Dan Fennessy is founder of Amsterdam based startup Party with a Local. In this guest post he describes the impact of becoming a father on his role as a startup entrepreneur.
When I found out I was going to be a dad, I guess like many fathers to be, fear was one of the many emotions I felt. My personal fear was compounded due to the fact I’d only recently decided to go full-time on my startup, Party with a Local, a self-funded startup that wasn’t looking likely to make any money for the coming period (editor: see our previous coverage of the PwaL app launch)
Whilst I was happy and excited for what was to come with a baby, I couldn’t get my head around how around how I would be able to combine a startup (an app connecting people to party!), with my new responsibilities of being a father, and of supporting a family financially.
I agonized for weeks: Should I quit my startup and ‘get a real job’ to support my family? Most startups fail anyway, right? If I quit now, most people would understand, and in fact they’d think it was the only right and responsible thing to do.
But the thought of quitting felt terrible to me. Like a lot of founders, my startup felt like my baby too, one that was no where near grown-up and hadn’t reached it’s potential yet, and the thought of letting it go now filled me with dread. I should add the startup wasn’t in the best shape at this point — there was a live MVP-ish product that was no where near finished, we didn’t have many users, and I was working by myself on it with one part-time developer. But I believed in the idea like nothing else and was convinced it would be a success if I could align things just right.
My girlfriend knew how much Party with a Local meant to me and was extremely supportive during this time. She told me to go for it, that we’d figure it out financially even if the app didn’t work out. So while I was racked with doubt and anxiety, there was no doubt in her mind I needed to keep going. Amazing support!
I also remember speaking to a good friend at the time who said ‘what does quitting now tell your future child about chasing your dreams? That you give up as soon as there’s a challenge?’ And: ‘imagine in the future you have to tell your kid that because of him/her you had to give up on your dreams!’ …Right.
My mind was made up. I was going to try to do both — be a great dad and start a great startup at the same time!
Enter Fatherhood & Startup Life combined:
One year on I can honestly say it’s the best decision I’ve made in my life so far. It has not only been possible to combine the two, it’s actually made me a better entrepreneur.
Some of the things that have happened since I made that hardest of decisions:
- Have an amazing son called Oliver!
- Raised €200k from an Angel investor for Party with a Local.
- Formed a really great (and fun!) team to work with me…
- The app’s user base has increased 5 fold, with a true global community of great locals and travelers being built now.
- PwaL went #1 on Product Hunt(PS — thanks @bramk)
- Press coverage in The New York Times, BBC World, Business Insider, Time Magazine, many more around the world and interviewed on The App Guy podcast.
- Designed and developed v2.0 of the app, working closely with our community of users, to be launched very soon (if anyone’s interested in trying the Beta, get in touch: dan(at)partywithalocal.com)
- Moved in to an amazing office, at a startup friendly price (part of the Rockstart startup community and spaces in Amsterdam) overlooking the Herengracht — one of the most central and iconic canals in Amsterdam, with a rooftop terrace.
- Put on some great events and parties with our users, like this party on a boat in Amsterdam or when this Swedish band played on our office rooftop.
- Put on a side event at TOA in Berlin, met great users & partied at some of the best clubs in the city.
- Participated in Discoveries — an accelerator for Travel Startups in Lisbon where we spent a month (I took the family too). Here we met great mentors, refined our pitch and business model. We grew our user base 4x while we were there and threw another rooftop gig with our users in Lisbon
- Have an incredibly fully packed life, which is at times stressful (not much downtime between startup & family!) but I still manage to have a lot of fun at work and home and it’s an adventure I wouldn’t want to miss. Follow my fatherhood & startup adventure on Instagram.
How and why becoming a father made me a better entrepreneur:
More Determined — it really came down to now or never for me. This made me more determined. Its not like I wasn’t working hard before but now the stakes were higher — I just had to find ways to make things happen. That meant hustling harder to find funding, recruit a team, build a better product, better ways to grow our community of users.
More Focused — When you have a baby there is not a whole lot of down time. I try to be home and be there for my family as much as I can, especially in the first few months. This has the effect that the time you have to work, you really have to work. Less stuffing around on Facebook, less reading sport pages, less time flicking between tabs on Chrome, worrying about competitors or over thinking decisions. Time to Focus and Get Shit Done.
More Responsible — I used to live life with very few responsibilities. I don’t own much material stuff, no house, no car. I always liked to be on the move — travel to new places, new experiences, new people. I always lived in the present. Now with a family I feel more responsible I have a son to look after and provide for, a future This I think has flowed in to my life as a startup CEO too, I look to the future and plan better.
More Caring — my startup team feels like a family to me too. I think becoming a father has made me more caring and more ‘fatherly’!? I’m not sure how best to explain it, but before where I was maybe more introverted and working solo, now I take time to really understand my team, get them all working together, and work out how to get the best out of them, whilst still letting them have fun. And I have a sense I need to succeed for them too.
Less Partying — It’s no coincidence I started Party with a Local. I love to travel, I love being social and meeting new people. And I love a fun night out and enjoy a drink! I’m really solving my own problem with the app, no doubt. In the past I was also the kind of guy with a ‘rubber arm’ —i.e. I was easily convinced to stay out later and have ‘one more drink’ which often turned in to 5! Not anymore. Whilst I still enjoy a drink and a night out when I get the chance, it’s less going out in general now. And when I do go out, it’s not as late and not as many drinks. I have the perfect reason and excuse to go home now. More than that I actually want to rather than staying out in the bar for hours. This has meant I see a lot less of some friends who are still going out several times a week. But that’s a sacrifice I’ve had to make. And it’s amazing how much more productive you are without a hangover. Funny that!
This post was also published on Medium.
Photo by Pieter van Marion (creative commons via Flickr)