I got my cofounder pregnant. Now what?!?!
Call it a momentary lapse of judgement…a moment of weakness if you will. I mean, we spend literally almost every waking hour together. Something like this was bound to happen at some point..right? Holy shit. What do we do now? What will we tell people? What will our investors say?
Now keep in mind, we’re married (sorry for the clickbait). But still, we’re dead serious about our startup, Loveseat, a really cool way to buy vintage furniture. We’ve been working on it for almost 3 years now and have employees, a big warehouse, funding..the whole thing. We’re both fully committed to our startup baby and so we’re not about to go out and get normal jobs now that we’re having a real baby.
What do we tell our investors? What do we tell our board?
We deliberated on those questions during the “it’s early in the pregnancy, so we’re not telling anyone yet” phase. Are they going to suddenly think we suck and aren’t committed? Would this suddenly make them decide not to support us? Shit.
We ended up dropping the “we’re pregnant” bomb about 3/4 of the way through a glowing email update on sales growth.
We had all kinds of stats, facts and figures and after all of those metrics sat the news on our pregnancy. We nervously proofread this email about 100 times before we hit send.
And then we braced for impact.
About 5 minutes later, we got our first of two investor responses. We opened it. It was just one word.
That was followed almost immediately by another congratulations email from the second investor.
Holy shit. It’s going to be ok. High fives and cheering. We made it! What a sigh of relief.
Once we cleared the investor hurdle, we started thinking about real life. How in the hell are we going to pull this off? Can we run this thing while we have a baby? Like everything in startups, it was rife with uncertainty, but we forged ahead…and now we have data to share.
I should mention we had an especially challenging launch to our new baby project as our daughter Isabelle came 7 weeks early and she had to spend over a month in the NICU. It was an extremely scary time and it brought out the best in us and our employees. We are thankful she is completely healthy, but the whole start to parenthood was stressful and scary.
Now that things have settled down and she is 4 months old, we can say with confidence that having a baby and a startup at the same time is much harder than we thought it would be.
The biggest challenge is the lack of relief.
With normal parents, when one parent has a hard day at work, there’s always the possibility that the other had a good or average day at work (or at home). That doesn’t happen when you have a startup together. If it sucks, it sucks for everyone. If the baby has a really hard time sleeping one night, the entire executive team is a little less patient the following day.
The other thing that’s been challenging about the process is the increasing rate of change. All founders know a lot happens at a rapidly growing startup, but a lot more happens with a baby growing along side it. In both cases, we’ve been embracing change and trying to just keep focused on enjoying the process even if it is painful at times. To keep things going ‘up and to the right’, we’ve fully unleashed the power of video conferencing and Slack messaging , so regardless of who’s day it is to babysit (Jenny CTO or Chris CEO) we’re both instantly available. We try not to have our parenting impact the business or other employees in any negative ways.
Looking forward, as Isabelle continues to grow and eventually gets to her toddler days, it will be time to invest in corporate daycare — even if it means a pack-and-play in the corner of our office.
Be VERY generous with maternity leave and other family time.
This last note goes to all you non-parent CEOs (I used to be one). It’s way harder than you can imagine to work at a startup and be a parent. If I could go back and give my former self as CEO of TicketLeap a talking to, I would.
One last last note…we wouldn’t change a thing.