The Dad in Inside Out is Totally a Tech Startup Guy

If you needed any more proof that startups are becoming mainstream, definitely head along to watch Pixar’s latest tear-jerking movie, Inside Out. Not only can we personally attest that it’s a great movie, pay close enough attention, you’ll notice that the token dad in the movie totally a tech startup guy.  

***Alert: Spoilers Ahead*** If you haven't watched Inside Out yet, and you plan to, there are some spoilers ahead! (editor's note: if you do plan on watching the movie, bring some tissues)

Inside Out is mainly set in LA, and features bubbly, hockey loving 11-year-old Riley, and her emotions: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness, who all live in a control centre in Riley’s bright, technicolour mind (aptly named “Headquarters”). When Riley’s family uproot from idyllic Minnesota to a run-down house in downtown LA however, things are thrown into chaos.   

This isn’t the first time the Bay-Area animation studio has set a movie in the Golden state. All of the Toy Story movies were set in California’s tri-county area, and the iconic floating house from Up bears an uncanny resemblance to the Victoria era houses in Berkeley. However, this is the first time startups have been featured, and unfortunately they aren’t featured in a positive light.  

The clues pointing to Riley’s dad being a startup guy ranges from the obvious: the big move to LA is to definitely launch the new venture, and during the movie the dad has several terse exchanges with “investors”.  There are also some “blink and you’ll miss it” clues– in one scene, we see the dad wearing the customary startup t-shirt with his company name (brang) and logo.  

Although clumsiness and bickering between the emotions trigger the main series of unfortunate events, it is her dad’s career path that drives that plot onwards. The everyday struggles of startups such as funding, time commitments and stress all take a toll on the family, particularly Riley. She has a difficult time adjusting to the new city, and her dad becomes distracted, is unable to tuck her into bed anymore and is absent when Riley tries out for a new hockey team.

On the surface, this might be another movie about how adults are always too busy for children and don’t quite understand how they feel, but Pixar has definitely highlighted a rarely addressed problem. For many people looking inwards, it might seem founders and people working in startups have struck gold by being able to build their own dreams, but in reality, entrepreneurship hides a rarely talked about dark side. Overwhelming odds, youth, irregular hours and unhealthy habits, qualities which have become commonly accepted cornerstones of the modern day startup, all lead to higher rates of depression and stress for entrepreneurs. Leadership in the face of overwhelming odds often require founders to forge onwards with a 'we're crushing it' attitude and keep team morale up at whatever the cost. Extended work hours have become a status symbol amongst teams. 

None of these bode well for the rest of the family. Just as depression, weakness and feelings of vulnerability are taboo subjects in the tech startup world, family members are often expected to support the entrepreneur, even if they don’t quite understand everything going on.

In the movie though, the family were fortunately able to rally around Riley, reforging bonds and making it a nice, happy family again. It’s a nice reminder that (whether you work in a startup or not), it's important to always remember to have time to give your loved ones a hug. And here’s to hoping Brang gets funded.