With the title of my thesis, Entrepreneurship: Dream or Burden?, I have tried to prime your thinking in suggestively touching upon the polarity of the two concepts. However, I want to argue that dream or burden, is not an a or b situation; it should be seen as a spectrum, a line that moves between the two ends. I have yet to find an entrepreneur who is only living the dream, or who only carries the burden. As shown in this thesis many entrepreneurs follow their startup dream from all over the world and end up in the Bay Area…

Not only with the female founders I talk about being a women in the tech scene. When I talk to men about the topic, often the response is: We want diversity in our team. Most times with the addition that diversity is not only based on gender, but also background. ‘The diversity of your team will create the product,’ explains an interviewee. Even though they want diverse teams, there is a supply problem.

More often men explain that women and men are different. ‘When two men talk to each other they exchange only information. Women are also exchanging emotions,’ says…

During the research on startup culture for my master’s thesis, I interview many entrepreneurs. It takes some time to find a female entrepreneur. After talking to six male entrepreneurs, I for the first time sit down for coffee with a female entrepreneur. It doesn’t take a long time before she brings up the topic of gender.

We talk about the fact that there are not many women in the startup business. ‘There is a lot of press of women only getting 2% of the funding,’ she says, ‘And then they blame it on the VCs. But the truth is, there…

‘Mental health,’ my respondent says, when I ask him if the startup life also has a less exciting side, ‘There is not enough support for entrepreneurs with mental health issues. Sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone is really good, because you are learning. But sometimes it is too much.’ His number one tip preventing a burnout is being aware of that your to-do list will always be never ending.

On social media the word burnout culture often catches my eye. If these people work so much, with the high standards they set themselves, how are they actually doing…

During my research on the work/private life situation of early-stage tech startup founders, we often discuss the work life ‘off switch’, can the entrepreneurs switch their work mindset off at times, a fully leave work behind for some free time?

A respondent with a family explains that he can find the off switch. When he is with the kids, or skiing, he does not pay attention to his phone. ‘Sometimes it is not a good idea, because a customer calls with a problem, or an investor tries to reach me. But I still do it.’ However, at home he has…

During my research on the work/private life situation of early-stage tech startup founders I hear over and over again the phrase: When I have investment, then… I will invest more time in my social life, start dating again, start making art again, start working out again, watch Netflix series, go to the movies, go to festivals, take a vacation. It is not only when they have investment, some entrepreneurs set other goals: when we have our first client, or when we launch our pilot or product. However, that ‘when’ comes back in many interviews. Entrepreneurs mention they miss something that…

‘The main reason why I do this is because I want to impact as many lives as I can. Obviously, you want to build that million dollar company, that unicorn, but I have a strong vision that I want to take care of low income houses… I’ve been a single man my whole life, by choice,’ he explains, ‘Well, I’ve been in one relationship, but I don’t want those distractions. I am married to my business,’ he says, ‘It is my significant other.’

During my three month fieldwork in the Bay Area on the work-private life situation of early-stage tech…

The first month a respondent lived in a tent on the lawn of the programming school, because there were no dorms available and he was motivated to immediately start.

While my research participants preach how great it is to follow their dreams and be busy with their passion, after some probing another story finds its way to the surface. Most entrepreneurs are tired, they sleep way less than they would like to, or is healthy.

‘I work 12 hours a day,’ says an interviewee. ‘This is most of my life. Of course it impacts my personal life: I don’t have…

Talking with an investor, I recall our first interaction at the conference in which we met: I said ‘Hi’, and asked her how she enjoyed the event. She responded a bit surprised, since most other people that approached her usually said ‘Hi’ and then immediately proceeded with their pitch. ‘It is good that they do that,’ she says, after I shared that story again over coffee at her office building, ‘It is what they should do, but it was refreshing to have a different conversation,’ she says, ‘Entrepreneurs need to understand that context and intention is everything. Funds have mandates…

During my three months of fieldwork in San Francisco for my master in Social and Cultural Anthropology. In every interview I try to figure out what the entrepreneurs do in their free time. With some of the entrepreneurs I have conversations about sports, books, movies, series, the outdoors, cooking or dancing. With others the conversation hits a blockage. At some point I realized: I am biased to find their hobbies and free time outside of work time. It takes some time for me to adjust to the fact that their work: these startups are their hobbies, their passion project.

Passion…

Vivienne Schröder

MSc Social and Cultural Anthropology. Research on the work/private life situation of early-stage tech startup founders in the Bay Area. @vivienneschrode

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