generally think I'm becoming less tolerate of bullshit, and I've become tired of overcompensating, and being 'personal crutches' for people when there life isn't going so well.
As a mental health practitioner sadly this one often comes with the territory - especially when you provide a mental health service for a living, often people in your circle can access this support for free (which I give freely by choice btw). Which means occasionally I'll have 'friends' appear when times are hard, but then 'abandon' (if you like therapy type terms lol) me when times are good (some people disappear from years). Quite frankly, I think I'm burn't out with this behaviour from others, and I feel (perhaps selfishly) that it is me now that needs some TLC.
Why now you may ask? My reflections.
Well, becoming a mum has been hard. I never realised prior to having Milo the magnitude of task. I wish people would have more of an open honest dialogue of how difficult it is. I some times think motherhood is like having a job that sometimes you actually don't like having (god forbid me saying this) but you can never leave, or take time off.
I do however, have to accept some responsibility here - I choose to live many miles away from my parents. And sadly, some of my choices over time have resulted in a lack of opportunity to belong to what I can only call 'friendship packs'. For example, I went to Uni first when I was 29, and then 39. The first in my home town (so no need to make friends - they were mostly much younger anyways) and the second, here in London (whereby I was one of only 2 'mature students'). I also choose to move areas and cities multiple times.
Friendships have been rather 'situational' you could say. Whilst living away for 9 years from my home town has also left those old friendships in tatters - again, on reflection, I feel I slotted myself into an overcompensating role, with a lack of reciprocation. Friends back home had families when I did not, and just simply moved on. No one to blame.
Friendships are harder to make as an adult, and a lot easier when you have a partner or work in large organisations (cross friendships, companionship at work etc).
Secondly, I have also been completely submersed in the founder space - which feels somewhat both fake (dare I say that?) and supportive all at the same time. Walking through the investment space has also been an eye opener for me. Again, (and I don't want to sound condescending here, as I'm sure it is happening for most ages) with age I don't think I can tolerate the space as easy as others.
From the female investment narrative, to getting meetings because you're pretty, to people telling you they know about your business from 9 slides - I find it all.... well, mostly just insane. I find it ridiculous that people feel they can give their opinion on your business when they know absolutely nothing about it, or you.
Don't even get me started about the crazy valuations - with people following suit like lemmings because they know investors expect inflated valuations. Why can't people just be honest?
People telling you to explain your business in less than 10 slides in a pitch deck with basically no words, or analysing your 'elevator pitch' to the word. Then there is the narrative that investors invest in the 'founder' - this simply is untrue. I mean that would be true if the investor actually spoke to you, or engaged in some form of dialogue which isn't along the lines of 'come back when you have a lead investor', or 'it's not for me' after reading said 10 slides. The reality is investors are busy - they are successful people, so on most occasions they need to make fast decisions, based on very little information - getting to 'know you' as a founder is just an impossibility. Then you of course have the experts who tell you "don't send a deck" - I mean, lol, sure (I have tried this too).
Don't get me wrong, this probably works much better if you are well networked with those who have the available funds. From family members, past colleagues, peers - sure, they know you - trust you, I can see how that works. But not for others that lack this personal network.
In addition, given only 1-2% of females get funding, I think everyone should assume when they meet a female founder that she is more than 200% motivated to get the job done. Otherwise, why climb a 98% incline mountain? No one would do that without a significant belief in what they were doing. Female founders are awesome - end of, and its tough gig let's face it with stats like this.
The other observation I have noticed, which lead me to actually deciding once again to postpone my raise is this: people wear their 'raise' amount like it's a badge of honour.
It feels somewhat that people glorify, and heighten the importance of those who raise 'higher' amounts. We look at these businesses with awe - believing they are 'successful' and doing well. Like their business is some how more valuable than maybe those who haven't raised, or have raised lower amounts. Again, this is a false narrative, but only leads in my humble opinion to those who haven't raised feeling slightly like they are failing in someway - when maybe it is them that are the winners.
