It is not that work-life balance is not important; it’s just that if you are a founder you have already decided that work is most important for the next several years. I have yet to be pitched by a founder who said having great balance was a pre-requisite. I have funded a lot of entrepreneurs who were killing themselves to make a difference. The founders of Grubwithus, one of the companies in our portfolio, slept in a car when they were trying to raise a round from Y Combinator.
That said a lot to me about their focus on the company and the sacrifices they were willing to make to ensure it would be successful. Building a transformative company requires heroics from many people, and especially the founder. And in this noble pursuit, there is no such thing as balance. Taking an idea to greatness requires extreme—Herculean—efforts.
Sometimes it will be worth the cost and other times it will not. If it’s not, don’t do it half way. Many years ago I was recruited to be the #2 person at a hot startup. The job was supposed to be in the Bay area, but it was then determined it would be in Seattle to accommodate the CEO who had been tapped from Microsoft. My wife had zero interest in leaving Silicon Valley for Seattle. She didn’t want to hold me back though, saying I could commute there and come home on the weekends. “It’s a startup,” I said. “There are no weekends.” I politely declined the Seattle-based job and went to one that was in a different phase and allowed me to be with my family.Starting a company is not for faint of heart. Most fail. In early stages of a startup, you have to be maniacally focused. This is not—and should not—be for everyone. And, if you want to self-fund your company, you can do whatever you want, but if you want to take outside money, investors expect total commitment, as that’s what it takes to break out of the morass. If you want to do something game changing, if you want to grow 1000 times bigger, if you want to transform an industry or change the world, there will be difficult trade-offs. And you will have to decide if it is worth it.
In a world that’s connected 24/7, in which we check email after dinner and work from home when the kids are off from school, there is no such thing as on hours and off hours. Our work and personal lives have blended together and they will only continue to do so. The response shouldn’t be to silo off these distinct parts, but to weave them together into a tapestry. If you do that, and if you are truly doing what you love, it trumps the desire for balance and it achieves something better—synchronicity.