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Single Founders Shouldn’t Put Marriage Off (medium.com)
43 points by CanadaKaz 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments



Contrasts starkly with Ron Conway's advice at Startup School: https://youtu.be/qvHhhIfu7Lo?t=4m21s

"Paul Graham: So how can they tell? How can these people, you know it would save them a lot of trouble if you tell could tell them now whether they are going to succeed in starting a startup. How can they tell if they are driven enough?

Ron Conway: Well I mean are you willing to work 24/7. The really great entrepreneurs are 24/7. The word moonlighting is not even in their vocabulary. I mean if they are dating somebody or they are married, they warn their spouse that they are not first in line. That this company dream is first in line and that you have this vocation. It's like being a priest or a nun that your duty is to your company. No, it has to be that fanatical and if you look at all the successful entrepreneurs they are that committed about it. That is a hard commitment, but once you are willing to make that commitment then it solves the work ethic check off. If you have that commitment then your passion is probably infectious. It probably means you can in fact find other people and make them as excited about your idea as you are."


> "I mean if they are dating somebody or they are married, they warn their spouse that they are not first in line. That this company dream is first in line and that you have this vocation."

That advice reminded me of an explanation I once heard about why scam emails intentionally use terrible spelling, grammar and punctuation: it filters out people who wouldn't fall for the scam, and only someone desperate enough to willfully ignore the obvious warning signs will actually go through with it. This seems like the same exact thing. Anyone in their right mind will realize this is not in their best interest, so maybe only people not in their right minds will give 25/8 of their time to things like this, making someone else lots of money through decisions made while overworking themselves "for the sake of the dream" and being pressured into making sleep-deprived judgement calls that benefit other stakeholders more. Or maybe not, I have no idea.


Did you watch the video? I think the transcription is automated.


He's talking about the idea not implementation, that something that horrible is at the front as a weeding mechanism.


This is one of the least helpful things people ever say. A family unit is a unit. Saying I'm putting my company above my marriage is like saying I'm putting my company above my health. This is just terrible; because if you are not healthy you can't run a company. In my case, my wife is as committed to the company as I am. There are days actually when she is more committed. She knows exactly when the stress points are and she knows exactly what is needed. I will come home some times and found that she had a few free hours and has dedicated them to the company.


"... is like saying I'm putting my company above my health."

From parent: "Ron Conway: Well I mean are you willing to work 24/7"

So, yes. That's exactly what they are saying.


This is so awful that I'm sad to see the word "advice" being used. I lost my wife due to my commitment to my startup. I'm still at a startup, but the one that I loved and dreamed about so much which cost me so dearly ultimately failed.

Before you take this kind of advice, take a good long look at what you want from life. Before you take a vow to support your business you should remember the vows you've already made.


18 months ago, I almost lost my wife because of a project I joined at the beginning of 2015 to which I dedicated all my time, hoping it starts rising quick (when I joined they were working on it for already 2 years, and it was "a matter of months, one year top, to finish").

Turns out it didn't, and when my wife pronounced the word "divorce", I dropped it all (the tension was anyway rising between me and the team for some months) to save my marriage.

I was lucky enough that it ended well on my personal life. And that's the last time I make this mistake. Wealth is cool, loved ones are what matters (at least for me).

On a side note, they're still struggling to finish their app.


I can second this. I was in a relationship with a highly paying job, and my girlfriend and I mutually agreed to break up because of the volatility that starting a startup entails. Pressuring your significant other to stay with you when the vast majority of startups fail is just selfish and irrational.


That's a really weird framing ("they warn their spouse that they are not first in line"). Lot's of married people with kids are "24/7." How many Chinese and Indian people come to America and spend 24/7 running a restaurant? Are they single? Or are they married with kids?


There is a strong social expectation to stay married. Many times the marriage itself is arranged by the families. It doesn't occur to some that splitting up is a possibility. Also they usually see it a combined venture of both the spouses.

The social bonds are so strong, I know plenty of marriages where the husband is living abroad usually middle East and comes home literally for few days in a year and the marriages still survive


Pretty much only reason to marry such dude is money. So, expect divorce if things don't go well. Most likely, expect divorce no mater what.

Pretty much all studies on performance shows that you achieve more and perform better if you take breaks and rest. May be sport or chatting with people in office or anything. So I mean, live like monk if that is your dream, but if you want maximum long term performance then 24/7 is likely feel good motivational bullshit.


It seems like the word "advice" has inadvertently poisoned the well for discussion.

Ron Conway wasn't advising the audience to tell their spouse they aren't first in line. Instead, he's offering up his observations of past successful entrepreneurs of big internet startups. Observations != advice.

If there are abundant counterexamples of tech startups that became successful even though the founder worked 40 hours and no more, people should list them. Believe me, HN would love to know about them to learn their ideas. The context is the kinds of tech startups that Ron Conway and Paul Graham are discussing.

