Mom, Friend, & Co-Founder

2012-02-26

At a dinner recently, I was asked what it’s like to be co-founders with my mom. It was such a fantastic question that it’s been on my mind since then, so I wanted to put my thoughts into writing.

Paul Graham notes friendship as an important quality in founders, and I can’t agree more. I’m proud to say that my mom is one of my best friends, which is why we are able to work so well together.

Like Paul mentions, “startups do to the relationship between the founders what a dog does to a sock: if it can be pulled apart, it will be.” But, even at the lowest times in startup life, the thought of damaging my friendship with my mom outweighs any bad. There are certainly times that we disagree, but we have always had an understanding going into any discussion that there’s some separation between personal and work life. We’ll argue, pause to have a peaceful dinner together with my dad, and pick up where we left off. Remembering the importance of family and friends is key to maintaining sanity in a startup.

Looking at ourselves as not just mom and son, but also best friends, grants us the opportunity to have complete respect for one another (in traditional relationships I’ve seen, respect unfortunately flows only in one direction). I know the areas in which she’s more knowledgeable, where her life experience is most applicable, and she knows the same for me; so, we can ask each other anything, disagree with what the other has to say, and speak our thoughts freely without offending one another.

Relatedly, this open dialog leads to a higher level of understanding each other. When I need help or am uncomfortable with a situation, I don’t even need to say a thing - she almost always knows and is able to lend a hand.

Paul writes in another essay that “you need colleagues…to cheer you up when things go wrong.” Things do go wrong, but my mom is one of the reasons I’m navigating startup life in the first place. Certainly, we want to improve the world, but I would be lying if I said that improving my family’s life wasn’t also a goal. If I’m having a bad day, all I have to do is see my mom working alongside me and it instantly gives me the right perspective and cheers me up. I think the opposite is true, too.

Overall, it’s fantastic having the opportunity to work with my mom. Given the opportunity again, I would—without hesitation—want her to be my co-founder.

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michael schade

I built out engineering and operations teams at Stripe as employee #20 from 2012 to 2019; now I'm working on something new. I like helping people, photography, reading, gym, traveling, and learning new things. Say hi! 🏳️‍🌈