Thursday, October 09, 2008

Startup and Family

A few weeks before my wedding, one of my good friends called up my fiance and told her that she better be aware that I was already married! Thankfully, before she could slam the phone down, they explained that the 'other person' that occupied a major share in my life was my laptop . 'Phew!' she thought.; A laptop, huh; my friends sure had a good sense of humor; surely that was a harmless joke!

To cut a long story short, we got married, were blessed with a child and have lived happily ever after :). That's too good to be true, too true not to be a fairy tale! The truth is, she's had to adjust a lot, sacrifice a lot and lower her expectations a lot; thanks to all that - we've had a great adventure together. I'm now in my second startup. The first was as a founder and the second is as an employee. Interestingly however, I don't find too much deviation in the state of affairs in either roles. Bottomline: a startup is a startup because its a startup! otherwise it would've been called something else. A cosy life in any startup is a non-truth/ delusion :).

Trust me on this one - startups and family rarely gel well; they're kindof like oil and water - shake them up together as much as you want, but in the end - you'll see a clear but thin line separating them. One might argue that the same holds for any job - perhaps so, I really will not be the best person to comment on that. There are a few things that make life in a startup different.

1. Commitment. Startup is a commitment that stems from you, especially so if you are a core founder, but none the less if you are a committed employee. A true commitment is a strange force of nature. It is one binding, blinding force that makes one oblivious to other forces. A Family too is a commitment, it too requires a great deal of attention and care. When two equally strong commitments come side by side, it is quite possible at times to slight one and lean more towards the other. Thats when either or both suffer; either the startup or your family or worse - both.

2. Money. This is one big factor that truly differentiates a startup from a regular job. You will see/ hear of your friends having a weekend party in Tumbuktu, buying an apartment, car etc... while you sit day and night on your laptop to make sure you meet some stupid deadline that just might pay you just enough to clear the credit card bills. Prepare to be not able to buy that home theater system, not to be able to gift her a diamond pendant and even cut down at times on your grocery spends. Sure, the entrepreneur in you might understand all that and consider it a 'part of life' but trust me again - its not easy (or proper) to expect your near and dear to 'appreciate' the same.

3. Time. Consider this: On an good day in a typical job, one might use 1 hour to get ready, 2 hours to commute, spend 10 hours at a desk, 1 hour with an 'important' client (imho - all clients are important) and 7 hours to sleep and rest. Now, a day can't be stretched beyond the 24 hours it wholeheartedly offers and that leaves 3 hours with your family. A startup can squeeze even the 3 hours out and leave you feeling high and dry. If one is lucky enough not to be flying around the globe on sales assignments and one does have a good day as mentioned above, let me assure you that good 'ol Murphy will ensure that the kitchen sink develops a leak or some obscure electric fuse blows off or some client threatens to impose the penalty clause. All that translates into - very less time.

4. Mindshare. Perhaps all the three above are just different faces of the same thing. In a startup you have to be as cunning as a fox and as agile as a snake - soon you're soon vulture food. Running a startup needs a lot of thought - deep thought. It is difficult to think about the strategy to blow your competition out of the sky while thinking about how your child might be coping with the recent bout of flu and worrying about your spends zooming towards your credit limit.

Here's my honest advice to anyone willing to be a part of a startup - make sure you understand what you're getting into.

If you're about to get married and are passionate about your startup - think twice. If after a lot of thought, you still feel you need to take the plunge - make sure your fiance understands what you've gotten into and are getting her into.

If you're married and are planning to have a child, think thrice. -If after a real lot of thought, if you and your spouse are really determined, prepare well in advance for the additional expenses and responsibilities. Care before and after childbirth and raising a child is no child's play.

Try and cultivate a sense of adventure. If you get a chance - try and learn tightrope walking. Learning how to concentrate and balance while swaying on a thin line is an essential trait of the trade.

Having said all this;Having someone to talk to when you're down and seeing your little one smile when you get back home - priceless. For everything else you will need a MasterCard. Even a Visa might do just fine.


Web Spider said...

Having been there in the sidelines of this startup experiment ( Including having to slither out of my cozy nest in PTP nagar) all I can say is Big Respect what is confusing is who can afford to take tight rope walks when the kid and marriage are inevitable truths just when a startup is about to take wing

Anupam said...

Not everyone can - but those who DO - make all the difference. Again, its all about choices and decisions which YOU make, these 'inevitable truths' are YOUR decisions. I'm not saying that balancing is impossible - just stating that its difficult and that no one getting into all this should assume otherwise.

Praval Singh said...

Very well said Anupam. Now it's time to make this understand to my girl friend. I am sure this would help!

Anupam said...

My best wishes Praval.