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Y Combinator, a Two-Year-Old, and a Pregnant Wife (tiempoapp.com)
288 points by tadmilbourn on Oct 23, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 147 comments

I love articles on this topic because they're uplifting and hopeful, I hate them because they are unrealistic.

Y-Combinator's expectation for start-ups is that they are to be "all-consuming" (1)

From Sam Altman's "Before the Startup":

"If you start a startup, it will take over your life to a degree you cannot imagine. And if your startup succeeds, it will take over your life for a long time: for several years at the very least, maybe for a decade, maybe for the rest of your working life. So there is a real opportunity cost here."

In my personal experience start-ups are terrible for young families.

If you expect to have a balanced-family-life and still also out-work / out-hustle 20-year olds or 40+ year olds (older kids) that are out for your blood you are setting yourself up for failure.

I've been through this exact grind with young children born 18-months apart and you are FORCED to choose.

That uninterruptable family dinner?

Wait until an investor flys in to SFO unexpectedly and wants to go out on the town.

Being around for more of the "little things”?

Wait until you are forced to marginalize the importance of being there on your kid's actual "birthday" because heck, you'll be at the birthday party this weekend and you need to be in Dallas for a sales meeting.

I am writing those two anecdotes from my own personal experience.

Working up on start-up #XX with plenty of success under my belt, pre-set expectations that I'm going to do this "balance" now, etc.

It's unrealistic, and I have been forced to choose my start-up and my team over my family to succeed, and it sucks.

But that's my path, and that of many others here.

I have incredible respect for anybody juggling y-combinator, a working spouse, and two kids.

But you have to be made of steel to undertake this path and look at the sacrifices you will make as a husband and father in the eye.

(1) http://www.paulgraham.com/before.html

We get into a mindset that this is the only way to start a business, particularly in technology. And while I think you have touched on a number of good points, as did the original poster, I think we need to come back to the reality that businesses have been started for a long time in many different ways. My father, grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather have all been in business, they have all started them in different ways and in different industries. "If you start a startup, it will take over your life to a degree you cannot imagine." That is a strong and hyperbolic statement. In fact, with all respect to Sam Altman, his entire statement is quite hyperbolic.

Can a business take over your life? Absolutely not! Can you allow a business to take over your like? Absolutely!

I have been involved in and started a number of successful businesses. I am also actively involved in my marriage (I have had exactly 1 wife, we've been together for just a bit). I have 6 kids. I go to birthday parties, soccer games, teachers meetings, and camp outs. I even volunteer at the schools.

What happens when someone wants to schedule a meeting when my wife has dinner ready? I tell them to move it.

What happens when an investor flies in and wants me to take them out for a night on the town when it's the choir performance night at the elementary school? I tell them I can't.

Have I had investors leave me because I would not play their social games? Absolutely! And I was glad that I didn't have to deal with them again.

Now, have I missed things? Yes. But I have gotten pretty good at looking at a schedule and planning around things. I want a close personal relationship with my wife and kids, so I have made that my priority.

When people ask me how I do it, I tell them honestly. I am the CEO/CTO/CIO, I make the rules for me. I am not a slave to my company nor its success.

Bang on - I couldn't agree more. Wish I could +10 this.

My version of that is that there's a difference between living to work and working to live. It's really up to you, how far you allow your business to encroach on your personal life; it's up to you how much of a workaholic you want to be.

I see my kids every morning, have breakfast with them, and drive them to school. I have dinner with them every night, albeit at 2000, and they're very young. There's a (stereotypical) North American mentality that dinner needs to be early for children, that they can't stay up late, and then there's the rest of the world. Kids can nap for an hour or two around 1630/1700, life won't end.

Call me during dinner time, and you're instantly on voicemail. Employees know it, investors know it, business partners know it. Dinner is sacrosanct, I've literally never missed dinner with family.

Some people will leave you, some people can't work that way- but that doesn't mean your company can't. Sometimes that means losing great talent, there's a shocking amount of the world that (currently) NEED their work to be all consuming. That's okay, it just means my companies aren't for them.

A shocking number of investors actually get this, and respect you for it. There's no need to dance around the 'knowing what you will not bend on' phase - because you're up front. Equally, the approach helps you focus on the time you do have. It helps you maximize the time you're using, because of the need to get what's truly important.

Businesses will come and go. Fortunes will be made and lost (hopefully made!). But you only have X years. If you want to spend them engrossed overarchingly in business, there's nothing wrong with that. If you're like @trcollinson, and others like us, then family is the priority.

This ingores the bias of investors. The original post is quoting investors, so I don't think its a speculative bias. You seem to be suggesting to ignore the wisdom of "know your customer"--and for many founders/ceos investors are as critical a customer as any (equity is just another a value added product).

If we want to look at investors through the lens of a customer, I think that we should also acknowledge that sometimes you need to fire / turn down a customer. Different investors have different expectations, and compromising fundamental beliefs about how you want to run your business in pursuit of cash is going to be a horrible experience for both you and the investor in the long run.

People join YC to get the contacts and credibility to implement this strategy. But suggesting that they have the ability to implement such a strategy before having such credibility is flawed. The conditions precedent for it to be a viable ptactical are not in place. That's all I am saying.

Chelsea Clinton or Ronan Farrow doesn't need to do Y combinator if they want to launch a startup, they have their parent's rolodexes as assets on their balance sheets. But most people are looking to "raise social capital" along with raising financial capital. And to do this, other considerations come into play.

Of course, one can always use a calculated social transgression as a form of breaking into the establishment. That's also a proven stragegy, but its not without its own risks and is really beyond the scope of what started this comment thread. But it does need to acknowledged, so that's fair.

All great points, but you are also missing the context. Altman and PG and Andreesen aren't talking about starting businesses that are generally sustainable or considered "lifestyle." They are specifically and narrowly focused on trying to build $1BN+ dollar companies that have insane growth rates in competitive markets.

You can't "miss things" in that context - especially strategic investments - because they will be picked up by competitors who will "out hustle" you.

I feel like the YC folks either haven't done a good enough job clarifying that they don't speak for "all businesses generally" or the community is assuming that they are.

All great points, but you are also missing the context.

I don't think he's missing the context, he's explicitly rejecting the assumptions behind this position.

They are specifically and narrowly focused on trying to build $1BN+ dollar companies that have insane growth rates in competitive markets.

Altman and PG and Andreesen are not building anything, they're focussed on investing in companies which have insane growth rates. That is not a fatuous cavil - that's a very different thing and sometimes puts their motivations at odds with those of company founders. An investor does not have the same incentives as someone building a company, and it's little wonder they want as many people as possible to grow fast or burn out trying.

You can't "miss things" in that context - especially strategic investments - because they will be picked up by competitors who will "out hustle" you.

Is hard work always rewarded? Is giving your life over to your company going to make it succeed? I'd argue there is a far more complex interplay of forces in the success or failure of companies - often it'll come down far more to who they know, or who their investors know, and whether they can come to the attention of the right people in order to have an exit (which just happens to be a great outcome for investors).

Founding a company is extremely hard work, often underestimated, and often all-consuming, but it doesn't have to take over your life completely, and I'm not sure it's healthy if it does. Success has many different definitions, and there are many routes to it.

I entirely see AndrewKemendo's point. But yes, you see my position correctly. In fact, I would argue that Altman, Andreesen, PG, et al. are not even "trying to build $1BN+ companies". They are investing their money in High Yield High Risk markets. And their track records and returns show this. They have funded 716 companies. 3 are worth north of $1BN. 20 are greater than $100M. [1] Their track record is amazing, but ~97% of the business's they have invested in have not "made it big", so to speak.

