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Tech Industry

Startup Secret 34: All in the family

Entrepreneurialism is a gift that you get from your parents, and one you might want to consider giving to your children.

Take your kids to work.


At Stanford's StartX pitch event last week, I met Trent Hazy, CEO of MindSumo. It's clever; see my writeup. But I was honestly more interested in asking Trent if he was related to the Hazy whose name is on the awesome Steven Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum (an annex to the Smithsonian Air and Space) in Virginia. "He's my father," Trent said.

Which brings me to today's tip.

I have interviewed thousands of tech company founders. After the first few hundred, I started to ask my interviewees how they came to entrepreneurial life. Nearly all--I'd estimate 90%--said, "My father was an entrepreneur." A few said their mother. Fewer still were the first in their family to get the bug.

Trent's father, Steven Hazy, was an entrepreneur. He started the jet airliner leasing business. The museum? He funded it, with a $65 million grant.

Before he could afford to put his name on a national museum, the elder Hazy made a habit of taking his kids, one a time, on business trips and adventures with him. "I used to watch my father negotiate with the CEOs of airlines," Trent says. He learned the unusual blend of aggressiveness and humility that's required to do deals with powerful people.

More importantly, I believe, Trent learned that working for yourself, despite the risk and the uncertainty, was a good life. Certainly Steven Hazy found success.

And if he hadn't? Trent still would have learned that one can live with risk. He might even have learned that it's the only way to live. Many founders I've talked to over the years told me they watched their parents struggle with the ups and downs of running their own companies. But they were kids. They didn't know then that it was a struggle. It was just how you lived. Their parents showed, by living, that there's more to work than earning a steady paycheck.

Along the way, these kids picked up skills, the same way a carpenter's child is going to learn how to size up a piece of wood.

I suppose a yearning for a risky work life might be in part genetic, but kids do learn how to live from their parents. If you want yours to make their own ways through life, have them ride shotgun while you go down the path yourself.

Startup Secrets is based on personal interviews with people building companies and from their blog posts and news stories. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter or come back to Rafe's Radar every day for a new one. See all the Startup Secrets.