I also think it makes people seek bigger checks than they need - I heard someone say this recently and it resonated deeply with me, "only raise what you absolutely need". Yet, I think with investment you are making a lot of assumptions (sometimes it is hard to know what you may need), at a time when you need to remain agile and open to change - especially early in the journey.
Most people will wrap investment up in the narrative that it helps businesses 'grow' more rapidly. That you NEED it to grow. And I think, there is some truth to this, but I also feel that it makes business seek investment way top early - giving away more than you need to, causing undue stress in the process. You also by default immediately enter a 'runway' situation (granted some founders like this, they want to go BIG or go home - I'm not one of them), whereby if you don't achieve what you set out to, once the term ends, 'if' you have 'run out of money' your business is simply blown up in a puff of smoke, unless of course you can spend 24/7 once again convincing investors to invest once again.
That's your brand, hard work, everything GONE - I don't want to concern myself this this with REDDI just now. When you are building a quality brand, it takes time and consideration - rushing will only lead to a reduction in our ability to provide the luxury service we are aiming for.
At times, I have also got to admit that I have felt it really difficult to engage in the investment process. I feel that the power dynamics that you enter into (between investor and founder) is something which makes me feel uncomfortable. The power being in the hands of the potential investor, many of which you have never met, or had a direct conversation with.
As someone who has worked with high profile, successful, business men and women and public figures, I am simply not used to relationships which start in such a way. I have high values of respect, and fairness and being on an equal footing is key for me to form a relationship - especially one which may include a long term connection. For me heirachy doesn't really exist - but I appreciate that maybe it should when it comes to the investment space. But, I'd be wrong to not admit it feels uncomfortable. I was also wondering if this feeling is directly related to my own 'secure' attachment style, and again my lack of tolerance as I age over the gamification of life (I've written more about this in another article). I'm not silly though, I'm pretty sure further along my journey I'm just going to have to suck it up, otherwise we may run out of money too!
As for dating. I know I have written quite a number of blogs on being single and lonely, but for me loneliness isn't a consistent feeling for me. I feel that my loneliness is linked to a desire to be cared for by others, looked after even. Because life is a struggle at times and life can be hard. Which is why I set up REDDI in the first place.
But I find as a secure type, who is also low in neurosis (I feel the world much less than others) that happiness or contentment is mostly a consistent state for me - I believe in myself, I know I am a wonderful person, and I am secure in what I bring to the table. But, you can be all of these and still want to be part of a partnership without being depressed. I still want to share my life, be looked after, and look after another. I'm comfortable with sharing that.
Dating is however a non-existent. I'm not sure if I am trying or not. Or even if I am just undateable (sure that cannot be true). I have been banned from both Bumble and Hinge (for being another dating app owner). I managed to get back on Hinge, but believe my profile isn't being shown (yes, they can do this) as I have not had one match in 8 months (maybe I am undateable after all lol).
People often ask why I am on other dating apps when I have my own - well firstly, I think I'd find it a little weird should I date a member, and secondly, I am allowed to want to find love myself and that doesn't mean I can only look for a potential partner on one app only - I think people can and should be on multiple platforms which align to their needs/wants.
I'd used my own MatchMaking service, but as we are currently going through our MVP I feel that using up a place on the program is selfish. I can wait.
Hopefully one day I'll find my person. Or, maybe my person will find me. In fact, please be reading this and come get me :).
So, how am I celebrating? Well, sadly the train strikes (yet again) have spoilt my fun so dinner is off in London (can you believe this has happened the last 3 times I have planned an evening out!). But I am heading to Palma next weekend for some well deserved R&R. Maybe, I'll meet a Spanish gentleman on my travels (have you fingers and toes crossed).
I want to leave you with this last thought as I reflect not just on the past year, but on my life.....
I took a walk with my father this morning, and I said to him "I wonder what life would have been like if I just been the type of person who was content with a 9-5". His response was this...... "well Stacy, it would have been a lot less fun".
Yes, sir, it would.
Til next time.
Ps an update on the app coming soon :)
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