A good friend of mine owns a very successful real estate software company. At last estimate he is worth ~$300M. He started the company without traditional investors (his father did put in $10,000 to be fair), he owns the entire business himself. He has many "things"; cars, vacation homes, an island. He also has a wife and has very successfully raised 4 kids while building up his business.

The point I hope a few people can take away from all of this is that investors like YC and the like have one way of starting a business. It is successful for some, life changing for others, and entirely the wrong approach to business for yet a different group. There are many other ways to start a business, technical or not. grey-area, I am with you. It is not healthy to have a company consume you completely, and it is not necessary for a business to succeed. Work hard, understand your market and most importantly your customers, build a product your customers enjoy and need, and you will find success, possibly the variety that makes you $100M+.

[1] http://blog.ycombinator.com/yc-portfolio-stats

>In fact, I would argue that Altman, Andreesen, PG, et al. are not even "trying to build $1BN+ companies".

> Their track record is amazing, but ~97% of the business's they have invested in have not "made it big", so to speak.

That's entirely beside the point. They are specifically looking for those rare, billion dollar companies.

See: http://paulgraham.com/swan.html

The fact that most of the companies don't hit $1 billion is not at all relevant. That's to be expected when hunting for companies that are rare by definition (black swans). It speaks nothing to the intent of the investors.

But it makes all the difference to the companies they invest in, even the ones that don't make it big and the same goes of course for the founders of those companies.

If YC and their competitors want to maintain their pace they have to have everybody aim to swing as hard and as high as they can otherwise those successes won't be there either. If they knew up front who will succeed they would not be using this model.

I don't think he's rejecting them because he isn't saying "I'm building a slower business" or "I'm not looking for explosive growth" - things I have seen people say that indicate they know the distinction and are rejecting it.

Agreed on the building vs investing - however my point stands, they are pushing forward the mantra of MASSIVE disruptive companies.

To the rest of your points, in my opinion those factors are held ceteris paribus compared to how hard you hustle - largely because they are generally out of your control, that is unless you are hustling.

As an example, I had NO (as in zero) network in the Angel/VC startup world in D.C. 2 years ago. Now I have quite a robust network and it wasn't because I knew someone, it was because we were building something great and I went out found who was who and talked to them. It didn't take over my life, and still doesn't but it does take up as much as possible. I am after all typing on here.

"What happens when someone wants to schedule a meeting when my wife has dinner ready? I tell them to move it."

I'm curious if when you tell them to move it how you say that and if you give them a reason why?

In other words do you tell them "sorry I can't because that's when I eat dinner with the family" or "sorry I can't I have my kids soccer game" or just "that time doesn't work for me" etc?

That's a shit sandwich, though.

It sounds incredibly self-serving for VCs to be pushing that cultural expectation. It sounds out-right unhealthy. It sounds like a great after-the-fact excuse to make workaholics feel less bad.

I know it's hyper competitive landscape out there, but it's unreasonable. If Mark Zuckerberg found a way to learn Mandarin, then the rest of us should be able to go home at a reasonable hour.

Completely agree that VCs and others should not be pushing for this to be the norm. Not only because it's unhealthy but also because it discourages a talented and mature group of people from attempting to create great things.

I kind of wonder if the current startup scene of chatty app clones and services for asshats etc. is partially a result of the startup landscape being oversaturated with individuals who meet the young, kidless and immature crowd precisely because they're the only ones who are perceived as being capable to "give what it takes" to start a startup...

For VC backed companies it is the norm. It's up to you to decide if you want that kind of pressure or not.

You did every single one of those things to yourself. In each of those situations, you had a choice, and you made it. "Startup culture" isn't to blame. YC isn't to blame. Investors and sales meetings aren't to blame. You are. You decided your business was more important than your family.

And maybe it was. I wasn't there; I can't say.

Please understand, I'm not moralizing here. I'm not saying you were wrong. I'm aware there are consequences to any of the choices one might make in these situations. I'm merely pointing out the demonstrable fact, by virtue of your self-reported behavior, that you chose your business over your family in each of these cases you're lamenting.

Own it. Don't point at something else, all, "But that thing over there." You made a choice that was unequivocally yours and yours alone to make.

Thanks Rosser. To be clear, I didn't feel I was blaming or lamenting anything. My point with the article was to share "these are my choices and how I made them." Some favored the business, others favored the family.

Each person should decide what they feel is best for their situation and understand the tradeoffs their making.

I got no sense of blaming or lamenting from your article at all, Tad. I read exactly what you intended in it: "Here are the choices I made, and how and why I chose the way I did."

My comment was directed at its parent.

The examples you gave were your choices. They weren't "shit the server's gone down" moments.

You could have said you were busy that day to either of them. For the 2nd one you even could have hired another sales guy and you wouldn't have even been in that situation.

But you didn't.

And in the end, this guy's got a time tracking/invoicing app he sells to small businesses, his scenario is completely different. I don't want to be too dismissive, but it seems more suited for the Amy Hoy/patio11 route rather than the YC one, it's not a pants on fire, runaway scaling startup.

You're right. Those were my choices. Fortunately, over the past few months, the servers have stayed up and my daughter hasn't had a need to go to the hospital. Those are holy shit moments.

But most of life is lived in a more mundane day-to-day way. Those days are filled with your choices about where and how you spend your time.

I wrote this post to detail how I go about making these decisions because I know there are others out there in a similar position. Just hearing another perspective is helpful.

Someone just pointed me to this post from Change.org's COO and I greatly appreciated her take: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141022041002-407452...

On the scalable startup or not...we wouldn't have gotten into YC if we didn't have a plan.

I really appreciate this article and the way you've handled some of these comments.

My wife is expecting our first child soon and one thing it has really done is change my perspective. I've actually become a more dedicated employee and have also realized the glass and rubber ball metaphors.

There's bugs that have to be fixed right now and projects that have to be completed on time -- but there's also a personal life.

I'm no longer killing myself because of some minor bug that can wait, but at the same time I'm finding that when I am "on," I'm actually "on" instead of the half-on all the time.

It's been a life changing experience and it's very hard to describe in an understandable way to people who haven't gone through it, but this article is coming close.

Thanks! I experienced a similar thing the first time around. I enjoy my work. But pre-kid, I found myself spending longer days where I wasn't actually "on."

Post-kid, there's far more meaning to whether you're at work or not. All of the sudden, I was getting done in 8 hours what I used to do in 10 or 12 (or in 12 hour what used to be 16).

Congrats on the upcoming child! Best of luck!

Hiring a sales guy is also a hard choice. One that involves giving part ownership to the sales guy in very early stages. Which not everyone wants to do.

Do you think that there is something fundamentally different between doing a start-up and the various other high-stress, all consuming industries (e.g. big law, finance, medical residency)? In all of these industries, the narrative is that work is all consuming. Clients are non-stop and demanding. Work is 24/7. Work makes you miss birthdays, dinners, holidays, vacations. But ultimately, in all of these industries there are plenty (maybe not a lot) of highly successful people with kids and significant others who could say nothing other than "my big law/finance/doctor significant other can be described as nothing more than the perfect significant other/parent".

I think there are lots of things that affect the quality of a relationship, celebrating birthdays and showing up for holidays are likely not high on the list.

I'd say that the other high-stress industries cause a similar dynamic. Work/Family pressure is not exclusive to startups or tech startups or however you want to label it.

But, the one difference I'd call out with doing a startup (or owning any small business), is that you're responsible for whether that business fails or not and any of the jobs that are attached to it.

So you feel an intense responsibility to those other coworkers and their families.

You also have this if you're a manager in a larger company, but I think the intensity with which you feel it is a lesser degree (you messing up is still not good, but the company may still survive).

Being a tech startup CEO is heavily over-romanticized. If the business fails your employees will likely soon go on to find other jobs, probably at a higher salary. It's not hard to think of other common jobs which are much more critical and stressful.

