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Every day at Moms in Tech, we are coming together to help each other be just a little more successful in work and life. I’ve noticed some themes in the questions and experiences many moms have had throughout their careers, and am excited to be starting up a new monthly advice column to share the wealth of experiences and rich stories from this amazing group of moms. Advice From the Field is a compilation of some of the most interesting questions from this unique community of women, and my advice for them. If you are a #momintech and have a question you’d like answered on this column, please send me a tweet and let’s connect. All questions are anonymized and approved.

Question from a Moms in Tech member:

I have an idea for a software startup that I’ve been playing with for the past six months and have started writing a business plan around. I would be the technical founder and would need someone to do the CEO/business part. While I have worked at a few startups up until this point and today am a senior development manager, I struggle with the thought of founding a company while being stretched as thin as my husband and I already with two young kids. What should I do? FUTUREFOUNDER


Can I just say, bravo to you for so many things:

  • For taking your technical capabilities, turning them back inwardly, and applying your talents to the problems you see around you;
  • For listening to yourself and nurturing that idea;
  • For taking the time to consider how much of yourself you have already given to your family and others in your life; and
  • For understanding that founding a software company is extremely time-consuming.

Indeed, founding a company is a decision that affects every aspect of your life. It’s about as glamorous as what the first three months of having a newborn felt like (for you non-moms out there, imagine how unprepared and borderline depressed you might feel starting a new job as an astrophysicist when you were a marketing major that skipped Physics 101 in college while sleep deprived with dirty hair and only a box of Kind bars to provide you with sustenance while you’re getting puked on), except for one or two years… or longer. Don’t get me started on imposter syndrome. That said, without knowing the details of the problem space you’re going after, it is worth noting some distinct advantages and disadvantages in your situation as you think through the decision to jump into entrepreneurship.

Pro: You are technical.

I’m in a lot of founder groups, and the number of non-technical to technical founders seeking counterparts often seems like it’s 500:1… or more. Probably more. That is to say, there are a lot of people with (maybe good) ideas and not that many people who have the technical capacity to actually bring their ideas to life. And in the early days, software development and human capital costs are the two primary spends. When those can be wrapped up in the founder, your actual start-up costs are significantly lower. So, I would say you’re at an advantage already.

Con(…?): You have competing priorities.

You have kids. You have friends (that you sometimes actually talk to). You have PTA meetings. You have extracurricular activities to shuttle kids to, etc., etc., etc. Mostly, you have kids.

To be honest, this is both an advantage and a disadvantage. One of the things I always hear from moms is that after having kids, their superhero powers became multitasking, time management, and decisiveness. This, too, was my experience. The venture capitalists who have mentored me over the years have often talked about the power of extreme resource constraints, both in time and money. And in extreme dearth of either time or money, you must get very crisp on your decision-making capabilities very fast. Well, you’re probably pretty great there already.

Pro: You’ve already founded a startup.

Hello, you and your cofounder (your partner) started a family! I love this post by Angela Pickett on the crushing parallels between having a baby and starting a business. To paraphrase, you’ve already been through many of the harsh struggles a first time founder will go through: the challenge of knowing exactly what to do, the loneliness of being the person at the top, the financial burden this new thing places on your life, and often learning too late the importance of having a network that you can trust, share your struggles with, and learn from.

Con(…?): You need to think about healthcare.

With children come baseline requirements that are often not met in the very early days of founder life. If you and your husband are relying on your existing healthcare to cover your children, then it can be a financial burden to supplement or match coverage to reach parity with what you have today. That said, companies like TriNet are doing great work in supporting the earliest stage startups and offering competitive group coverage rates to even the smallest of teams. Alternatively, take a look at your husband’s health coverage and calculate what it would look like for the family to be covered by his plan if possible.

Con(…?): You need to consider your personal financial runway.

This would be the case even if you weren’t a mom, but more likely than not, you also have other financial commitments in place — such as potentially a mortgage, preschool fees, car payments, car and life insurance premiums, etc. So, you need to ensure that before you go into a new venture, you have a reasonable runway. My husband and I agreed on up to three years. I’ve seen other couples agree on 18 and 24 months. Give yourself time to build enough traction to support a funding event if that’s the route you think you’ll be taking.

Pro: You can pick your own hours.

Sure, you’ll be working a lot of hours. But, you can choose when that work happens. And for a busy mom, that’s GOLD. You might actually find this setup to be more favorable than a FTE job with a 45-minute one-way commute. As an example, here’s my schedule today (I work from home):

  • 7–9 am, breakfast with my son and take him to school
  • 9–4:30 pm, work, with a few breaks to walk the dog and run errands
  • 4:30–5 pm, pick up the kid
  • 5–8 pm, dinner, hang with the family, bedtime
  • 8–11 pm or later, work

Here’s what my schedule looked like a few years ago:

  • 6–8 am, wake, get ready for work, leave when kid wakes up
  • 8–8:45 am, commute
  • 8:45–5:45 pm, work
  • 5:45–6:30 pm, commute, pick up kid
  • 6:30–8 pm, run errands, dinner, bedtime
  • 8–11 pm or later, work

The difference may initially seem minor, but can anyone tell me how long it might take to make a quick run to the grocery store during rush hour? Up to an hour. What about taking local roads from the grocery store back home during rush hour? That goes from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. And in the snap of your fingers, it’s almost 8 pm and time to get your kid ready for bed. How much time have you had to be present with your children on the weeknights anyway? Almost none. So in reality, it’s likely that more flexibility here is actually better for a busy working mom.

On a side note, I really wish more companies would support flexible work schedules and remote working.

Pro: You might not have to quit your job to build a prototype.

Some people might call me crazy for this. But ask yourself — what do you need to build in order to test your hypothesis? Do you have to go all out and build a fully functional product? Or, is it something much smaller? Depending on what you’re going after, you might not need much in order to get a test going. Take a step back from the details of a full-blown product and start with answering this question: What is the core of the problem I’m solving, and what can I do in order to validate that people will pay for how I’m solving that problem?

Final Thoughts: Get Aligned

The final and potentially most important consideration to think through is your relationship with your partner. When it comes to your partner, there are two important topics to align on:

  • Domestic Equity: It’s well-documented and often talked about in mom circles that historically women have taken the majority of the responsibility when it comes to house-life. I’ve coined our job to be “the COO of the family” because it’s most representative of what many moms actually do at home. However, I’ve also known many couples where the partners have taken the time to define that COO role and parse out responsibilities to owners. When this happens, domestic equity is much more probable and as a busy working mom thinking about founding a startup, you have the right levels of support from home to support this new venture.
  • Definitions of Success or Failure: Take the time to come to an agreement with your partner on what success looks like in the first six months, second six months, and so on. Agree on a time frame by which you are giving yourself creative freedom, and when you want to be showing some positive forward movement. When you and your partner agree to this, also talk about the risks and challenges that can potentially arise that could force you to reassess these timelines. The more you and your partner talk about definitions and timelines upfront, the easier it will be for him to understand that the down moments in the founder journey are temporary and his job is to emotionally support you through it.

I’m not sure if you’ve been keeping tally, but I have. FUTUREFOUNDER, you seem to have a lot of really great Pros going for you, and several considerations you need to think through as potential Cons. Best of luck in your journey.

If you have other advice or comments for FUTUREFOUNDER, please leave them below. I’ll make sure she gets them!