Does entrepreneurial success require working around the clock, at the expense of a balanced, healthy lifestyle?

This week a debate broke out on Twitter between high-profile tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists about whether you need to be a workaholic to build a great business.

Blake Robbins, a veteran of SpaceX, Nest, and Google who is now an early-stage investor at Ludlow Ventures in Detroit, started the discussion on Tuesday with his thoughts on Silicon Valley's mythology of endless work hours.

"When I first got into tech. I thought it was 'cool' to work on the weekends or holidays. I quickly realized that's a recipe for disaster," Robbins wrote.

He continued: "I promise you...your competition isn't beating you because they are working more hours than you. It's because they are working smarter."

Keith Rabois, an early-stage investor and a member of the "PayPal Mafia," a group of former PayPal founders, executives, and investors who have gone on to launch other successful tech companies, disagreed.

"Totally false," Rabois responded. "Read a bio of Elon. Or about Amazon. Or about the first 4 years of FB. Or PayPal. Or Bill Bellichick."

In another tweet, Rabois added that "It is pure arrogance to believe you can outsmart other talented people."

Basecamp co-founder and CTO David Heinemeier Hansson later wrote a post on Medium calling out Rabois and investor Mark Suster, who echoed Rabois's sentiments in a tweet of his own. Hansson's piece indicted the cutthroat attitudes of venture capitalists as toxic. He said the culture trickles down to entrepreneurs, who in turn create workaholic company cultures.

"There's an ingrained mythology around startups that not only celebrates burn-out efforts, but damn well requires it," Hansson wrote. "It's the logical outcome of trying to compress a lifetime's worth of work into the abbreviated timeline of a venture fund."

Following the publication of the Medium post, Suster, on Twitter, reiterated his support for Rabois's position:

"I' m with Keith. People hate hearing it but in hyper-competitive markets the winner works harder, longer, more aggressively just as in sports,'' he wrote.

Suster, who is a two-time entrepreneur and now an investor, says the culture of sacrifice and around-the-clock work isn't a lifestyle for everyone.

"Building a VC-backed business with goal of hyper-scale isn't an enviable goal for every human. But if it's yours you must compete all out," he tweeted.

Jason Fried, who co-found Basecamp with Hansson, said during an interview that success is more about using time efficiently and not blindly working as hard as you can for as long as you can to chase success.

"Businesses have CFOs and keep track of every dollar but they have no one looking out and balancing time," says Fried. "As a leader, you shouldn't promote toxic work culture. You should promote a positive, focused, and efficient one."

Published on: Jun 1, 2017