There is a bit of conventional wisdom out there that starting a company with a family member, in my case, my brother David, is a journey fraught with pitfalls of familial hatred and really uncomfortable Hannukah dinners. Thankfully, that has not been the case.
When Joel approached me to work with him on Bound, I knew from the get-go that we’d need a very talented programmer to write an application that would be functionally as slick as I hoped I could make it look. And I knew that the person who we needed to work on it was my brother. So I called him up and convinced him to move in with me for a few months while we get things going. It wasn’t the hardest sell, David had 9 months earlier packed up a successful web business in the Bay and was taking some time away from writing code to be a grease-monkey on a radio telescope in Chile. When we approached him to join, he was headed back to the states without a job; I think it was the free rent and subsidized PBRs that really pushed him over the edge.
A few years ago, David and I worked on our first collaborative project called Papapics. Our late grandfather, Papa, was a gifted photographer, and he passed the photobug on to just about every corner of our extended family. While this is great – we’ll always have plenty of great photos to look back on – it was nearly impossible to try to wrangle all those photos into one place. Between the long distances between the family and the chasm of technical savviness (lookin’ at you Aunt Betsy), we decided to build a private, password protected photo-sharing app for our family to all post their photos, by event, for everyone to enjoy. Oh yea, and we did this all in a tequila and cigar fueled frenzy between the hours of about 10pm and sunrise over a week during a family vacation at the beach.
The project went by the wayside, but it became the template for how David and I work together. His ‘I can basically make a website do anything’ mindset with my ‘I got a great idea for this but I’m not sure it’s possible’ style are a great match. Now obviously, doing a fun little no-strings-attached website and starting a full-fledged business are two separate things. But over the last seven months, David and I picked up where we left off at the beach. The problems were bigger, the stakes were higher, but the crazy sleep schedule and booze-fueled coding sessions were about the same.
But that doesn’t mean everything went smoothly. We had our fair share of strongly worded arguments, we disagreed about the direction of the site, and battled over prioritization of features. But in the end, we argued because we believe in our product, and we trusted each other.
There’s really nothing unique about this situation that is specific to a family member. If you want to start a business, you need someone who complements your skills, isn’t afraid to share their opinions, and who you can trust. I can say the same about Joel, our other partner here. I don’t think it really matters who you’re working with, as long as you share a vision, believe in each other, and are willing to be convinced that you’re wrong every now and then.
A few days ago David packed up his car and began his journey back to California and in a few days Bound will officially be a bicoastal company. It was fun and productive living with my bro and building Bound, and I’m sure he’ll be coming back regularly to meet with us and the printers as we develop new features. And while I’m happy to get my extra bedroom and half my office back, I’m definitely going to miss drinking, err, I mean, working with that asshole.