If you're a startup CEO and you fail, employees find other jobs. If you're a physician and you fail, people die.

not for podiatrists...

Yes there is a very, very big difference. For these high-stress jobs you get paid lots and lots of money.

You don't get paid anything to do a startup, you might even do it for 2 years and NOTHING will come out of it.

Another good take on a similar situation: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/why-peps...

As a new dad with a busy job I've found the pain point balancing work/family to be crises that occur semi regularly like kid sick and can't go to childcare, major bug discovered prior to launch, etc. As Tad notes the planned obligations can be managed to balance your personal choice of importance between family and career, but for me in practice it is the unexpected or urgent that can upset that balance.

Balancing things that are urgent now vs things that are important is very difficult in practice. Long term having a good relationship with your spouse and kids is much more important than fixing that bug for customer, but that bug may be very urgent so you stay later to fix it tonight.

Trying to keep the urgent from trumping the important in the priority queue is a constant challenge in my life as I now have more important things.

I completely agree with Tad on the over communicating.

The only other things I have found helpful are to: 1) Set expectations realistically - people can be ecstatic or completely disappointed with the same result depending on what you tell them to expect. 2) I don't scale very well, focus on measuring metrics rather than micromanaging and then delegate to others.

Fantastic additions. Urgent vs. Important is a great framework.

Thanks, best of luck to us all balancing in a world that is all about maximizing.

> If you expect to have a balanced-family-life and still also out-work / out-hustle 20-year olds or 40+ year olds (older kids) that are out for your blood you are setting yourself up for failure.

This seems to imply the only way to out work 20 or 40 year olds is with time and because of your family you won't have time but that's not true. Hard work is only part of it. It sucks in your situation you had to chose and sacrifice your family but I do not believe that has to be typical of all Y Combinator applicants.

I love these kind of articles, period.

As a dad (son just turned two, daughter's 8 month old) in a similar situation, family wise, it's nice to read about other people being successful (and less risk averse..) in their professional life.

Granted, your story sounds more realistic. That's what I think whenever the 'Could I do something like this' wish comes up. But for now I'll choose to believe that Tad can make it work. Both for him and because I'd love to be able to do the same thing..

What matters most is that he attempted it and shares his experience with the community. The United States has a severe problem with life vs. profession, and it would do a lot of good to push towards the former. Right now it's taboo and maybe in some circles laughable to attempt to raise a family while starting a company. Hopefully in generations to come, it won't be.

I was inpsired by his story.

That's the struggle. And, you've called it out precisely. There will be some extremely tough choices. Hopefully it doesn't come to a choice where the business is at risk due to a family decision (or vice versa). But, you've got to stay mindful of that fact. That's why I liked the juggling "Rubber" or "Glass" balls metaphor from my previous CEO.

I get it.

And my experience is my own.

As others have said in this thread "I could have made other choices"

But when you are way down the river, playing with other people's money, and with dozens of employees counting on you these "choices" starts feeling like foregone conclusions.

If you want to be a start-up guy, if you want to build a large business, prepare yourself for the realities that are going to come with that.

I have been lucky enough to change my situation over the past 2-years, but there would be no business today to "hire sales guys" etc if I hadn't done the work myself when it counted.

You have correctly identified tradeoffs. All of life has them, but having a family brings many of them into focus. Each person has to decide what works for them and their family. I'm glad that people are starting to talk about this plainly and openly.

As a father of two - articles like this come off as incredibly pretentious and I have a really hard time even finishing them.

I feel like so many in the "startup" culture are completely trapped in an imaginary bubble that literally means jack shit to anyone outside it.

You aren't changing the world out there...you're building business.

You are a father and a husband making a conscious adult decision to put work over your family...writing this little "how-to" article does not somehow make you immune to that reality. Venting your elitist self-serving views to the general public does not make you any less irresponsible, much less some sort of "leader".

"From 5:30pm-8:30pm, I’m not a startup CEO. I’m a dad." <- That statement right there pretty much illustrates my point.

No amount of money will ever replace what you're missing out on at home - I guess you'll have to figure that out on your own though. Hopefully your wife and children will give you back the same 1/8th of their time and focus that you give them.

It's interesting that others in the thread have implied that I'm not spending enough time on my startup and will be out-hustled.

My wife and I both work. So, we have our kid in daycare. 5:30-8:30 is actually 100% of the time from daycare pickup until she goes to sleep. If she doesn't go to sleep until 9:30, then that means I'm with her until then.

On the weekends, I work while she naps or is having one on one time with her mom.

My point is that I'm spending as close to 100% of the hours I have with my kid.

I grew up in Green Bay, WI (about as non-bubble as you can get) with a dad who worked nights. Once I was in school, I'd see him at dinners only. But he made every soccer game I was in. He had to make choices between his career and his family. And I think he did an excellent job of it. His time with me, though less than my mom's, was always attentive. We have a great relationship. I think he made the right choices for our family.

This isn't just a Valley issue...I just happen to be in the Valley. Many parents struggle with how to make the tradeoffs between work and family. My hope in sharing my situation is that others can get another perspective and maybe take away a thing or two to try.

> On the weekends, I work while she naps or is having one on one time with her mom.

Do you share household chores with your wife, or does she do mostly all of that work? Kooking, cleaning, changing diapers, feeding the children, cleaning the kitchen table 5 times a day (children are really messy eating snacks), doing the dishes, bathing them, getting up at night when the kids are sick, ... . That's the reality of having kids when you are taking care of them.

There is a HUGE difference between "spending time with your kids" and "taking care of your kids".

Believe me, I have 3 small children and both my wife and I have fulltime jobs, where my wife is abroad 20% of her time. Taking care of kids can drain a lot, I mean a lot of energy.

Don't take this as a personal attack. If you and your wife feel happy in this situation, I'm happy for you. But these kind of articles make it seem as though having kids just means "spending time with them", because it isn't. Someone needs to take care of them 24/7. So to make it more realistic, just mention how much of that 24/7 it's your duty.

> It's interesting that others in the thread have implied that I'm not spending enough time on my startup and will be out-hustled.

I think this is kind of the point though. It seems that running a successful startup rarely allows enough time to spend with our family.

In other words:

  - Good work/life balance
  - Adequate money for current lifestyle
  - Running your own business
  - Sustained success
Pick three.

If you're saying you've got the first three nailed down, it may be too early to tell if the fourth one will pan out, at which point you have to swap one of the other three in order to sustain the success.

Not saying it's impossible, but it seems very uncommon (at least, I've not seen too many examples of it).

But maybe this is anecdotal. Curious to hear if others know of examples.

Consider the possibility that your view of the world is very influenced by your social circles and/or media you consume rather than by facts about the world itself.

It is, in fact, not the case that businessmen can't have families. Most do. This is equally true in tech as it is in the rest of the economy. (Also, relatedly, being a startup founder isn't nearly the most all-consuming job available. It isn't even the most all-consuming job available in tech. We're curiously macho about this, as if 14 hour workdays are a unique point of startup pride and not a very common characteristic of systems designed to acculturate young men into professions via hazing.)

> We're curiously macho about this, as if 14 hour workdays are a unique point of startup pride and not a very common characteristic of systems designed to acculturate young men into professions via hazing.

Curious indeed. I've worked at startups where PagerDuty alerts went off in the middle of the night with false alarms every day for two weeks, and wasn't allowed to fix the alerting system because... well, responding to them shows my dedication. It's very important we all suffer together! Just don't let PagerDuty escalate the issue to your frat brothers, initiate.

