Intuition, Gut Feel, and Seduction

A little while back I sat with another experienced angel investor and the topic of gut feel came up, as it relates to angel investing.
It was funny for both of us that for all the analysis we can do on a new startup’s prospects, that if our gut said no, we’d not invest. How interesting to use such a undefined force and feeling to make such a prominent decision!
After I left Yahoo, I resolved to develop and listen to my intuition more. I really searched down deep inside myself and really tried to become sensitive to the most minute feelings that emerged about anything. I trained myself to be acutely aware of the good and the bad, and those nagging feelings of doubt or uncertainty. Then, once I could identify those feelings, then I told myself that I would act on them and never ignore them. This is because in the past, I feel that I have ignored my intuition and this has resulted in me getting into some really bad situations.
When I meet an entrepreneur for the first time, my intuition is on high alert. I search my feelings as I hear them talk to me about their business. I not only attune myself to pitch he is presenting, but also to who he is. Is there elation on the idea or some nagging uncertainty? Do I feel this person is trustworthy or not? These and more.
However, what can stymie intuition in the world of angel investing is seduction. This is when the pitch and/or the person delivers such an incredible perceived opportunity that it’s like seeing the hottest, sexiest woman walk into a bar and you just can’t resist. You’re hooked emotionally and you’re already reaching for your checkbook. Somehow, the seducer has blown past all your defenses and even your intuition seems suckered.
This happened to me in a pitch not too long ago. The pitch was perfect. It was seductive. It claimed solving so many problems and the benefits and monetization were straightforward. The team was experienced and veterans of the Internet, so no problem on solving any kind of technical challenge. But I countered by saying to myself that hottest, sexiest woman is still a person despite what we perceive is her perfection, and thus means she can’t be perfect since she is only human. Thus, for this pitch, however sexy it was, I refused to fall under its spell and viewed it with objective eyes. I brought my intuition back online and ultimately felt too uneasy about it to participate.
Walk away from that hot, sexy woman – hardest thing you can do sometimes.
Avoiding seduction is crucial. We have to train ourselves to not fall under the witch’s spell and view the entrepreneur and the opportunity with objective eyes.
This brings back the clarity of our gut and intuition, which we must cultivate to make sure we are not doing something that we’re not comfortable with.
In Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, he doesn’t like using the word intuition but instead he calls it a form of unbelievably quick thinking. For me, it’s both. It’s both the gut, the emotional aspect of immediate, primal reaction to something, and the incredibly rapid thought that allows us to make an instantaneous decision. One is cultivated within ourselves and our feelings, the other via years of experience in dealing in a certain area of expertise.
What does it mean exactly when we pass on an opportunity via gut feel?
Just because we pass on an idea does not mean that we think an idea will fail. It might actually succeed. However, I do believe that it truly means that we are not the right people to be involved and that our gut is telling us that, given who we are, how we work, etc, that this project is not right for us.
For the entrepreneur that gets passed due to gut feel, don’t feel bad. In the end, it will be better if we didn’t work together. Go and be successful, but just with someone else.