Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why should starting a startup mean 60-80 hour workweeks?

The Economist put together recently a report on startups, incubators and how they are changing the world economy. Very good piece of reading! But there is one part in the startup scene that I don't quite understand.
 As the report points out it is very common that founding a startup means very intensive work. Both the startups and accelerators acknowledge that it means months if not years of 12+ workdays, no family, no holidays, no relations outside the company not to mention any hobbies. I would hereby argue a it against it. I mean it is important to focus and get things done, but one should fit into the 40 hour workweek. Here are some questions to argue for that:

- Do you make sound and good decisions if you have worked for 12+ hours seven days in a row or are you tired?
- Do you get the best deal with the best partner if you are hurrying and do not take the time (sometimes months) for negotiations or do you take the one that you can close in two weeks?
- If you only work and don't have life outside your startup will you get so emotionally attached to the service, colleagues and the idea that it becomes impossible to make rational "quit" decisions?
- Do you get healthy co-operation between the co-founders and the team if everyone is pulling 60 hour workweeks .... or will the emotions boil over and create un-necessary fights?

I would also argue that running a (successful) business should be something you do for years. It is like a hike through a continent. Does anyone see any sense in starting the hike with lets say a week long 168 hour sprint...and then drop?

So why do startups need this "no-family, 60-80 hour workweeks" workstyle? Are the investors pushing for this? Are the investors themselves doing 80 hour weeks or are they just expecting the founders to do that? Is there any benefit in it, except for failing 3 months earlier and more probably? Or are the savings from the co-founders private life so big that they make up for the bigger risks?