I get what you're both saying and appreciate both perspectives. To me aepearson is hitting on an systemic flaw in our current culture: we're obsessed with work. Our priorities go something like 1) work, 2) money, 3) work, 4) more money, 5) our kids, 6) marriage, 7) work and money... We're completely out of whack according to a certain system of values which it sounds like I and aepearson share.

For people like me, my priorities go as follows: 1) marriage, 2) kids, 3) work only as much as necessary to pay bills, save for retirement and rainy days. For someone with my priorities, your life sounds like hell--though I give you props for making the choices you are consciously--and there's literally no amount of money which would make rearranging my priorities make sense to me.

Like you I will start a business someday, but when I do it will be a slower burn operating within the constraints of my personal priorities.

It's challenging, but I also apply my same set of priorities in my work life. I don't pursue or accept jobs which will require missing dinner time, which will wipe out my weekends, which will consume me and my life. Life is about so much more than work. It's about time spent with the people you love, doing meaningful things. Someday we'll all die, and I don't want to look back and see just a whole shit load of hours worked (on my own businesses or for others).

I don't fault you for how you're living though. As long as it works for you, your wife, and your family, keep at it. Everyone's different, and has different ideas of what makes a "good life."

I will say that I personally find it frustrating how much pressure there is out there these days to work more for less. I ascribe it to too many people being willing to let work consume them and making it harder on the rest of us who would rather maintain a strict separation of work from home life, working hard for the amount of time we've agreed to work, but otherwise being free to spend the rest of our time as we see fit.

This makes sense. There are plenty of people who do not run or work for start-ups that deal with these very same issues, every day. And many of them don't have the choice to leave the office at 5:00 so they can spend that three hours with their kids. I think your rubber/glass ball story is spot-on: assuming we've invested our lives in more than a single thing, we are constantly involved in balancing acts. Part of life is figuring out how many balls you can have in the air at one time. I know personally I would never be able to do what you're trying, and I'm okay with that. Heck, without kids and wife, I don't think I'd be cut out to be a founder. And I'm okay with that.

Tad, I realize my comment probably came off as incredibly judgemental - which was not my intention... I'm sure you are a good guy and love your family as much as anyone else.

I appreciate your positive candor - and, of course, hope all works out well for you.

With that said - My opinion is that it's REALLY important to give this balance conversation a lot of thought (I struggle with it myself bigtime...always wanting to do more, earn more, grow more, etc. "for my family and our future"...but that's my story, not necessarily yours).

Not in the "how do I pull it off effectively" kinda way (re: your article) - but in a "is this even what matters?" kinda way.

Well...you did call me pretentious. And elitist. And stated I wasn't spending enough time with my family. That was a little judgmental.

But I do get your points on the Valley bubble and the implicit values it places on work/life balance. There's a much higher penchant for career than in other parts of the country. That's why I brought up the fact that I grew up in Green Bay. I understand what a different value structure looks like. There's plenty that I like about it and plenty I don't.

It's always fair to question "what really matters" and "am I doing the right things."

> It's interesting that others in the thread have implied that I'm not spending enough time on my startup and will be out-hustled

You're not spending enough time on your start up AND you're not spending enough time with your family. You're losing on both counts but you will only realize this in ten years.

What's the rush? Couldn't you have accepted a job at a big company for a few years while you plan a start up once your kids are a bit older?

FWIW, there are ample counterexamples of startup founders who have had young children and done very well on both fronts. For example:

All but one of the Fairchild Eight had young children while founding Fairchild (and the modern Silicon Valley).

Jan Koum had two young children while founding WhatsApp.

The Zenter founders both had young children during YCombinator, and ended up getting bought by Google.

It can be done. I doubt anyone would consider it easy, but the data certainly doesn't a blanket claim of "You're not spending enough time on your start up AND you're not spending enough time with your family."

You didn't list any counterexamples, or at least we have no way of knowing if they are counterexamples. You've listed a number of examples where the startup founders had young children while successfully growing their companies but we have no way of knowing whether they were equally successful on the parenting front. Perhaps they sacrificed their parental responsibilities to achieve their business success.

Accepting a job at [big company] is often not a cure for work/life imbalance, especially in tech. It's going to be better balanced than running a start-up, but it's not like you're going to all of a sudden have all your nights and weekends back.

Sure it is. Stay away from jobs that require you to be on call or work nights and weekends. They not only exist, they're the rule, not the exception. Every tech job I've ever had has had occasional spurts of crunch time, but they were relatively few and far between.

Well said.

People are eager to complain about startup working conditions, but a lot of other jobs have similarly challenging conditions for parents and their children. I don't know why some people have taken your post so badly.

Good luck!

I hate to be "that guy" but this comment is much more pretentious than the blog post. I'm a normal guy with a normal job yet I too can only spend 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM with my daughter (she goes to bed) on the weekdays.

I'd love to work 4 hours a day and spend the rest of my time with her but I work hard to provide for my family. What % of families these days doesn't have at least one spouse working 8+ hour days?

Agree completely. The blog post was one guy sharing his experience to a community likely to be interested. Even if their main message is "this is all-consuming", YC are trying to attract a diverse range of founders (women, minorities, those with families) because it's likely to discover and solve more problems than had by the typical founder. Stories from those will be useful for others.

And, as you said, the life described in the blog post is hardly different from that of a typical worker or small business owner. I run a small business I started 15 years ago, but I still do a late night most weeks where I miss my son's bed time, and have commitments outside of work that means missing some weekend days.

If you work online, you can work after kids have gone to bed, or get up early to knock off a couple of hours before they wake up, etc.

Lots of parents do challenging and impactful work. They too will sometimes have to put work before family. They too will often go home to obnoxious kids after dealing with fires at work all day. They too will compartmentalize because that's what adults do.

If you're a startup CEO who raises a family, that doesn't make you unusual. But writing a blog post about it and then submitting it to HN does make you seem a bit pretentious.

EDIT: Removed language that unintentionally sounded dismissive towards Tiempo's product.

He's offering tips for balancing work/home life, which is a difficult task for many "hackers" and entrepreneurs who have a drive to be successful and important. It's not rocket science, it's not really helpful to me, but what about it is pretentious? I'm assuming if he was a mechanic or secretary it'd no longer be pretentious?

Right. If he were a mechanic or secretary it would no longer be pretentious because there wouldn't be the implication that as a startup CEO he's somehow shouldering an ungodly burden.

I don't think it's pretentious. I think it's helpful for anyone in a similar situation -- I too have a kid and another on the way. If it's irrelevant to you, it's clearly marked and easy to ignore.

After revisiting several hours after having made my original comment, I have to say I agree with you. In no way was he being pretentious. I think I know why I might have read it that way but it doesn't matter. I was wrong and it was unfair of me to say it. To the poster: I apologize.

Been in the same position where I've read something, interpreted it to gain a particular impression, and then not had the same impression after re-reading. It happens!

> "From 5:30pm-8:30pm, I’m not a startup CEO. I’m a dad." <- That statement right there pretty much illustrates my point.

I don't understand. Most of the non-founder, regular engineers with kids I know don't even get home at 5:30. Sounds like he's doing well for a working dad.

> Hopefully your wife and children will give you back the same 1/8th of their time and focus that you give them.

Nobody spends 100% of their day with their family, regardless of how perfect they are as husbands, wives and fathers.

People sleep, work, eat have friends and so on besides having a family. If you manage to be with your kids 3 hours per day around dinner time and you're doing a start-up at the same time I'd say that's absolutely spectacular compared to most people that are 'just' working jobs.

> I feel like so many in the "startup" culture are completely trapped in an imaginary bubble that literally means jack shit to anyone outside it.

Trying to be the best in a field is a mindfuck, whether it's art, sports, industry, politics, or anything else. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to be a part of that and just living your life. I wish I could will this cursed drive out of me and be content, but I can't.

But you know, live and let live. The degree of contempt in your comment is just shameful.

