Why a dating agency could lead to a match made in heaven

Richard Farleigh

PERHAPS it was a feeling of loneliness and mortality that swept over the 70-something the day his “late-life crisis” erupted. A Scrooge-like character, he had lived a life of meaningless relationships while amassing a fortune. He had never married; no one was good enough to share his money or his life. But, in life’s twilight, he suddenly wanted to find that “special someone” and sprang into action.

He prepared: he lost weight, had a haircut, and applied plenty of fake tan. He met some ladies: at the bars, the restaurants, the gym and the shops. He performed: he smiled, he told jokes, he bought drinks and he even tried dancing. But he failed – he was unrealistic about age and looks, and his dancing was more wobble than wiggle. He probably had an air of desperation and a distance from reality. Eligible girls sense inadequacy like a dog senses fear.

So he approached Megan Buquen at the bespoke dating agency Vida Consultancy. I happened to meet Megan playing tennis (honest) and her warmth and openness were immediately apparent. Being freshly single myself, I found that talking to her about her business was fascinating (of course). She and her partner Rachel MacLynn are in the service business and their product is people. They are expensive, but Megan says they do far more than online dating sites, because they personally screen and choose potential dates. They also give clients gentle feedback, so if they find no one wants a second date with them, they can try to improve their technique. “A common problem for corporate women,” she says, “is that they often take their business persona on a date, so they appear to be overly competitive or dominant, even when their true personalities are fun.” “And the men?” “I guess the most common mistake they make is not keeping in regular contact between dates. Women communicate more than men, so they expect regular calls and text messages, even just to say ‘hi’.”

When I think about it, arranged match-making would appear to make perfect sense. It takes the randomness out of everything – rather than relying on friends’ introductions or chance encounters, it introduces some science into the process. Perhaps it’s no wonder that match-making services are behind an increasing number of new relationships. And once we have some perspective on the process, say in 10 years, it will be interesting to compare divorce rates in marriages resulting from conventional meetings to those resulting from dating services.

Megan attempts to weed out gold-diggers and fraudsters. Mind you, I’m sure no one could foresee one disaster story: an investment banker’s wife divorcing him because he was “only” earning £500,000 a year. When she married him, she apparently anticipated he’d do much better, and wasn’t happy.

“So Megan, how did you go with the wobbly older man?” I asked. “Well, his age wasn’t really an issue – we do have older people on the books. But we quickly realised that we couldn’t help him. He wants to start a family and have three children!”

Richard Farleigh has operated as a business angel for many years, backing more early-stage companies than anyone else in the UK. www.farleigh.com