The overlapping journey as founder and father

This month– last week specifically– marks Collibra’s 12th anniversary, and our team recently gathered to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished in the last 12 years. Then yesterday my family and I celebrated Father’s Day. The timing of these two markers together flooded me with wonderful memories and made me reflect on how similar the journey is for founders and fathers. Here are some of the key similarities I’ve noticed:

  • Hope, anxiety and excitement: Before we launched Collibra, we’d been working hard toward that moment for over a year. Finally the day came when we stood in the notary in Belgium and incorporated the company. Similarly, there is a time of waiting and planning that happens before you have children. What is strikingly similar about the situations is the hope, anxiety and excitement about what is to come.
  • Mini-milestones sometimes signal bigger shifts: As both children and companies grow up there are so many great milestones that signify something larger. For me, one that stands out is that first milestone of independence. For our daughters it was taking their first steps. For Collibra it was raising our Series A funding. While different, they both show the promise of being able to move on to bigger and better things – to keep growing and become more independent.
  • Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems: In the beginning – for both a company and a baby – you can’t leave them alone for a minute. They require constant feeding and attention that can be tiring. When you’re growing a business you’re often there 24/7, working constantly to keep things moving. There are a lot of ups and downs – frustration and doubt. Being a new parent can be similar – this tiny creature is so new and small, they rely on you for everything and you have so many doubts about whether you are doing anything right. But as both companies and children grow, so do the problems and challenges you need to overcome. In the beginning, if you don’t look at it for an hour, something might be wrong. As a company grows that’s not the case. Collibra is much more independent today, but the problems also become a little more complex.
  • Learning to let go and allow your role to change: Your role overtime changes, as both a parent and a founder. In the beginning, you do everything. As a company grows up, you have to let go. You have to bring in a team around you who are experts and allow them to help the company flourish. You may have heard the term helicopter parent – I think companies can suffer from a similar effect with helicopter founders. Those who stay too close to too much and can become a bottleneck of growth that can suffocate the company. Hiring our first management team was one of those big steps for Collibra. For kids, this can be about sending them to school for the first time and putting trust in others to do what they do best.
  • Each role gives you a different perspective that changes who you are: Becoming a father gave me a perspective that makes me a better leader for Collibra. When your children are born, everything shifts and your priorities and problems become more relative. It’s helped me realize you need to give space to allow things to grow. It’s made difficult decisions easier to make, because I’m doing everything for my family. Being a parent has also given me more empathy and compassion, and the desire to create a welcoming environment for other working parents with the flexibility they need.
  • Dreams beyond your wildest expectations: Many parenting books talk about managing the expectations you have of your children. You obviously come into it with hopes, dreams and thoughts about what will happen and what your children will be when they grow up. There’s similar anticipation when you start building a company. Collibra has exceeded all of my wildest dreams. When we started out, we saw the success many companies were having in Silicon Valley, but that didn’t exist in Belgium. I’m so proud of Collibra because I think what we’ve built is very unique and it helps to provide that example for future Belgian entrepreneurs. When it comes to my daughters, they are both so little that my dreams for them are still very big and there is so much time left for them to realize them.
  • Treasure every moment: If I could give some advice to my former self, both as founder and father, it would be to treasure every moment. People often say in raising kids, the days are slow but the years go fast. Building a company is like that, too. There are stressful moments and days that move slowly, but when you turn around, 12 years may have passed. Your child only speaks their first word once. Your company only raises that first round once. You can never go back to those moments, and you’re only going to experience them once – whether good or bad – so it’s important to treasure every single one.

While building a company will have many parallels to raising a child, it’s all relative. As a founder, you would do almost anything for that “baby,” but as a father, you would literally do anything for your child. There are similar, powerful and defining moments in both journeys, but for me, nothing tops being a dad.


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