Monday, March 14, 2011

SXSW 2011: Life as a Startup Parent

Synopsis: You're starting a startup, freelancing as a designer / developer, working on the next Big Thing, or otherwise being a web entrepreneur. But at home, your little one is toddling around in a playpen, learning how to play soccer, working on a science fair experiment, and growing up. How do you balance your role as a parent with your role as a co-founder? How do you reconcile these two worlds, each of which would happily consume you completely? How much do you rely on your (life) partner? Your (business) partners? How do you reconcile the tension between these two worlds? Come talk with other awesome web workers with kids. Share secrets of success, awkward failures, and other startup / parenting war stories.

The first half of this panel the people were divided into groups and asked to come up with ideas for applications that will make their life as a startup parent easier. Over the last few years this has become a common approach to web and technology-related panels. I, however, have become more skeptical whether software applications can be a solution to many real-life problems, let alone parenting problems. But several groups came up with similar sets of ideas: (1) a coworking space that's also a day care (though this wouldn't be a computer application), (2) locating other parents who live nearby and are in the same boat, e.g. starting startups. So you could get together with them and take turns watching kids while everybody works on their projects.

Charlie Park in Life of a Startup Parent panel Charlie Park, the moderator. More pictures from SXSW 2011 are in my photo gallery.

Some people asked questions that could not be answered by technology. Somebody wondered if there are any investors out there that understand that sometimes an entrepreneur's family time comes first? Moderator Charlie Park said that such investors, while a minority, do exist. You can tell them that you can't take their call right now because you're putting your child to bed, and they'll understand. A guy in the audience added that angel investors are typically more often family-friendly than venture capitalists. Venture capitalists invest more and expect more returns, so they feel entitled to demand that you work all the time. Angel investors invest less and correspondingly expect less.

Among the more lighthearted smart phone app ideas was a hologram of the parent that repeatedly says "no".

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