It’s almost Father’s Day, which has me thinking about what it’s like to be a dad and an entrepreneur.
AppMap is my third startup. It’s a privilege to be able to build companies from the ground up and I get so much fulfillment from it, but being a parent and an entrepreneur is tough. I’m very much still figuring it out as I go. In case any other dads and father figures out there find it helpful, here are some things I’ve learned so far:
Compartmentalizing is key. I never want to half ass my way through parenting or working. So I’ve learned I either need to be in dad mode or entrepreneur mode. Dozens of times every day, I pick which mode I’m going to be in and try to be 100% focused on that mode.
There will always be trade-offs. Elizabeth and I bootstrapped both Conjur and AppMap before we got venture funding, and that was hard. We missed out on some quality time with our kids, but the flip side is our kids have been able to watch their parents work really hard at something they’re passionate about. Our kids saw us traipse up and down Sand Hill Rd. when we were fundraising and they watched Conjur go from just us at our dining room table to a team of many in a big, shiny office. If they ever want to start something of their own some day, I hope they’ll feel empowered to do so.
Elizabeth and I started Conjur just 10 days after she gave birth to our son Everett. We needed a lot of childcare help back then, in fact we still do. There’s often a misconception about it being okay to pay less at startups, but with both Conjur and AppMap Elizabeth and I have made sure everyone makes a good, living wage. Because we know parents need help taking care of their kids, and we always want the people we work with to be able to afford the help they need.
I don’t have much downtime as a parent and an entrepreneur, but when I do I don’t try to relax. It’s just too hard to clear my mind, so instead I find something else to focus intensely on. I throw myself into playing hockey or going for a bike ride. If I’m really struggling with something at work, sometimes the best solution is to shift my focus by spending time with my kids. Working on my plane with them or watching them play soccer, I’m able to get out of my head and get a fresh perspective.
Elizabeth and I lean on other people to help us raise our kids and we lean on our founding team to help us build our companies. I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it and rely on the people I work with who continually step up. To keep your sanity and be successful, you need to be able to talk about hard stuff and offload to other people.
I don’t think anyone knows how to be the perfect parent or entrepreneur, we’re all learning as we go and doing the best we can. As my kids keep growing and AppMap starts scaling, I’m excited to keep learning. The good days are so worth it and on the bad days, well, there’s always pizza and cocktails to get you through 😊
Have a wonderful Father’s Day, everyone. I hope you’re able to spend it doing what you love with the people you love most.