> You aren't changing the world out there...you're building business.

When you do something that makes a stranger give you an hour of their time, you're changing the world in a very small way. When you do something that makes a billion strangers give you an hour of their time, you're changing the world in a very big way. Many of us won't get to do that, but you can't fault us for giving it an 'ole college try.

Most are unable to keep 100% focus on nothing but their families for even 1/2 of each day. Startup founders focus on their families less than many in other professions, but 3 dedicated hours per day is probably relatively close to average (if anyone has empirical evidence, please share).

As a father of two, you probably know that even when you're not directly thinking of your family, many decisions you make will be at least partially based on their well-being. So families usually aren't completely neglected in the time that they are not the main focus.

My father worked full-time with a one hour commute each way. I'd see him in the mornings, evenings, weekends, and holidays. While I spent less time with him than some of my friends did with their parents, I couldn't have loved, respected, and appreciated him more. In the time he spent with us, his actions showed how much he cared for us. I would argue that more family time with less consideration is worse than better care and demonstration of unconditional love within a smaller period.

You make some really good points there.

Also, something I didn't really give the author credit for - is the potential that the time spent with the kids and wife is REAL quality time. Being totally "present" with your family for 2-3 hours can be 100% more than being half-assed for 24 hours a day. (I think that's sort of what you meant when referring to your dad?)

Wait a minute - 5:30 to 8:30 PM is about as much time as any working parent gets to spend with their kids on a weekday. Little kids go to bed by 8:30 PM!

I agree. That was an incredibly hard thing to read.

I'm sure he will end up paying a fortune in therapy and rehab bills for his kids.

What a rude and judgemental thing to say.

I am in a similar position to the author, only with a small business in place of a startup, and my lifestyle is hardly different. If you have a day job and a young child, you are typically not going to see your child weekdays outside of 7-8am and 6-8pm.

This would be a normal situation for almost everyone in a 9-5ish job and with a commute.

I can relate. My wife and 2 toddlers were 12 hours away for 4 months while I did an accelerator this Summer. I saw them about a week a month.

Guys like us are in the minority. A lot of people told me I'm nuts for putting my family on the back burner to chase this dream. I told myself I wasn't going to let work come ahead of them, but yeah, I put them on the back burner for 4 months. At times it felt nuts. My kids are growing up fast and I'm working 18 hours a day across the country. Some days, it took immense amounts of willpower to not jump on a plane and dip out.

I used the military analogy with my wife when she complained. Hell, how many guys went over to Afghanistan for months without seeing their families? A lot of them never came back. A ton more risk, for what? Priority boarding and discounts on oil changes? (I have a ton of respect for those guys, and no, they don't do it for perks or respect.) Compared to that, I'd say the upside of this opportunity is what they call once in a lifetime.

But in reality, a lot of those folks didn't really have better options. I could make a good living as a developer if I wanted to. If I'm honest, doing this startup thing with a family requires me to be pretty selfish most of the time. But selfish in a good, weird way - working 80 hours a week so someday I don't have to work 40, so I can take my wife and kids to Hawaii for the summer someday, or whatever.

Luckily for us, the experience of the accelerator was worth every pain point. It probably only gets harder from here. Now I'm back with the family, with a (soon to be) funded company, and will have to make those tough juggling decisions on a daily basis. It's all about finding boundaries and balance.

Off to pick my kids up from daycare...

> But selfish in a good, weird way - working 80 hours a week so someday I don't have to work 40, so I can take my wife and kids to Hawaii for the summer someday, or whatever.

Epochs are not fungible, especially when raising children. Missing a toddler play at the beach for the first time cannot be reclaimed by sharing their first scuba lesson.

I disagree with the "firsts" argument. Trying to be there for the firsts of everything is silly and clinging to them is even sillier. Its area under the curve, height and width matter.

I also disagree with the 'firsts' argument, to a certain extent. I didn't articulate my point well enough.

I was responding to the 'I'll trade this time now, for more time later' line of reasoning (which I believe is a false transaction). Not only should one recognize that each epoch is unique (in a child's life, in a relationship, in a career, etc.) and therefore not interchangeable with later epochs; but one should also recognize that "selfish" (OP's word choice) actions now are usually not offset by generous actions later.

I suppose one can recognize those tradeoffs and traverse "borrowing time" reasoning with a bit more self awareness, though not many do. Especially those that subscribe to the 'compress your 40 year career into a 4-10 year startup' meme without reading the fine print.

Terrible analogy.. Your wife complains about you being away so you tell her to shut up becuase military families have it worse? Yeah... when my kids are hungry, I'll tell them to quit complaining because some kid in Africa is worse off....

There is an obvious difference between things we can and the things we can't control. My example is clearly the former, and is much more analogous than yours.

Oh, and I learned a long time ago that "shut up" doesn't go over too well with my wife, unless I want to get smacked.

There is a politer way to phrase this.

I not able to come up with politer wording yet I'm downvoted. Total discrimination.

What is this strange bizarre heroism around having kids? I don't get what the big deal is. People have been reproducing for thousands of years without writing self eulogizing blogs about how heroic they are. Have kids if you want to or don't, you are not some kind of martyr for reproducing.

I've seen women who go to do hard labor in rice fields the following day of giving birth, its business as usual.

What is this strange bizarre heroism around founding companies? I don't get what the big deal is. People have been doing business at least since we've had a market economy, centuries at least if not millenia, without writing self-eulogizing blogs about how heroic they are. Found a company if you want or don't, you are not some kind of martyr for going into business.

When you look at it from a distance, everything we do is meaningless. People have done things like it before, people will do things that eclipse it in the future, and there is some person out there who will shit on you for doing it. That doesn't mean that it isn't meaningful up close, to some segment of the population going through similar struggles. The fact that this story is #2 on HN right now is indication that some segment of the readership here found it interesting, even if you didn't.

I hate to be this person, but this is HN, not /r/childfree.

The vast majority of people choose to have a family life, and it's not easy. It doesn't mean people should be celebrated for their choices, but it does mean that discussions about the pros, cons, and ways to make it work/ways it doesn't work are relevant for a lot of people.

There is this annoying "love your children" fad that has preoccupied a small number of societies for the past few hundred years, and along with it a silly notion that one should "spend time" with his or her offspring.

Don't worry. It will pass.

If the intention of the post were to boast of heroism, then you're right to point out that simply reproducing doesn't make one better than another. To me however, it seems he meant to inspire others in a similar situation who want to do what he did, but are doubtful it could work.

Some people find it difficult to believe they can accomplish something until it's been done by someone else. His blog post is great inspiration for those who weren't sure it was possible, and great reassurance for those who knew it was possible but had few examples to relate to.

I sort of get where you're coming from, I remember being younger and feeling annoyance at parents acting like their time away from work was more important than everyone else's

That's said, seems silly to bring a person into the world if you're not going to devote the resources (time) needed to insure that that person thrives

and its seems like a sufficient big enough deal that someone can devote a blog post to how they're going to go about trying to do that

The blog post is hardly self-eulogizing. It's written as advice to other people who are going to try to do two non-trivial things at once and maintain a balance. You decide to pick on only one of the hard things, act as if the writer only mentioned that one thing, and then act as if the writer asked for praise for doing the one hard thing.

Did you read a different blog post?

I've seen women who go to do hard labor in rice fields the following day of giving birth, its business as usual.

And heroic. We have a baby, but I can't imagine the pain my wife had to go through. Even if it happens to a substantial part of the population, it's still heroic.

Well, there's a point at which the word 'hero' won't make sense anymore if you use it this way.

Not having kids is a heroic thing to do since it's quite a brave decision not knowing how the older you thinks.

Leaving kids and working all the time is heroic because you are keeping many people in your company employed and you are selflessly working for their happiness.