In any case, the kind of founders that work 80+ hours a week trying to make their startup a success don't need people like RC to give them advice about prioritizing their business over their relationships. The founders are doing that anyway! (E.g. Steve Jobs ignoring his girlfriend & daughter.) RC's just standing on the sidelines relating the behaviors he's observed.


It seems like this advice is derived from anecdotes and "gut feeling" rather than data and research.


Trained intuition?


A polite term for unconscious bias.


I take it you are being sarcastic. But the two are distinct and it could be a combination of both.


The advice here is almost literally: making money is more important than people. And then we wonder why we have companies like Uber captained by people with low regard for others?


I think the advice is closer to: "If you aren't going to put your startup in front of everything else in your life. It will fail."

Which, at the scale of business they are referring to, might just be the reality. Although I also find it to be a very distasteful warping of human priorities, personally.


I agree with you, but I think our two statements are closer in meaning than you think.

The Silicon Valley pattern of VC-backed startups is distinct from other patterns of new business formation. This SV pattern focusses on high-growth and high-valuation. It is specifically geared for wealth-creation. That's the primary motivation for most of the key people involved, definitely the motivation of the investors. It's a well-known fact that VC's need outsized returns for their investment model to make sense. So it's not even just making money that is the priority, it's making a lot of money. There are other more predictable ways to start and build businesses if your goal is not maximum return on investment.

So to me, when an investor says, "If you aren't going to put your startup in front of everything else in your life. It will fail," it sounds a lot like, "Making money is more important than people."


I don't think people for whom their startup is their vocation, as that of a priest or a nun, are motivated by money at all actually.


Understood, but this isn't a founder pointing out that they have chosen this life, this is an investor (by definition has a profit motive) in an educational context (startup school) saying that founders can't be successful and that they shouldn't even try (question was "how do you know if you have what it takes?") unless they sacrifice everything else in their life for the business.

It's the difference between a priest or a nun following what they believe is their life's calling and a televangelist promising their audience blessing if only they'll sacrificially give their life savings as offering.

It's also worth pointing out that Ron Conway (as far as I can tell) was never actually a founder himself. He's not had to take his own advice. To be fair, I'm not familiar with all the details of his life, so maybe I'm mis-characterizing.

I've spent a good portion or my career working with and for startups and small businesses, so I'm not just against them on principle, but this advice, coming from this source really feels off to me in the same way that as a Christian televangelists feel disturbing and off.


Sounds like great advice if you are interested in developing coronary heart disease, impaired cognitive ability, and a host of other health-related issues.

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1005/10051205

http://www.circadian.com/blog/item/22-5-negative-effects-of-...

Oh, and do you literally expect a "great" entrepreneur to work 24/7? Good luck with that. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-long-can-huma...


Couple things briefly.

The only time to do something important is right now. If you found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, marry them. Today. Life won’t wait.

Secondly, the culture of startup Uber alles is real dubious and I question the wisdom of dedicating yourself 100% without question to a group of venture capitalists who are, bluntly, counting on most of you to fail. Trust is reciprocal. Don’t get too far out over your skis- this is business and managing resources and risk is your job. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you are costantly triaging your time and energy, and without a strong sense of priorities and boundaries, you will be totally consumed by the endless cycle of other people’s wants. There are a lot of people who will tell you to go all in and sacrifice everything for the company. I think most of those people have an agenda that is serving their interests over yours.

Lastly, man, I work real hard and have for a long time. You have a ceiling where your hours are going to get real soft efficiency wise on a consistent basis. You can go 60 hours a week with a family. Very few people can put more than that number of hours in at their job without experiencing a real sharp productivity dip in their per hour output. I would submit that most of the folks going 80, 100, 120 a week for sustained periods of time are getting nothing they couldn’t have with a disciplined, 100% focused schedule and a family. They’re selling out the only life they’ve got for a handful of sloppy meetings or ugly code. Go home and have dinner with your kids. Hug your husband. Get a couple hours in on the weekend. Delegate more stuff, better. Focus on finding and executing what’s going to move the needle, and cut out the rest.


I am a single founder and married. I work much harder and more effectively with my wife around and supporting me. And I also feel much better as a person supporting her. Plus she’s really smart. If anything, being married is an especially good idea of you are a solo founder!


I'm not sure I understand the message of this article. Is it just that people in a (good) marriage have better (emotional, financial) support systems, and are therefore happier? The subtitle would lead me to believe that the article is encouraging founders who are single to seek out a marriage just so they can strain it in the name of their startup. Treating your spouse like a weird type of employee is all kinds of unethical.

Like, who is this article for? Are there single founders in committed relationships who aren't taking the next step because they fear they'll break the ranks of stereotypcial single founders? Founders in bad marriages (which I would believe make up a decent portion of them) know that their work isn't helping their relationship, and those in good marriages already know this.


There is nothing unethical about it. Marriage was an economic arrangement long before it was a romantic one. And it still serves that function: it diversifies peoples' income sources, changes their risk profile (as the article points out), allows amortizing many fixed expenses, etc.

