Your Startup is Your Baby. No, Really, it's Your Baby.
I’m at a networking event. Somebody asks me about The Reckoner! and I go into my elevator speech. Then out comes the iPhone. “Here come the baby pictures.”
Baby pictures. I like that.
I’m at home with The Official Significant Other of The Reckoner. I rattle off something technically inscrutable that I need to do for the site. “This must be what having a baby is like, except it’s all reversed. You’re the one who does all the nursing, and I’m the befuddled bystander trying to figure out what to do.”
Having a baby. Yes. She’s right.
This metaphor. “Your baby.” “My baby.” It gets used casually all of the time. Especially in the startup world, which is powered by the same combination of love, passion, self-sacrifice, and masochism that parenthood usually is. If your startup isn’t your baby, why the heck do you put up with it? Would anyone bother with kids if there weren’t that intrinsic bond there – the idea of being connected to something that shares your DNA, that shares your vitality? Would anyone bother with startups absent the same reasoning? In thinking on it, the ‘startup as baby’ analogy gets more literal the more thought you put into it:
- Your Baby Always Seems Cutest to You
Do you know any nominally sane people who now communicate solely through pictures of their children? What do you see when they inevitably show you those pictures? A cute kid, as almost every kid is cute. What do they see? The nexus of their world, the cutest child ever to pet a dog, hug a cat, or make a mess of their dinner plate. An undeniable supernova of adorability that is impossible to deny and thus must be shared.
For your startup, you are the person with the baby pictures. It’s the best, most sterling feat of engineering and product design ever to grace the electrons of the internet. Why wouldn’t you show it to everyone, to let them glimpse upon the awesomeness? Why wouldn’t everyone’s socks be knocked off by that self-same awesomeness?
Except, what do people see when they actually see your startup? A neat idea, like most ideas are neat. Maybe they think this one is particularly cute. Maybe they think this one is secretly ugly. But it’s just one amongst the masses without the halo you add as a parent.
- You’re Petrified When It Seems Behind on Developmental Steps
When you have a child, one amongst the many perpetual anxieties is that your baby isn’t developing fast enough. They’re not meeting the benchmarks. Are they late to talk? Late to walk? Late to crawl? Are they poorer at jamming the right shape through the right hole than they should be at this age? Is it time to panic? Dear God, is there anything I can do? Is there any way I can Baby Einstein them to where they should be?
Startup? Same deal. You lay out your benchmarks. They are blindly ambitious. They contain a lot of hope. But all you can do is provide the best environment you can for it to grow healthily, take it to the doctor for diagnosis if it seems evidently sick, and otherwise just pray it grows the way you think it will. Babies, too, have real-time analytics, and they’re just as agonizing to watch.
- You Feel That You Can’t Turn Your Back on It, Even For a Second.
Babies seem innocuous and inert right until the moment where you turn your attention away, whereupon they become Indiana Jones, venturing into dangerous caves in the apparent pursuit of total oblivion. So you never turn your attention away, which is fine, because we’ve already established that this is the most incredible child on the planet. Why wouldn’t it merit undivided attention at all times?
Startups also have this powerful pull, where it seems like entropy and calamity are working together to conceive of its demise at all times. Calamity distracts you, then entropy flanks you while you’re distracted, finding the vacancies in your business plan to rot your organization. So you never turn around. Ever. And that’s fine by you, because it’s your baby anyway.
- You love it unconditionally, even as it drives to past insanity.
Yes, you do. Yes, you will. It’s a horrible nuisance, and filled with misery, and everyone who has one will tell you that, and that they still wouldn’t give it up for anything.
All I have to offer The Reckoner! is my love, my endless care, and my vitality – it will have to do the rest on its own. And providence willing, it will.