Taking care of kids and not working is heroic because you said screw you to the corporate world.

And so on. See my point? It becomes like everyone is 'special'.

Interesting article. I guess I don't quite connect with it because I feel like the challenge, by far and away, would be financial, not social.

Living with someone and being married to them requires an intimate understanding of who they are as a person. Being able to work through those hard times is something I can do. Being able to make the hard decisions is something I can do.

Being able to go without a salary for 4 years, own a house, provide for a family, and work on a startup is something I couldn't do. In fact no one talks about this. I suspect many founders are either:

a. working on their second startup and have a huge bank account full of cash from a pervious exit

b. come from an extremely wealthy family where money has no effect on their decisions

c. are in fact paying themselves a salary (and hiding it from investors?)

d. have a significant other that can support the entire family

Very good points. Part of why I was able to make the "startup leap" is because my wife and I both worked at Intuit for 7.5 years. We established a good amount of savings that allows us to not have to worry so much about things like the cost of daycare/diapers/etc.

If the finances were tighter, that would add another level of stress to the equation.

I did essentially the same thing before leaving CBS/CNET earlier this year to found http://recent.io/ -- saving salary over multiple years, buying a smaller house on the SF peninsula rather than a bigger one with a larger mortgage, etc. That gave me the luxury of being able to work-full time on creating this recommendation/prediction engine and accompanying app without worrying about income for now.

It's not an easy process, but it is possible!

Awesome. Thanks for responding.

I guess my assumptions of YC founders are that they are 20-something college dropouts with no previous work experience. Thanks for proving me wrong. This gives me hope that my 25 year old self still has time left :)

I'm 31! You're not over the hill yet :-).

In fact, our whole founding team was 30 and married. There are many different configurations for starting a company. My advice is to take whatever your situation is...and use it to your advantage.

If you're good enough at building things and selling yourself to successfully start a startup, you're also good enough to get a high-paying job. Easily 2x or 3x the median salary for your area.

Do that, and then live a median lifestyle. You can save a year's living expenses every year you're working. In five years you can have a five year runway.

"Do that, and then live a median lifestyle. You can save a year's living expenses every year you're working. In five years you can have a five year runway."

This assumes a median lifestyle is sustainable, and ignores the progressive nature of income tax. At 3x you can probably still do as you say. At 2x you strictly can't unless the median lifestyle includes some savings - the second 1x is taxed more than the first 1x.

Two or three times the median salary? That just seems false. I'd love for you to prove me wrong though.

For example, the median salary for a mid level front-end developer in my area is $81k. If you can find someone (anywhere) making $160,000 - $243,000 at the same position please have them send me an email.

I think he means median salary for everyone in the area, not developers.

Yes, I meant median salary of all people living in the area. Not of developers.

For example, here in Boston median salary is $58,000. Developers can readily get $116,000, and I know many who have exceeded $174,000, at least when taking into account bonuses, RSUs, etc.

My point is that plenty of people obviously afford to live near you while making only median salary. If you live the same lifestyle as them, you have a huge ability to save money.

That's a major factor keeping me from doing a start-up full-time. Unless it's profitable from day one (enough to pay your expenses), you can't actually live while doing it. Sure, you can eat noodles every night, but you can't just stop paying your mortgage/rent/student loans/etc for a year while you try to bootstrap.

>> c. are in fact paying themselves a salary (and hiding it from investors?) Do you think all those founders don't pay themselves salaries until the company becomes profitable? I'd bet 99% seed stage startup founders do pay themselves a salary.

I'd say the majority of startup co-founders don't pay themselves until they hit a critical point where they no longer see paying themselves as a "negative" act to the company.

That critical point could be reaching profitability, or signing a large round of funding, or landing a key client.

Most of the co-founders I've talked with, or have heard speak publicly (I counted at least 2 speakers this year at startup school), borderline brag about how they went x number of years with no salary. I think sometimes it's an act. There's no way declaring bankruptcy or defaulting on your loans can feel good. Other times I feel like that's a direct influence from investors. For example I've heard verbatim the following sentence from an investor:

"We want you [speaking to an audience about investing] to live like college kids. You know, eat ramen noodles, borrow food from friends, live on your buddies couch, take the bus to the office. At no point should you rely on investor money to pay your own bills"

A part of me agrees with that mentality. You should be financially independent of investor money as a co-founder. Another part of me sees a benefit in keeping a co-founder at some level of comfort. If they don't have to worry about paying for food this month then their work performance would surely increase.

A person who is financially independent (of investor money or otherwise) enough to embark on a business without taking a salary is one who doesn't need investor money for his business anyway. That is, unless the goal is explicitly to have rocket growth and exit, lottery style (via IPO or acquisition).

On the other hand, businesses for which "rocket growth to a large exit" are feasible are not going to have their success hinge on whether the founders pay themselves a market salary once they have funding. So it seems to me the restriction you quote of an investor is more an assertion of power than a reasonable constraint.


I think it's a question of how much salary. There seems to be a consensus "unwritten" understanding that founders pay themselves (well below) market rate, if they pay themselves anything. After all, they're in for some very big rewards if their company succeeds, and making it a success includes putting as much capital into the business as possible, at the expense (in part) of one's own salary.

I'm not convinced this is a fair arrangement for the founder(s), especially in the current environment, where the times to scale and the exit valuation requirements are such as they are. It seems to me, at least, in the current environment that if the success (from an investor's "big exit" point of view) of a company hinges in part on the founder(s) taking less than market salary, the company is already not necessarily a good candidate for the exit track required to justify investment.

I went through this journey with Tad. Not having a kid myself it's been amazing to learn about the demands of starting a family while simultaneously getting overwhelmed by the challenges of a growing startup.

As Tad mentioned communication has definitely been the key. And often situations where Tad or Kyle's parenting demands seemed like an inconvenience to Tiempo have actually helped remind us all why we are doing this crazy adventure. And we come back swinging even harder the next day.

So kudos to all you startup parents out there. It's a tough road but I'm confident you and your family are going to come out stronger for the journey!

The thing which I always see missing from these descriptions is the persons other half.

The usual logic runs - from 8am to 6pm I'm at work. From 6pm to 8.30pm I'm dad (or mum but realistically it's usually Dad). Once the kids are back in bed I get back on to e-mail, catch up with what I've missed and start planning the next day.

That's great - you've covered work and your kids/family as a whole, but where are you fitting in time just as a couple? I'm not talking about weekends away or big nights out (though those are tough enough), I'm talking about just fitting in time to talk and catch up and remember why (and indeed that) you like each other.

For me that's the toughest one. You or your other half can find time on your own - that's easy, the other one takes the kids. Time as a family is always a default for any spare time because guilt drives you towards your kids. The tough one is time as a couple because it's the one that by default comes after everything else and is therefore the first one to get squeezed.

My thoughts on ways to balance the needs of a growing startup with the needs of a growing family. Would love to know what others in similar situations have tried. What's worked? What hasn't?

One of the biggest misconception in the startup world is that there is a 1:1 relationship with the unquantifiable "hustle" and time spent in front of a computer.

Long story short from me: a few years back my company was courted by one of the big guys. We had a staff of four and immediately thought "this is it." They asked a lot of us in this "discovery" process, and I was routinely working 18 hour days, and my productivity dipped further with each day. As I clamored to work more and therefore "get more done," I ended up getting less done than ever.

The deal fell through but not due to not coming through for them.

Fast forward to last year when my wife and I had our first kid. It's an immediate hit to your flexibility. For the first few months I felt helpless, I wanted to work all day long but I was exhausted. The more I tried to sneak work in, the less I got done, the grumpier I was and the less time I enjoyed with my family.

