One moment that really struck me was when I saw an entrepreneur hugging his son sitting in front of his computer. They were both smiling happily, and then the boy went back to play with his toys while his dad continued to do his work. Clearly the role of an entrepreneur did not intervene the father’s joyful company with his son. I began to doubt my presumed impression about the life of an entrepreneur. From then on, I started to pay more attention on how entrepreneurs manage their personal lives: family, relationships, etc. The findings were astonishing to me – there were a number of people who brought their children to work in TechTown, and everyone I chatted with was fond of talking about their family and even shared with me various ways to block calendars so to save time for personal life. Our supervisor Joanna once took us to a meeting with the founders of Einstein By Design, a couple with two daughters, to help them prepare for an upcoming competition. As they went over their pitch, the two little girls were constantly interrupting, always trying to run out and using markers to doodle everywhere from the floor to the ceiling in the room. Unsurprisingly their pitch was forced to stop for multiple times, but every time the parents remained patient and taught their children the appropriate manners, and they tried to convince them how important this competition meant for the business as well.
Another thing that surprised me was the number of people who are willing to give out their time to help others. I always knew that profit meant everything to a startup. However, a lot of programs at TechTown, such as “Ask an Expert” and “Professional Service Network,” do not provide much compensation for the professionals. Many signed up only with the wish to help people in need with their expertise and experience. Our analysis of alumni surveys also showed that the majority of the respondents chose to volunteer or give back in some way to TechTown, while still busy running their own startups.
These observations made me recognize my bias toward entrepreneurs. Yes, they might be constantly taking risks, alone in a competitive environment, and losing work-life balance with no guaranteed time to stay with family and friends. However, they are firstly humans, family members, and friends to someone, each with a genuinely kind yet unique personality. I was too narrowly-minded and should not have ever presumed anything about people that I did not know well and missed out hundreds of opportunities in the past to truly learn about them.