29 Years Old, Start a Business or Have a Baby?

So as another friend from high school has another baby I can’t help but think of the contrast between my overwhelming, daily thoughts and what I would guess to be his. Background – I’m living in a 1200 sqft apartment in New York City with 5 roommates, and starting a web based business, ShelfMade (Please click through, read about it and sign up for the beta launch). My closest friends, for the most part, live great lives in the suburbs and have steady jobs.

Here is a quick comparison between having a child and starting a business (is there anyone that could possibly do both?)

1. Commitment: Building a successful business takes commitment, but raising a child really takes commitment. If a startup isn’t working and isn’t going to work you can walk away tomorrow and lose some time and money. With a child you are stuck. I mean you have to take care of the kid for at least 7 or 8 years until he can fend for himself.
Edge: Startup

2. Investment/Return: In some ways kids and startups are a lot alike. If you live on a farm in Nebraska, children have a tremendous ROI. Feed them and make them watch Big 12 football for about 14 years and all of a sudden you get free labor. If you pace the pregnancies correctly you can literally have a never ending supply of maturing labor. That is a seriously long term investment though. Ask any startup entrepreneur what he will be doing in 14 years and he’ll have no idea, but it sure won’t be watching the sunset in Nebraska.

3. Investment/Return Part 2: In America I believe that it’s technically illegal to invest in a child, but let’s run the numbers. For Instance you invest time and money for 15 years to cultivate the best golfer ever who can earn around$25 million a year at the age of 21. But this definitely isn’t certain or even probable. I would say for the average person you have a 1 in 10,000 chance of raising and training the best golfer in the world.

So that means you have invested 20 years worth of food and coaching into an asset that will average a return of $25,000 a year (and those are 2028 dollars).

How is this different for a startup. You invest time and money and you build expertise, you make connections and you learn. Working on a business increases your network and improves the chance that you will succeed on subsequent attempts. Additionally the cycle is much shorter and the payouts are larger.
Edge: Business

4. Sex: Hmm I guess either way you are gaming on a girl that is slightly overweight and letting someone else suck on her nipples.
Edge: Draw

5. Quality of Life: If quality of life means small talk, watching Big Brother every Tuesday night and keeping quiet so the baby can sleep then the nod goes to having a baby. I think a better definition for quality of life means experiencing a range of emotions. Is there anything more thrilling, frustrating, exciting and depressing than a startup.
Edge: Startup

6. Parental Pride:
Edge: Baby

7. Pain: If you’re a guy it is definitely more painful to start a business. If you’re a girl it is probably more painful to start a business.
Edge: Startup

8. Legacy: This is a tough one. It’s obviously possible to have a really great kid (like me), but it is also possible to build a business that could outlast any family name or affiliation. I think this goes back to commitment, you can always drop a business, but your deadbeat kid is still going to ask for money when he’s 30 29. Hi Mom and Dad. Also take into account that if your first business is a success, your second business has a greater chance of succeeding and surpassing. This has to skew the numbers a bit.
Edge: Startup

9. Timing: What has a greater likelihood? Starting a company at 30, selling it at 36 and then starting a family. OR Having a child at 30 raising it for 6-15 years and then deciding to start a business.
Edge: Startup

So I am obviously biased here. I think the point to takeaway is that there is no right answer, you have to follow your path, whatever that means. Most of my friends would disagree with nearly everything that I said.

I think one thing we can all agree on is that the cigar tradition needs to return. Of all my friends with children I was never sent or smoked one cigar for the baby. At the upcoming ShelfMade launch there will be cigars to go around.

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25 Comments

Filed under startups

25 responses to “29 Years Old, Start a Business or Have a Baby?

  1. michaelwales

    Great article – although I’m one of the “friends” in this case. 23 with a 1-year old, I have to say it’s been the most rewarding experience of my life.

    And the cigar tradition is still around, at least in the military. I found out my wife was pregnant 2 weeks after arriving in Kuwait. I had more than enough cigars to last my entire deployment (and in Kuwait, Cubans are abundant).

  2. Nnanna Obuba

    Why can’t you move to Hoboken and do both?

  3. As an entrepreneur and a father, I think you got the all baby vs. business wrong… but I don’t disagree with your conclusion, you can do something you’re excited about now, like creating a business… and build a family later when the time is right.

  4. Michael – Congrats and thanks for putting your life on the line. Get home safe.

    Much of this article is obviously in jest, but Cedsay, it really is about Dharma and timing.

  5. Pingback: What’s In Peter’s Head » Blog Archive » RE: 29 Years Old, Start a Business or Have a Baby?

  6. I started to write a response to this in the comments, but it was getting way, way too long. I put the full response on my own blog, check it out (it’s long):
    http://www.pchristensen.com/blog/2007/11/09/re-29-years-old-start-a-business-or-have-a-baby/

    Quick summary: It depends on how you count. Kids are a lot of work, but they make you happy, and that’s the whole point of life, isn’t it?

  7. Ted

    I think you have to nail down your future path. Are you money oriented/workaholic or you’re a family man. You have to choose. You can’t be good at both.

    Life is about trade-off and that’s what “Business” school teaches you (I’m in Computer Science, but I’ve talked to wise B-school instructors to understand the whole point of school and life).

    I disagree with the way you comparing a baby vs a business. I don’t mean to judge you but you’re putting a “value” to your own flesh-n-blood. Show some humanity.

