I became a successful startup founder before I became a father, but in many ways, I wish it was the other way around. My wife and I recently welcomed our newborn twin daughters, Lydia and Zoë, and I admit that, just like there’s no substitute to learning the entrepreneurial ropes than by just diving in, the same can be said about fatherhood. (Though, having done both, I will attest that newborns are much tougher than startup VCs.)
So I’d like to share a few of the lessons that fatherhood has quickly taught me as tips for those of you who are may be looking to embark on the birth of a new startup.
That’s right. No one, and I mean no one, has ultimate responsibility for your baby other than you. Your VCs, advisors and teammates are all there to provide support, but at the end of the day, it’s your baby and the onus and responsibility of its care and nurturing falls on your shoulders. Remember that when you launch your company.
It’s a 24/7 job.
I mean it. Being the father of a newborn (or newborns in my case) is a 24/7/365 job. There’s no such thing as 9-5. Same goes with your startup. Your customers, like your baby, don’t care if it’s 3 a.m., the weekend or your vacation. Their needs supersede yours.
You can’t control outcomes, but you can create the right conditions.
No matter what you think, babies more or less act on their own schedules. You may want them to eat at certain intervals, sleep at certain times or just behave in general when your guests arrive, but you soon find out that even your best laid plans may likely go out the window. While you’re not really in control, you can create the optimal conditions for things to at least have a good chance of happening. Same goes with closing deals or growing companies — you can’t control market decisions, but you can create the right conditions for success.
Often “big” problems have simple solutions.
There are times when your baby screams and shrieks uncontrollably and you think that there’s something horribly wrong. And screams can make you panic, so you also tend to act irrationally, like calling the doctor every 10 minutes. Or worse, rushing to the ER thinking your baby has a crazy rare ailment, only to find out they’re just hungry. Same is true for startups. What often looks like an intractable problem, can have a very easy solution if you just stop to listen and don’t overreact.
Some things just take time (rush, and you pay the price).
I learned this lesson the hard way. Newborns need their time to drink their milk and digest it. It can take sometimes well over an hour of careful feeding, burping, massaging and holding. Try to rush them through the process, and their undigested food will end up all over you. Markets act the same way. You just can’t force feed a new product onto the market — customers need time to catch onto a new invention, time to “digest” it and make it part of their workflow or lifestyle. Spend too much money or have too ambitious of an adoption plan, and the market will spit your product right back at you.
But above all, remember that babies and startups have one simple requirement. They need your love.