This morning, thanks to Matt Mireles of SpeakerText, I came across this post on why a journalism start-up called NewsLabs folded only two months after its site, NewsTilt, launched. It was a compelling read. I was struck particularly by this admission:
But we didn’t really care about journalism, and weren’t even avid news readers. If the first thing we did every day was go to news.bbc.co.uk, we should have been making this product. But even when we had NewsTilt, it wasn’t my go-to place to be entertained, that was still Hacker News and Reddit. And how could we build a product that we were only interested in from a business perspective.
What? Why would you build a product you wouldn’t use? As so many of Inc.’s stories attest, starting a company basically takes over your life, so if you’re launching a venture, it better be something you care an awfully lot about. (Even Paul Graham of Y Combinator, which funded NewsLabs, has said, “It sucks to run a start-up.”)
There are tons of strong points about business and technical issues made in the post, but the personal ones really jumped out at me. The author, NewsTilt co-founder Paul Biggar, was working on his PhD thesis and planning a wedding, all while trying to get a company off the ground. That’s already insane, but then again, many entrepreneurs love extreme multi-tasking. (I’m reminded of one CEO I profiled who started a non-profit to collect war veterans’ oral histories at the same time he launched his management consulting firm.) But, if you’re not all that into your day job, it’s probably near impossible to pull off the juggling act.
Biggar also makes a personal aside that ties into policy: namely, the startup visa that several politicians and figures in the entrepreneurial community have proposed. As he points out,
If you support the Startup visa take note: if the startup visa does not allow a founder’s significant other to work, then many founders won’t move. I can support my wife on a H1B because it comes with a high salary, but good luck on a founder’s salary, no matter how good the funding is.
I think that’s an important observation, and it raises (yet again) questions about where families fit into startup life.