What Life Is Really Like For A Mother Of Three Running A Hot Startup

Sharmila Shahani-Mulligan co-founder Clear Story Data

Photo: Clear Story Data

A lot of us dream having Sharmila Mulligan’s career.She’s been involved in multiple startups with big payouts and is now CEO and co-founder of ClearStory Data, a buzzy early-stage startup in Palo Alto, Calif. It’s backed by Google Ventures, her buddy Marc Andreessen’s firm Andreessen Horowitz, and Khosla Ventures.

She met Andreessen when her employer, a startup called Kiva Software, was bought by Netscape for $180 million in 1997. She joined up with him again at Opsware, which was bought by HP for $1.6 billion. Later she joined Aster Systems, bought by Teradata for $263 million last year. Along the way she dabbled in a bunch of other startups, as an advisor or investor.

She has three kids and was going to take some time off before plunging back to work, but the startup bug bit again last summer and off she went, along with two co-founders from Aster.

But what’s it REALLY like to have that life? We asked Mulligan to tote a camera along for a couple of days and show us.

The big surprise: the stereotype of the working mum is far from true. Life as a startup CEO doesn’t have to mean missing baseball games and family dinners.

During this particular week, she was speaking at UC Berkeley’s DataEDGE conference, a gathering of top big data computer scientists.

7 a.m.: Sharmila waves goodbye to her kids. She often drives them to school but she's speaking at a conference today so has to leave early.

A day in the life of

8:39 a.m.: Sharmila gets briefed by Quentin Hardy, Deputy Tech Editor for the New York Times, who will moderate the morning panel at the DataEDGE conference.

9:28 Sharmila joins other big data bigwigs on stage including Amr Awadallah, CTO for Cloudera; DJ Patil, data scientist in residence for Greylock Partners and previously chief scientist at LinkedIn; and moderator Quentin Hardy.

10:50: Sharmila and ClearStory co-founder John Cieslewicz casually catch up with Professor Michael Franklin, director of UC Berkeley's Algorithms, Machines and People Lab.

11:42 a.m.: Sharmila and John slip off from the conference to have a quick product planning session.

11:42 a.m.: Sharmila has a moment with Amr Awadallah, Cloudera's CTO

1:31 p.m.: Over lunch, Sharmila and John do product demos with conference attendees.

3 p.m.: Back in the office. Her desk is in the middle of the room wedged between co-founder Vaibhav Nivargi and HR director Georgie Gildea

6:00 p.m.: At the end of the day, Sharmila catches her son Nikhilas's baseball game.

Evening time: Sharmila works on homework with the kids after dinner, proving you can be a parent and a startup CEO and still end the day smiling.

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