Family and startups do they mix?

A friend of mine is currently living the dream. He quit his job over a year ago, and created a startup. It’s easy to say that with a wife, a kid, and another on the way that to create a startup is dumb. It’s not, it requires determination, and faith. If you play your cards right it would be the best decision of your life. You should check out his just launched startup OpenPhoto (invite only for now, but try hitting them up on twitter for an invite code).

There was a discussion on hacker news yesterday that was created by the aforementioned person. It got a lot of good attention, a lot of people expression support. Part of the discussion seemed to revolve around the family/startup issue. Many people expressed concern that joining, or creating a startup could put there families at risk.

Let’s start with the obvious creating a startup, and joining a startup are two very different things. Creating a company from nothing, with no funding has to be scary, but I don’t know I have never done this. I have always hoped one of my side projects would grow into a real startup, but that hasn’t happened. Joining a startup on the other hand can be less scary, and for the family man/woman it might be exactly the level of risk you are looking for.

For years now I have been all about the side projects. I have a long string of unsuccessful side projects, and an even smaller list of barely trafficked side-projects. When I had did have kids I actually feel like my ability to finish projects increased. I wrote about this a year, or so ago, Two Kids, in Two Years: Best Time Management Strategy Ever.

My take away from my long list of side projects is that I can ship. I can take an idea, and build every thing I need to make it a website. At the end of the day that was really all I was good at. I can get better at everything else you need to create a startup, like iteration, and polish, and networking. What I have realized is that creating, and running a startup is a multi-dimensional task. You need contacts, you need to work on polish, and you need to keep iterating.

So, instead of waiting around for my one of my side projects to accidentally get big I did the next logical thing and joined a startup. I have been at Mixed Media Labs, for just over a year now. I can honestly say that I have learned more in a year then my previous 3 years at Yahoo. Not just about code either, getting to work in close quarters with the whole team you get to pick up on almost everything happens inside the company. That aspect might be the best part of working at a startup. Conversations that happened miles away from me at Yahoo, now take place at the desk next to me.

As it concerns family life. It’s not the same. I used to cook dinner every night for my family, now my wife does. This isn’t a lament as much as it as a statement of fact. My family had to change for me to work at a startup, but as a team we have formed a new shape. One that we all consider to be better for the future. I work harder then I did at Yahoo, but I like that, and at times I work longer then I did at Yahoo, because working at a startup means you need to finish the job.

Yesterday, I was asked a question.

I feel my risk tolerance now is extremely low. I want my side projects to succeed however I don’t think I can stomach the financial risks. Any thoughts?

I would ask your self why are your side projects not succeeding. If they answer is that you are missing a specific tool. You should either figure out how to get that tool, or find someone who has that tool. Realize that your best option might be to work for someone else to learn that tool.