A startup is not only about the founder’s journey but what his spouse and family goes through in the process.
“Mom. what does Papa do?” asked my four-year-old.
“He is building a company,” I said.
“So, you mean he is Bob the Builder?”
“Yes, maybe,” I smiled.
“Just that he is a special builder who is building a startup!”
“Oh! so startup is a building?” he tried hard to understand.
“Yes, a building which breathes and lives too!”
“That’s a startup!”
Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. Something which you eat, drink, breathe, and live every moment. When someone recently asked me as to how different it is from the journey of heading a business unit or an organisation, I smiled.
It amazes me to think as to how easy it is to make the above comparison but so difficult to comprehend the difference unless you have lived it.
Entrepreneurship isn’t a job but a calling that chooses you. A dream, which takes the shape of an idea and then finds an entrepreneur to come alive. There isn’t any looking back then. It has to get your heart and soul, almost everything. As someone who graduated from being a spouse to a techie, to a consultant, then to an investor and now to an entrepreneur, I kind of had a sense of what was going to follow. But the truth is that it is only the experience which actually brings you closer to the reality. It’s been almost three years now and I can vouch that still, it is nothing less than an everyday roller coaster ride!
Recently, I was at a festival party with my spouse. New ideas were brewing and the existing implementation and related data (read it as money, customer acquisitions, feedback, etc.) were being discussed like the catches and sixes in the game of cricket. While I was enjoying this conversation, suddenly this young entrepreneur till now in conversation with my spouse turned and asked me,
“So do you also help him in the venture?”
The question wasn’t difficult for me to handle.
“No, I prefer managing separate portfolios. You see, no conflicts in responsibilities and priorities.”
The young entrepreneur, a bachelor, nodded in agreement, as if he had found the right answer.
“Pleasure meeting you.”
The truth is that it’s not just the person who takes the plunge but the entire ecosystem around him which on boards the startup journey. And because it's such an unpredictable (yet enjoyable) journey everyone reacts differently and interestingly when the ship decides to leave the harbour, which is when the entrepreneur announces his decision to the family.
I remember some funny, some weird reactions when we started up a few years back: "Have you thought everything around?”, “What’s the need to leave a high-profile job and do this?”, “How will the family survive, agar nahin chala toh? (what if it didn’t work?)". And the funniest of all from an old relative: “So you mean you are starting your own shop on mobile phone, how will it work, how will the money come?" (Funny though, all of them are hooked to their mobile phones and use various apps seamlessly.)
While entrepreneurship has been a decision which has impacted everyone around the founder, but as his spouse, I have have found myself learning on many fronts. And if you are like me, you would surely resonate with the unsaid performance pressure which is always present.With the better half struggling day and night to recruit the right people, build the best team, structure the right product, package and market it as well as raise money from potential investors, how can you not perform!
The bar regarding expectations on my performance also has gone up multi-fold. With the sole charge of all the ministries including home, external, health, kids, social and those difficult relatives, all my principles and dreams of sharing tasks with my partner seem so idealistic and out of this world now. How I have built and own my own mini organisation of supportive in-laws, helpers and house help. Any conflicts, I am the one to manage!
How the lexicon and language has evolved to include so much from the startup jargon. Seed round, potential investors, angel investors, return on investment, market feasibility, turnaround time, traffic numbers and so on. Google Analytics is a sacred page, with those number graphs as well as performance crests and troughs are what I care about the most. If that’s not enough, reading and following success stories from startup ventures has taken over the earlier passion of following Hollywood and Bollywood stars. Being glued to what’s being posted on startup portals has become my favourite pastime.
Life seems like a whirlpool around numbers. And between all these, I guess I have forgotten when we last fought over birthday and anniversary gifts. On a minuscule scale though, I also feel like an entrepreneur. And my two cents have started to count.
And yes, how can I miss mentioning those beta testing sessions. I think I might have been one of the first to try on many new releases and product features, most of them during midnight and forced to give feedback with no consideration on my energy levels!
Since there is so less “we time”, whatever is there demands efficient utilisation. Everything that I may have wanted to discuss with him — love, children, home, friends, relatives would have to take some chunk of that limited time. The result: I only discuss whatever absolutely need to, with him.
I remember starting to maintain a list of items to be discussed but actually found it of no use. Why? It’s because I realized even after being super efficient, as I took this list to my entrepreneur better half, most of the items were just struck off at the first mention as not important with the advice that I use the three management principles — prioritise, delegate and supervise and then come with the pending items. When I look back, I know that this “stepping up” in all responsibilities of the world surely made me courageous, decisive with the risk appetite reaching new levels.
Building and raising a startup is like bringing a baby to this world and when it grows, it brings satisfaction of a different level. Sometimes, the venture seems like our third child. Sometimes, it gives me attention issues. But still, even with the scarcity of family time, no vacations and surely unavailability of my entrepreneur partner for most of the time, life is enjoyable with a lot of adventure and surprise.
I know, going forward there would be plenty of yes’ and no’s storms and milestones, achievements and learnings but one thing is for sure - there would be no dearth of excitement, thanks to this journey called entrepreneurship!
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)