Wife of Startup Founder: Do Startups need to have timelines, projections and financial plans?

My husband started an AI tech startup a year ago and over this period I’ve had little visibility into how it’s all going. He has been building an app during this time and has been telling me that I’m trying to take over his business (although I have absolutely no knowledge of AI) because I have asked him about timelines, projections and financial plans and this is apparently not how seeking product market fit works.

I thought that any business (small or large) would need to crunch numbers, have schedules and have consideration for ROI. Can someone please explain to me if a product startup is different?

 

 

 

 

 


  • In a startup there typically are no numbers to crunch, or schedules to work with, or any ROI considerations. You can’t extrapolate from zero data points, after all. Startups are usually a binary play: either the product is good and people want it and the startup can grow into a serious business (with number crunching and schedules) or the product is no good and the startup folds.

    That said in your relationship there should be very clear communication. Is it OK if it takes 5 years for your husband to find product-market fit? Is your husband supporting himself with his savings or are you supporting him? Does your husband’s startup dream hurt your relationship with him? Are you disproportionately sacrificing for his happiness?

    It’s almost impossible for outsiders to judge if your husband is systematically working towards a realistic goal or whether he’s deluding himself by working on a hobby project hoping the business side will somehow take care of itself.

    Your husband can’t expect you to support him indefinitely (if that’s what’s going on here). You can give him another year (or whatever you think is reasonable) and after that he’ll have to suck it up, get a regular job, and work on his AI app during nights and weekends.

    Frankly, these matters should have been discussed before your husband embarked on his startup. Startups are stressful even when everything goes well and many marriages don’t survive it. If your husband refuses to talk with you like an adult then you need marriage counseling.

  • Try not to confuse a startup with a small business. Small businesses in an established market like restaurants, lawn care services, automotive repair, or web services will have things like timelines, projections, or financial plans. Startups are sometimes ideas or products that have to establish its own market. A startup has to test to see if there is a market. Either way, his product needs to be a solution to someone’s problem, or a wildly better alternative to products or services that people or companies already use. If it’s not that, then…

    Lastly, perhaps reading some books on startups would help you understand what’s going on with your husband’s intuition. I know that when someone’s critiquing me on my process, and I have a hard time explaining it to them, because there’s intuitive knowledge that I’m using, based off previous experiences, or info I picked up somewhere.

  • I would say, instead of asking about timelines, projections and financial plans. Ask about progress, milestones and goals. Those are more startup-y questions. Once he has an MVP, (minimal viable product) and looking for investment, then your previous questions become far more valid at tat stage.

    A startup is great, I’m on number 2 but if it looks to you that after a year (although not very long) it’s beginning to look like a money pit, then yes; ask the tough questions.

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