I often chuckle when I get my TechCrunch fix for the day. Headline usually reads something like “Ex-Googlers wants to be [insert name of hot startup] for [insert emerging market].” The stories are strikingly similar. They usually involve some young twenty-somethings. Red Bull is their staple beverage and they’re pulling all-nighters just like they did in college just a few years or even months back.
Many people ask us about how Munchery, a San Francisco-based startup bringing the personal chef experience to the masses, started, and especially how two middle aged guys with young families took a leap of faith to quit their jobs to start a company in one of the most hyper-competitive markets: food.
At Munchery, I guess the dynamic is a little different than most startups. No Red Bull, no all-nighters. Actually around 5:45PM, we’re looking at the clock because we need to scramble to pick up our kids and feed them Munchery. We got one hand on the phone talking to our wives, and the other hand firing off one last git commit before the day’s over. When we’re home we’re dads, not startup founders. I guess there are some priorities in life you just can’t compromise on. Of course, when the kids are asleep, or when you can find a spare moment, we work intensely hard (probably like any young dad out there).
I never imagined launching a startup would be like this. Tri and I were early team members at GetActive (I was #5, and Tri was like #15). GetActive was a little Berkeley-based startup doing a CRM for all the notable non-profits. We grew from 5 to about 150 before we got acquired. By the time Tri left his director of engineering position there, the company had grown to over 400 and did a $56 million IPO in 2010. It was about 10 years from start to finish. I guess in startup terms, it was a success. Back then we didn’t have families, so we both put in our fair share of Red Bulls and all-nighters.
However, being part of a startup is really different than starting one. Starting Munchery was a pretty big risk for us. For me, quitting a comfortable job at Ask.com meant losing a nice salary and group health insurance, and with a 5 month old and 20 month old at the time, it was a huge life decision for me. Tri also had to worry about his own two kids (a little older than mine). There was rent, childcare expenses, insurance for the minivan, etc.
I couldn’t help but think if TechCrunch would ever cover startup founders like us. Older guys. Family guys with young kids, and cash-strapped. They probably exist, but, boy I wish I heard of them when we started Munchery. Did it feel bold? If anything, I think our wives were actually bolder, considering they would support us unceasingly as we tossed our lucrative salaries to do a startup. Without their support, we can kiss Munchery goodbye. In fact, that’s our biggest advice – if you have full support from your spouse, you can move mountains and empty oceans.
In hindsight, quitting our jobs was the easy part. The hard part is actually executing our idea as any startup advice blog will tell you. About every other week, when Tri and I find some time to just talk 1-on-1, I have a familiar rant where I jokingly tease him, “Of all the startup ideas you had to have, why food!” I then recite a litany of reasons why a food startup that actually serves food (duh) is probably the hardest thing to do. Here’s my top five:
(Don’t be shocked that a startup founder has these kind of rants. It’s normal. It’s a necessary catharsis).
“Why didn’t you come up with Twitter or something … all we would have to do is type and make stuff happen. Food is too hard. Why food?” I would quip. Tri, the calmer one between us, just looks at me, and ends this mini-tirade of mine by saying the same thing he did a year ago to me: “It is because food matters.” And I realize, I can’t get over the fact that I’m a sucker for that.
On the other hand, we have a lot of good things going our way:
We’ve just reached our one year anniversary. We have since raised a seed round from investors whom we are extremely grateful for, and learned the art of doing a lot with very little. We got wonderful press coverage and even made it onto TV!
We’re reinventing the personal chef and delivering gourmet to everyone. We want to help busy professionals and young parents like ourselves find another delicious, healthy and affordable option besides going out or cooking in. That’s our mission. And my dream is for TechCrunch to one day publish this article: “Rising Trend of Startups by Mid-30 Dads and Moms.”
*** Featured image Munchery Co-founders: Conrad Chu (left) & Tri Tran (right)
This post originally appeared on the Munchery blog.
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