  8. totallyf'd

    who says you can’t do both? I quit my day job to devote full time to the startup when my kid was 2. $700k silicon valley mortgage. 12 months before any income started flowing to me.

    But now both babies are walking, talking, and looking like good investments. (the mortgage now sits at $780k, but is trending back down.) The kid starts at the Nike factory next week, so that’ll help too.

  9. JTG

    you gotta have sex before you can have a baby, mike. that’s why, for you, a business is your best shot at happiness

  10. If you can really ask this question, then you should do the startup. When it’s time to have a baby you’ll know it.

  11. That’s pretty funny blog. All I would say is… you’re never too old to start a business, but the plumbing needed to make babies deteriorates with age! By the time we hit our mid 30’s we were ready for kid #2, but my wife’s body decided it as done. We’re still kicking ourselves over that one.

    Also, at 40, I’m pretty stoked that my kid will be out of the house in a few years. I’ll still have plenty of time left to explore my own interests again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. serinus

    Ted said…

    “Are you money oriented/workaholic or youโ€™re a family man. You have to choose. You canโ€™t be good at both.”

    I partially agree. Most people can’t find balance between the two. Including me. But some of the most successful people, it seems, were able to eventually find a way to do both.

  13. Army of baby semi clones > Business

    (Unless you are opening a Hooters or selling cocaine)

  14. Hi there, interesting article.

    Just something to add on if you don’t mind ๐Ÿ™‚

    10. Fertility issue
    If you are a guy, it is ok to go for starting a business because you don’t have to worry (or less) about infertility issue a few years later.

    If you are a girl, please consider having baby pretty soon, because fertility rate drops sharply after 30. Though IVF is an option, it is still only 50-50 chances and it is a very draining (both physically and emotionally) process.

    Enjoy your journey of starting a business. All the best ! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Great post. Here are my thoughts;

    I’m a forty-two year old father of three. My twenty-four year old son just completed a four-year stint in the Navy. My twenty-one year old daughter is living and working locally, and I have a twenty-one month old son, Mitch. We call him phase two.

    You are a young man. At twenty-nine you have plenty of time to put your all into building ShelfMade (a great idea by the way!) into everything you want it to be. You also have time to begin having children in a few years once you’ve stabilized your professional life.

    I’ve had children young (eighteen and in the Army), and I’ve now had them later in life. In my opinion, you are able to be a much better parent with a little seasoning. I certainly tried with everything I had when I was younger, its just that I am wiser now. I know what I want in life and have my priorities in perspective.

    I’m trying to launch http://www.globalwonk.com now. But I know that my true legacy will be my children, and their children, and the impact they make on the world.

    I wish you all the best on both your professional and personal goals. You sound like the kind of guy that will make both happen and be successful whenever you decide to embark on parenthood.

    Best Regards,

    James Patrick Miller
    jim@jamespmiller.com

  16. LOL — this is a pretty funny post.

    Good luck with ShelfMade.

  17. Pingback: Top Posts « WordPress.com

  18. Arman

    Um I recommend that you don’t have babies because if you do and your wife divorces you you are going to have to pay child support until the baby is 18 years old. For guys babies are evil but for girls babies are a way of earning money sitting at home. Your gf divorces you and takes away your kids and then sits at home, watches tv and buys sony cameras with the child support money.

    Man I don’t know why stupid people like you get married and have sex without condoms. Seriously enjoy your life, have sex with strangers using condoms and don’t get married and have kids. You willl thank me for this tip later.

    The moment your gf/wife gets pregnant, it’s a huge risk. You become her bitch for the rest of your life. Don’t do it. Concentrate on making money. Enjoy life. My prayers are with you.

  19. Naughty Heather

    Being a mom who desperately wants to start a business, dude, do the business!

  20. katesaltfleet

    Too funny. I know what you mean about friends our age popping out kids every other week (or so it seems!).

    Off to check out your new venture now, good luck with it!

  21. karendoug

    If you are conflicted about whether to launch a biz or bring a new life into the world, you’re smart for acknowledging your concerns. It’s a weighty decision, one that we can totally appreciate.

    We’re a childless couple who would dearly love to hear the pitter patter of little feet in our household. You and the readers of your blog may not know there are nearly 3 million unintended pregnancies per year in America. So while it may not be the right time for you to parent a baby, ’cause you’re an entreprenurial woman whose web based business is in its infancy (pun intended), and developing a business plan is your priority, if you are pregnant you can consider other alternatives, namely, developing an adoption plan.

    We hope some brave and courageous woman wants to develop a plan with us. To learn more about us, you can access our website at http://www.ouradoptionwish.com

    Best, Karen and Doug

  22. You are not going to be having the baby anyway, so what’s the point?

    Do a business. It never has night terrors, needs a hug, does kindergarten graduation, brings you a flower or pees on you.

    Kids are forever. (my daughter is 25).

  23. kudzumomma

    Why can’t you do both?? I have a 3 1/2 year old AND I am a single mom and I do both.

  24. swisserikin

    To Arman: Looks like sex is not sacred to you. You also fail to appreciate that marriage should be based on love, and not merely getting physical or for convenience sake.

  25. Eliza

    To the women out there, there is always adoption. Do what will make you happy whether it’s business or baby. Don’t have a baby just to have one, or because of external pressures.

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