It took months, but I realized that productivity in limited time is about efficiency and delegation. It's about finding what time-consuming responsibilities can be handled by others (either through charity or payment), it's about reducing recreation (or scheduling it for a certain time).

I spend less time working now than I did when "hustling," but I get more done. When I sit down in the morning it is time to go. I don't check Facebook when I work. I don't go out to lunch, unless I'm meeting someone.

Hustling is about effort, not time invested. Don't fall into the trap that says you can't beat someone with more time to spend on something, you just have to work that much smarter.

It's a mistake to call it "balance," it's really about efficiency. Don't waste your time with your family and don't waste your time with your company - and finally: know that most people do waste time.

I'm at a YC startup, and our culture is very much to not have late nights, work people to death, etc. The belief here is that working people to the bone does not build a scalable business, and the only way to grow at a sustainable pace is to maintain regular work hours, have realistic goals in terms of work, and to give people a life outside of work. Sure, we all monitor our emails on our phones, and on occasion we need to work a little extra, this is still Silicon Valley. But many people here have young families, and the office is pretty empty by 6:00pm.

One of my favorite things about this article is it's a dad (with a spouse who also works), talking about how important his family is to him and his struggles to have both family and work (AKA "having it all" when some women talk about the same thing). It's refreshing, because it shows that wanting to be both a caregiver and a breadmaker for your family isn't just a women's issue. I wish more articles would come out like this.

I am married with a seven years old beautiful boy.

The hardest part for me during these years of entrepreneurship have been the hassle of not giving enough financial resources to my family and instead putting money blindly into the company and project. In an "early" stage is likely and inevitable waste and mislead of money without exception.

That, in my opinion is the hardest part of all aside from the time spent and the amount of love given mentioned. Personal elections and freedom of choice is cool but when the live style of your family is affected turns cumbersome and contradictory. I can tell a lot about that.

Furthermore if the project fails, most of the time do, that money is gone and gone for the family too. Of course we all know that the experience pays off and the longer term economy will be much better, but at last.

During the journey, your mind plays tricks that opposes completely to a family type of thinking of saving and caring about moving money to and for the family.

Thats life, and part of the freedom of being moved by dreams and vision.

I'd love to know how he paid his mortgage while in YC. We're a single income family. My co-founder is single and his financial liabilities are nearly zero (he's a minimalist) so he could make it work. Do you just burn savings?

Lastly, what if you lost all of your savings in your previous startup? asking for a friend ;)

Hehe...well, I'd tell your "friend" to build up some savings.

My wife and I both had very nice jobs at Intuit for 7.5 years (she's now at a new company). That allowed us to build a nice nest egg. Instead of spending that on a down payment for a house, it's now the cushion that allows us to do it.

So, not having a mortgage to pay helps :-)

Living within your means to build up some savings also helps.

I wouldn't have been able to do this if we hadn't done those things. Which is why I'm a 31-year-old doing a startup instead of fresh out of college.

The savings are key. It took us a concerted 3 years to save up enough, and we were frugal. It took a great deal of luck for that three years' worth of savings to be enough.

Seems kind of unrealistic, at least given the cost of living in the Bay Area. Even if you're able to put away, say $1000 a month for 10 years, for a family of four, that's about two years of very frugal living expenses. Oh, and you have to fund the business too. Congratulations to you that you managed to do it though!

$1000/month is pretty low savings for someone who works in tech in the Bay Area. It's not unrealistic to put away $10K/month if you hold a senior position at one of the major tech companies (think about it: total comp can easily run $250K+/year, so you're taking home about $160K/year after taxes. Save $120K/year and you still have $40K/year to live on, more than most non-tech workers get). At $10K/month you can save $600K in 5 years, good for about 10 years of living expenses if you're frugal, more if you get good investment returns.

It's also not unheard of for tech workers to skip the "found a company" stage entirely and retire off their savings, with F-U money, after 10 years in the field.

If that someone is a single person or perhaps married without children, and with few or no debts it's pretty low. If they're a person with a young family and school debts I could see $1000/mo being a decent target (it's expensive to rent out here, and more expensive to buy).

The scenario you describe applies to a fraction of a fraction of even Bay Area tech workers, because being "in tech" in the Bay Area is not at all necessarily synonymous with having a >$200k/yr (total comp) job with a "major tech company." It's unrealistic to assume otherwise, and it's unrealistic to believe that people to whom the scenario does apply are the best or only source of good business ideas and execution.

I was talking about normal-sized Bay Area tech workers who probably make $90K-$120K a year, not the 1% outliers. Saving $1000 a month is do-able here, but not exactly easy. I don't know anyone who even takes home $10K a month, let alone can save at that rate.

Fast forward four years from now.

Parent teacher conferences, AYSO, play dates, music lessons, September flu & strep throat, recitals, Y Adventure Guides, homework, walking the puppy, Gilroy Gardens...

Balance that with board meeting prep, sales road trips, recruiting, fund raising, OKRs, product reviews, hack-a-thons, conferences...

Good luck my friend.

If that's your full time job, then how is it different from any other career? The thing people don't realize here is time spent doesn't actually mean anything. If you are just "hustling" all day it doesn't mean you are making progress. It's a false badge of honor.

Also, these responsibilities force you to learn how to delegate. If you are doing everything yourself and not enabling your team to share the work and add their touch you are doing it wrong.

I'd rather work with a balanced founder than one consistently on the edge of burnout and insanity.

Still doable. It doesn't seem to get absolutely more busy, because they will also be in school for many hours a week four years from now. And they still sleep more than adults.

"One advantage startups have over established companies is that there are no discrimination laws about starting businesses. For example, I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children, or was likely to have them soon." - Paul Graham

It's surprising to me how seriously this is taken. Not many people would identify anti-workplace-discrimination laws as burdensome regulation. Most people (at least among the intelligensia) would just not discriminate and be done with it.

The odd thing is, Graham doesn't appear to be even suggesting a criticism of any cover-your-ass bookkeeping, and he doesn't appear to say the regulation isn't the best tool to achieve equality, or any other more nuanced critique that may or may not end up having merit. He's suggesting that discrimination is good.

I'm surprised about the number of judgemental posts and lack of real world approaches to help manage a classic resource allocation problem.

We are all balancing priorities where we want to spend our time (and high quality time) between work, friends, family, hobbies etc. We can choose to do fewer things and we can try to be more efficient in the things we choose to do. What are approaches that HN has found useful to help do either?

Personally I like some of Tad's approaches to set expectations and balance two things that are obviously very important to him. Shared google calendar and asana todo lists can certainly help communication with family and work but I haven't found anything that substitutes for spending 1:1 time with the toddler...

For some reason there is this myth propagating across SV that less sleep = more productivity... the fact is that if you get half the sleep you are supposed to, your work is not going to be 1/2 as good. It is going to be 1/100ths as good. Not a great position to have your "life's work" in.

That said, I admire this guy and his tenacity to work hard and smart.

As you can tell, I read a lot of DHH's stuff :), particularly this talk: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2351

Every now and then you see young people be advised to do X "now, before they have a wife/family/mortgage." X can be a startup, getting a PhD, trip around the world, etc. My view is that doing things differently is biting off more than one can chew and is selfish. Having done a brutal Ph.D. I cannot begin to imagine having had a child at the same time, and the irreversible damage to the kid / opportunity loss / regret that would have resulted in.

Of course if you can make it work and live with yourself, more power to you. :)

Interesting to see two articles on the same subject posted with about a week between, one about being a "mom" in Y Combinator (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8456258), and this one about being a "dad" in Y Combinator.

Susan is awesome (she's a batch mate)! And made a hugely difficult decision with her LA to SF commute.

