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Dating: Romance Can Wait

2 minute read
Michele Orecklin

Passion may be the most overused word in Silicon Valley, but here it’s unlikely to refer to romance. While the second-wave emigres may be socially savvy, the enthusiasm they bring to bear on their businesses is narrowly focused. Distractions, including relationships, are largely unwelcome.

Demographics don’t help. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, single men outnumber single women in the Valley by almost 5,500. And even men who should have no problem attracting women–say, good-looking men worth millions of dollars–aren’t dipping into the dating pool. Sabeer Bhatia, 31, the co-founder of Hotmail, made $200 million when he sold his company to Microsoft in 1998. Rather than retire, or even slow down, Bhatia founded another company, called Arzoo (a Hindi word for–what else?–passion). He has five cars, a penthouse apartment in San Francisco and a stream of (unanswered) e-mail proposals owing to his well-documented success. Yet Bhatia says he dates “less often than the average American male,” or about once a month. “If you’re involved in a start-up,” Bhatia says, “it’s hard to get to know anyone or make a commitment to someone else.”

Another Silicon Valley-based executive, age 33, bottom lines it this way: “For most people, relationships are simply not time-effective,” he says. “People think having relationships with the opposite sex is nice, but if it gets in the way of making $3 million, forget it. They’ll go to bars for a quick hit.”

Not surprisingly, the bar scene is thriving, but people usually find it hard to get their minds off business. Carolyn DePalmo, also 33, an executive at Cisco Systems in San Jose, often goes out with friends after work, and while she says she hasn’t had problems meeting men, she concedes that it is “very common to talk about work, since we’re all in related industries. People don’t let go of their intensity for their jobs.”

At least until that intensity turns to panic. “You do find some men in their 30s who suddenly realize they’ve spent too much time on their careers,” DePalmo says. Bhatia, at least for the moment, remains sanguine. “I work 18 hours a day because it’s fun,” he says. “I’ve chosen a certain life, and I’ve been pretty successful. For right now, success and marriage don’t really mix.”

–By Michele Orecklin

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