I have given birth to one child and helped launch at least 6 start-ups. I might have a few illegitimate start-ups out there that I don’t know about but we’ll save that for another post. I had a blinding moment of delusion recently with my current start-up where I experienced the exact same feeling I did as the mother of a toddler. It was a day where one microscopic sign of progress overshadowed months of endless challenge, preparation, and self-sacrifice. How can that be?! How can the joy of one tiny hint of improvement elicit a feeling so out of proportion to the work that led up to it?

Then it hit me. The absurd number of ways that running a start-up is like having a baby. Here are my top thirteen:

  1. The idea to have a baby, or quit your job to launch a start-up during a recession, usually has something to do with tequila.
  2. Nausea is the first sign that you are pregnant or have agreed to join a start-up.
  3. The vomiting eventually stops in the 2nd trimester, or when you release your beta version, whichever comes first.
  4. You are for sure pregnant (or are a co-founder in a start-up) when your partner now owns half of everything that gets produced.
  5. You will be sleep-deprived until the baby is sleeping thru the night or you’ve hired someone to handle customer support, whichever comes first.
  6. The average birth costs about $50,000 depending on your health insurance policy and PR agency fees.
  7. You’ll resist the urge to rip a total stranger’s kidney out thru their left nostril when they tell you your baby is ugly or that your interface doesn’t conform to the latest UI/UX standards. Even if they’re right.
  8. It is inevitable that your baby will make a mistake that lands you above the fold on your industry's most popular publication and gets virally propagated across every social network. You will be subject to much public humiliation and embarrassment until another start-up makes a bigger blunder.
  9. Plan to fork over an allowance and expect nothing in return. Somewhere between $10 to $100,000 per month, depending on the economy and the cost of a movie-sized box of Milk Duds.
  10. Expect to be infinitely patient as your baby (and start-up) experiments with its identity and then eventually grows up to be something far removed from what you originally planned.
  11. You will spend the next 10 years teaching your baby, and your start-up, how to earn money on its own.
  12. You will instantly forget how much pain you went thru the moment your baby is acquired by a search engine giant for $230 million dollars.
  13. Despite being broke, exhausted, aged, and divorced, you will decide to do it all over again.