I was working on an outline for this post two weeks ago then I saw Susan's post hit and I thought two things:

1) People are very interested in this topic and 2) I should probably hold off on my post for a week :-)

As someone who is single and works as a programmer at a Big 4 and still struggles to make time for social life, would be nic e to see a write-up like this from an engineer. From what I've experienced, if you're coding day-day on high pressure projects, keeping tight-schedules like this is damn near impossible.

In a few short months I am about to become a dad myself, our first child. I am currently trying to get a startup off of the ground and it is refreshing to read other people have, can and currently are doing it. Based on what I read, it seems Tad has his head screwed on.

Missing the wanky networking events, hackathons and realising that it is a fallacy the more hours you put in, the more work you get out. This has been proven time and time again, we are all human and we all have that point where our brains switch off and stop absorbing information. Putting in excessive hours does not give you any kind of advantage, when people are happy and refreshed, they are productive. How many times have you stayed back working on a complex problem, only to go home late without solving the problem, to come in the following morning and fix the issue in 15 minutes? It has happened to me more times over the years than I could count.

I have had numerous chats with my wife about how it will all work. She does not work in tech and will be a stay at home mother, but we have already laid the groundwork for how things will work. I want to be there for my child, a child is forever, a startup has such a small chance of succeeding long-term. Setting boundaries and being there for dinners and night time tuck-ins are essential to a happy family.

For me, the weekdays will be for work and startup life with a set boundary of a couple of hours for dinner and after for spending time with my child. The weekends will be mostly off limits to spend time going out and doing fun family stuff, picnics, going to the pool, arts/crafts, watching movies and spending quality time with my family. Make your time count, do not let your children grow up remembering you as always being on the computer, especially if your startup ambitions pass you by, all you have left is your family. Weekdays should be for work, not weekends.

The challenges my wife and I will face drastically differ from those that Tad and his wife experience on a daily basis, but I think the core principles of being there for your children regardless of your arrangement are universally important for any would-be entrepreneur, small business owner or startup founder to remember. We live in a technology enabled world so much so, even when you step away from a computer screen, your smartphone is just within arms reach and it can be all too easy to open up your email and get just as absorbed in work as you can on a computer. It can be incredibly hard to turn off work mode and relish the time you have for the more important and rewarding things in life.

I think incubators like Y Combinator should honestly do more to encourage healthy family life in the land of startups. Instead of pushing founders to drive themselves and their teams into the ground to get a paltry $50k or whatever, the culture needs to be changed at the root of the source. This fallacy that you need to invest 19+ hours a day into a startup early on to succeed is unhealthy. I do not know where it originated from, but I know that it has not always been like this. When entrepreneurs in the 40's and 50's were starting businesses, I know for a fact most people were not investing 19 hours a day into their ideas, technology seems to have removed not only barriers, but also boundaries and morals as well.

There is not one single definitive way to run and operate a startup. We are all different, but because of an accepted culture of overtime perpetuated in the late 80's and 90's especially, everyone in the tech industry has mostly come to accept that overtime is a way of life and to succeed you need to put in excessive and unrealistic hours. It is time to change the tide.

I think the one takeaway from this article everyone should take, even if you are not trying to run a startup or business, is to make time for the ones that need you the most. When all is said and done, family is the only constant you will have in your life. Jobs come and go, startups fail and succeed and friends come and go, family are always there. This means instead of going to after work drinks or accepting a culture of overtime in your current workplace, knowing when to draw the line and put what matters first, first: family. Not only family, but ensuring that you see friends, go and do activities like visit a theme park, go to the zoo or even a short hike through your local park. Remind yourself when time and priorities permit that there is more to life than work.

Great article.

Get used to trying to be productive in shorter time spans (interrupted by feeds, etc) but it is absolutely possible. You will get more efficient with routines and systems and even gain some satisfaction from getting things running smoothly so your time is spent best.

My son is 2ish and my morning routine has gone from "Ugh, have to get up" to all fun - talking with him about our garden or animals or a dream he had, making him laugh while I dress him, having breakfast together, making Lego animals, showing him insects in the front garden on our way out to the car, etc.

Congrats! I have to say, though, that with a stay-at-home-spouse you're facing a different set of challenges than the article. Many things will be easier, some will be more difficult.

It sounds like your head is screwed on as well :-)

Great topic. So important. I found this book super useful. http://www.stonyfield.com/blog/for-better-or-for-work-a-surv...

Beautifully articulated and I believe that the balance is hard but possible. It is of course easier to succeed in business if you ignore your family (and your health and your sanity), but that would certainly be a Pyrrhic victory.

Do you have more blog posts about Tiempo on the site? The site doesn't offer a link to a blog. I'd love to read how you guys are doing business-wise as we are doing something related but tangential.

There are others that I've written up that I'm transferring over. Some were on Medium. Experimenting with different publishing platforms to figure out how best to engage our audience.

I'll wire up connections to other articles. In the meantime:

http://www.tiempoapp.com/how-minimum-is-viable http://www.tiempoapp.com/tiempo-blog-how-we-got-this-freelan... http://www.tiempoapp.com/tiempo-blog-the-surprising-power-of...

I just followed some of these links back to your website. Just a bit of feedback for you which I hope is useful!

I'm on a mobile device and when I try and look at the screenshots on the app they keep moving. They are impossible to look at properly. It's like trying to nail jelly to the wall. Maybe a simple image slider would be better?

As a father of two children I found your article interesting. For the moment I have decided that I would prefer to stay contracting in the enterprise on extremely fixed working hours rather than try the start up route. It is a personal decision and each of us needs to make our own choices. My choices are about having a lifestyle that is comfortable and secure but where my career is mediocre. I know that and I accept it.

I read the title and realise I'm in the exact same situation: I have a wife, a 2nd year-old son, and my wife is 5 months pregnant. And tomorrow my startup finds out whether we got into YC W15!

I cant help but think of Erlich Bachman's 'Aviato' when I hear 'Tiempo'.

Which Elrich sold for a ton of money... like Steve.

Anyways, 'Tiempo' means 'time' in Spanish.

Jesus christ man - all of this sacrifice for a time sheet application? Is it really worth it?


Yet another business graduate in "Computer Software"... sigh...

This is why YComb is a damn joke.

That's offensive to me on so many levels. I know some HTML and CSS, but no...I can't code. And I have a business degree. And...oh god...look at that haircut. Run! He might have an MBA (I don't)!

Just because I'm "non-technical" doesn't make Y-Combinator irrelevant or inappropriate to me (or for anyone else).

If you look at the very LinkedIn profile you link to, you'll see that I've been a product manager at Intuit for nearly 8 years prior to founding Tiempo. I've dealt with creating software that entire time. I've learned how to build teams. I've learned how to build businesses.

YC is for people who want to build great companies. I fall firmly into that category.

Plus, my cofounders can code. Check out our app if you still don't think we belong (http://www.tiempoapp.com).

Don't mind him, it's a common prejudice most "tech" people have against everyone else. Sometimes, I even catch myself falling into that mentality.

I am coming from the opposite direction - very good coder but not a very good business man or graphics designer. I am also a new father. I always appreciate tech industry articles written from a non-"techie" perspective. My life philosophy is to know at least a little bit of everything, so that my solutions in life can be better informed.


No one forced me to do a startup. No one forced me to have a kid. Those were my choices. And as a result, I'm in a situation that requires a lot of compromise.

I think there are many others in this situation, but it doesn't get talked about all that often.

My intent with the post was to share the things I've learned that have helped in the hope that they'll help others.

I'm not complaining about my life. In fact, I'm quite happy. Very happy. But that doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't share my decision making process for others to potentially benefit.

Y-Combinator's expectation for start-ups is that they are to be "all-consuming"

Yes. If your wife is pregnant, she's expected to have an abortion so she can concentrate on the business.

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