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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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+.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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...
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.
Each person should decide what they feel is best for their situation and understand the tradeoffs their making.
My comment was directed at its parent.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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..
I was inpsired by his story.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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."
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?
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."
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
I'm sure he will end up paying a fortune in therapy and rehab bills for his kids.
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.
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...
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 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.
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.
I've seen women who go to do hard labor in rice fields the following day of giving birth, its business as usual.
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.
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.
Don't worry. It will pass.
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.
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
Did you read a different blog post?
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.
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'.
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
If the finances were tighter, that would add another level of stress to the equation.
It's not an easy process, but it is possible!
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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'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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Lastly, what if you lost all of your savings in your previous startup? asking for a friend ;)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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
Of course if you can make it work and live with yourself, more power to you. :)
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 :-)
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.
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.
I'll wire up connections to other articles. In the meantime:
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.
Anyways, 'Tiempo' means 'time' in Spanish.
Yet another business graduate in "Computer Software"... sigh...
This is why YComb is a damn joke.
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).
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.
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.
Yes. If your wife is pregnant, she's expected to have an abortion so she can concentrate on the business.