For most of history, society has told young men to get married so they can form households. There was a good reason for that (aside from propagation of the species): it's very difficult for a single man to, for example, run a farm by himself.


Why does anyone need to be married to do any of the above?


The article is talking about "married" as the opposite of "single." Whether you're legally married, or "functionally" married is somewhat besides the point. (Although, as a pre-packaged set of rules governing economic partnerships between two people, marriage still has a lot to offer. E.g. if you keep a 9-5 to pay for health insurance while your spouse throws herself at a startup; you'd be daft not to have some sort of arrangement in place to share in the upside if she is successful.)


I think the author is not aware that the general trend of marriage, at least in the United States, is happening later than ever before for both young men and women.

Nobody lives in a vacuum, and there will be drastic demographic changes in the United States. If you have a culture where even looking at a woman is construed as harassment, this is the result. Let's not forget about being saddled by mountains of uncancellable college debt. I'd rate this article a solid C+; pseudointellectual tier.


I think that the bigger issue isn't founders in relationships putting off marriage, but founders who are put off dating all together.

I worked as much as I could on my startup the first two years. I knew that I could have successful dates individually, but that I didn't have the bandwidth to sustain the followup interactions dating would require. I put off dating for those two years, and went the company eventually went bust I definitely regret putting my life on hold like that.


Eh, it's on medium.com. "Who is it for"... well it's just to rant or get some clicks.


Sometimes you just need stability in your personal life in order to take risks in your professional life. It's not necessarily about financial stability, it could just be about emotional stability.

Having a genuine relationship with someone is a good way to stay grounded in your perception of all other human relationships.

Too many times in life, people just want to exploit you; if you don't have a model of what a healthy relationship looks like then soon enough you will be surrounded with the wrong kind of people and you won't even realize it.


I assume all advantages of being married (being healthier, happier, even richer) depend on marrying the right person for you. I also assume that if a single founder already found the right person he/she is not single anymore. And I assume at last that finding the right person is not just a matter of wanting to do it.

All that to say that the article shouldnt have being framed as "advice for single founders", but as just a commentary of this social aspect of founders.


I'm recently divorced. Now I have an article telling me I'm going to be more unhappy and more prone to heart attacks.


A large part of that is the filtering effect. Married people are happier than single people because the really unhappy married people get divorced. And health is correlated with happiness.


Many successful companies have been started by people who were family-people. Some of them also worked only 8 hours per day. Of course, some days are longer, but most are not.

It comes down to setting boundaries, doing the right thing for yourself and your customers and believing in yourself.

If the reason your startup failed is because you weren't 24/7, then trust me, there were many other reasons why your startup failed.


While I've heard the married = happier + healthier arguments for some time, are we sure that the cause is marriage, or some other trait heavily correlated with marriage, or that we've not reversed cause and effect?


From what I've read the "married = happier + healthier" thing for men is only true if you put the divorced guys in the "single" column. Which doesn't make sense.


Agreed. Whats the chances that happy, healthy, stable single people are more likely to want to get married, and attract people that would want to marry them?


The implication is that you're innately more sickly/feeble if you can't attract a mate? Yeah that sounds about right.


Everybody, regardless of profession, should put off marriage.

A marriage contract is the worst – often wildly lopsided – contract people can enter into. Family courts are corrupted by the revolving door of judges and divorce lawyers.


Having a significant other is one of the best things an entrepreneur can obtain. It saves countless hours and money on weekends. No need to go out to a club or bar hoping to get lucky. When you have someone at right at home you can focus more on your business and getting work done.


I'll keep it short and sweet. Family, religion, friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business. When opportunity knocks, you don't want to be driving to a maternity hospital or sitting in some phony-baloney church. Or synagogue.


There are very few opportunities in life that can't be delayed by 48 hours (especially if the reason is a major lifecycle event like a birth, marriage or funeral).

Without family or friends, what's the point of life?


It's a Monty Burns quote


This is a very narrow view of success.


Mr Burns is a very successful man!

GP Quote from: http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/The_Old_Man_and_the_Lisa/Quot...


A lot of people are missing the quote and the sarcasm.

Which is interesting, because the point of sarcasm is that it's so obviously phony that it's funny...and yet this one fails because some people actually advocate this. Look at the exchange quoted in the top comment:

> Ron Conway: Well I mean are you willing to work 24/7....I mean if they are dating somebody or they are married, they warn their spouse that they are not first in line.

That was, as best I can tell, completely genuine.



Aren't quality close relationships with friends and/or family the most determinant factor in a person's happiness? If most entrepreneurs feel they have to sacrifice that no wonder so many suffer from depression...


Actually, I’ve met many very successful people who have families and go to church every Sunday. Most of the successful people I’ve met have families.


So to succeed as an entrepreneur you have to remove everything from your life that makes it worth living? Feh.


If your business is so important, you would ignore those distractions anyway. This kind of success is not the only measure we have to evaluate the meaning and fulfillment of life.




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