There's a raging debate over whether startups are 'brutal' for employees who are parents

Long hours, hackathons on the weekends and staying up all night “crushing it” have become baked into the parts of startup culture.

Even some of the perks, like free dinner in the office or beer after work, double as team-building tools and way to keep employees in the office later.

A free burrito isn’t great though if you want to pick up your child from school then hear about their day at the dinner table.

Bryce Roberts, a venture capitalist for O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, sparked the debate when he asked on Twitter last night: “what message does early stage startup culture send to parents with kids? honest question for those wearing both hats.

What followed was a great debate, from both male and female tech workers, investors and executives, about what startups are doing to family life — and whether it’s driving away some parents from that stage of company.  (The conversation is still ongoing, so I recommend tuning into the whole thing here.)

Some entrepreneurs immediately came forward to explain how they are valuing parenting in their culture. Anil Dash, the  co-founder and CEO of ThinkUp, showed how it’s listed on the company website as a core value: 

Tristan Walker, of Walker & Co, also said his company made it a priority and then follows through on it so it’s more than just words.

While Dash and Walker might be good examples, many participants bashed companies that touted being family-friendly, only to ask employees to come in on weekends or stay late. 

Former Foursquare executive Alex Reinert believes the situation for parents employed by startups is “generally not good” and that there is often an “unspoken disapproval” against them in their organisations. 

It’s not just bad for the working parent either. Former Googler Marc Hemeon says startups are also “brutal” for spouses and children.

Some recommended looking closely at health insurance policies, and whether they extend to dependents or not, as a good indicator when you’re choosing a startup. Many parents responded that they just set strict work schedules, and then log back on for a “3rd shift” after the kids go to bed.

Thomas Goetz, co-founder and CEO of Iodine and formerly of Wired, said he thinks a startup’s attitude towards parents likely depends on whether founders have kids or not, and even then admitted it was still hard to make time. Part of it, he said, was the notion of moving fast and “going for the kill.”

In the end, there are some who have found the balance to be tipped for their kids before anything else.

 Do you have stories to share about being a parent and managing your time at a startup? Email Biz Carson at bcarson AT

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