Will Gammon, Founder of Cumulus VFX, with his children

Founders on dad-hood vs startup-hood

Image: Will Gammon, Founder of Cumulus VFX, with his children.

The stereotype of a startup founder is a young person in a hoodie and trackpants, but the majority of new business CEOs have a very different experience in real life.

For Fathers Day 2018, we asked four dads from the entrepreneurial world how they combined running a company with starting a family:

  • Murray Hurps, Director of Entrepreneurship, UTS and former CEO Fishburners
  • Andreas Dzumla, Co-founder and CEO of Longtail UX, recipient of a Jobs for NSW Strategic Growth Loan
  • Ben Kooyman, Founder of Endeavour Beverages, recipient of an Accelerating Growth Loan
  • Will Gammon, Founder of Cumulus VFX, recipient of a Regional Growth Loan.

Where were you at when you had kids?

Andreas: I started the company with my co-founder when I didn’t have children. But by the time my oldest was born I was working half the time on Longtail UX. I couldn’t have done this without a supportive partner.

Murray: I was CEO of Fishburners when Theodore was born, two years into our hunt for a new location and in the middle of negotiations for new office space. Oh, and Fishburners Brisbane was launching, as well as Fishburners Shanghai.

Ben: We had a two year old and then Charlotte was born the month I launched Endeavour to target investors. We shipped our first beers when Charlotte was 13 weeks old!

Will: I had two kids by the time I started Cumulus and had our third nine months into the journey.

How did fatherhood change your relationship to your company?

Andreas: In hindsight it was a blessing having kids while starting the business. Work never ends anyway, but having kids enabled me to completely forget about any worries - at least for a few hours. Best work-life balance guarantee ever.

Murray: Being a father means having new priorities, and being happy and grateful to have those priorities. It's amazing how things change, and I quite enjoy the feeling of 'out of my way, I'm doing this for my family' compared to 'out of my way, I'm doing this for my Porsche'.

Ben: Initially it was very tough. I still kept a full time corporate job and worked on the startup in between family meals and bathtimes. Since I went full time on the business it has been great for our family. It has given me more flexible hours so I can be home to help start the day and get home for most dinners.

Will: The reason for starting the business in the first place was we wanted to raise our kids in a region that didn’t have the job I needed.

How is being a founder like being a father?

Andreas: There is no perfect moment for either! If you feel you should/could/would, just do it - and if you absolutely have to do both at the same time. Also valid for both: a supportive partnership is the best foundation and sharing the same values is as important as sharing the same vision.

Murray: I think being a founder definitely helps to prepare you for being a father. The sleep deprivation, staying cool in a crisis, stakeholder management, financial management and negotiation. Though I'm yet to beat Theodore or Audrey in a negotiations, I feel like I'm wearing them down over time.

Ben: Both are similar in that you have to think in advance, and still react to whatever pops up! It’s also important to have a great team around you.

Will: There is definitely parallels. I do notice myself having to apply parenting techniques to running a business with 20 staff….

Most awkward moment combining fatherhood and your career?

Murray: The surprising number of times I've turned up to work with my hoodie inside out after getting dressed while tiptoeing around in the dark.

Will: Trying to have a straight face on a serious Skype call while my new baby was licking the window next to me – just out of sight of the camera.

Best moment combining fatherhood and your career?

Andreas: Every evening coming home and having excited kids running at me. I’m enjoying it as long as it lasts.

Ben: When the kids say they want to go into your venue for their birthday meal, and work in the business when they grow up.

Will: Being able to get my son in a feature film, taking him down to Sydney and seeing him act really well.

Murray: I've always valued programs to encourage women in startups, but they mean a whole lot more when you have a daughter that you're pretty sure is going to take over the world. #goaudrey

Any advice for other new dads?

Will: Dad-hood is way more important.

Ben: Remember to put the phone down for the first hour when you get home.

Murray: Being a good startup founder means making time for things so they don't become bigger problems over time. Being a parent is the same - as is being a husband. You need to make time for what matters while you can.