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The Parallels Between Motherhood and Startuphood

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So one more year comes to an end and a new one begins. And those of us who work at a startup know that one year in the "Startup World" is the equivalent of at least two or three in the "Corporate World." I guess it's a bit like dogs to people and children to adults.

Now, if you work at a startup AND you happen to be pregnant, your concept of time is even more distorted. I am learning this first-hand this year and I finally understand why pregnant women count weeks and days instead of months. Perhaps we should adopt the same practice in startups.

The one I work for was born in the beginning of 2010 -- that would make us 1,009 days old, or 144 weeks and 1 day old! So much has happened within this time frame -- we've grown so much, we've learned so much and yet there is still a long way to go.

I remember our launch as if it were yesterday: a small team, working from home and later, from a small office space on top of a vet store in an old two-story building in Rio de Janeiro. The company had the challenge to introduce a brand new business model into the country. There were so many variables, so many unknowns, but lots of dreams and the determination to grow fast and to make a difference in the lives of consumers and local businesses in Brazil. The year went by in a flash and so did 2011 and 2012.

As we approach 2013 and I have a growing pregnant belly, I've started to think of all the parallels between motherhood and "startuphood." All of a sudden ,the feeling of having "so many variables, so many unknowns and lots of dreams" is now stronger than ever before.

How do I prepare for the arrival of my child? How do I make sure that I'm a good mother and that I give my child the best upbringing possible so that he or she could have an amazing life? As I try to answer some of these questions, I realize a few things that I believe are applicable to Startuphood as well.

The first one is that no matter how many books we read or how many tips we get from friends, family or the thousands of people online who have experienced similar situations, nothing will beat learning by doing. Every baby is different, and so are the characteristics and dynamics of the baby's parents and the environment. However, I'm convinced that having more knowledge and also having role models must help parents in creating a vision of where they'd like to go (or not go) and also in deciding which routes to take and which ones not to take along the way. The same is true for startups. Although every situation is unique, and in this case disruption is a big part of the game, receiving advice and also benchmarking can help startups choose their paths wisely, knitting together the best practices of different companies while avoiding some common mistakes. Obviously, I still have much to learn, but my guess would be that for both Motherhood and Startuphood, while some guidance is extremely helpful, the real learning really only takes place once you get your hands dirty!

The second similarity would be the importance of having strong roots and values, which are imprinted early on in both children and startups, and are hugely influenced by early parenting decisions and style. As the startup I work for began to grow at an accelerated pace and enter its "teenage years" (the period of time when the company is not really a startup anymore but is not yet a major corporation either), I started to understand the real importance of having a strong DNA, a well-defined corporate culture and very solid company values from the very beginning. Just like a teenager going through puberty, as the company explores with different ideas and attempts to find its true identity, it tries to be both startup and corporation at the same time for a while. It then becomes clear that the stronger the company's DNA and cultural upbringing, the more likely that it will remain steady and on track through whichever rollercoasters appear along the way. Be it for a startup or for a child, although I am only a mother-to-be, I am willing to bet that the most important years of development are the very first ones as they help shape all of the decisions later on in life.

The one certainty I do have is that time flies. Here we are at the end of another year. And as I think about these two concepts of learning by doing and also the importance of the early years of development, I am faced with a huge challenge, which is to learn fast and to adapt fast as time goes by, hoping to have an acute perception and good decision-making skills. I don't believe that everyone is naturally a great entrepreneur. Is it really true that this is different for mothers and that once a baby is born, that famous "maternal instinct" just kicks in? Or is it also about a combination between natural talent and skills that you can learn, develop and uniquely mold with time? Hopefully, I'll have some more answers a few months from now, but would love to hear other people's thoughts and experiences be it with motherhood or startuphood, or better yet, with both!