Repeat after me. Unicorns are NOT real. Unicorns are mythical creatures.
Starting a company is one of the toughest endeavors you can put yourself through personally. Plenty of articles have been written about how startups can destroy your personal life, and can generally be an all-consuming struggle. But what happens when you decide to take the leap and start a company with your significant other? I can happily say that not only did I decide to take that route, but the business has been growing for 20 years and our marriage remains solid. Here is some advice for those of you considering starting a business with your spouse.
You will take your startup personally, so you might as well co-found with the person who cares about you the most. Many people already agree, and use the analogy that co-founding a company is like picking a spouse. So why not pick your spouse to co-found your company with? There are plenty of examples of successful husband-wife co-founders who started massive businesses: in the non-tech world Kate Spade, Amy’s Kitchen, Fiji Water and others were started by husband-wife teams. In the tech world, Houzz, Eventbrite, VMware and others were co-founded by husband and wife. Yet VCs have an aversion to backing husband-wife teams because of the potential ramifications if things go south with the business. Newsflash – if things are going south, they are going to get ugly regardless of the personal circumstances founders are faced with.
You will build a culture that is consistent with your family life. I am a huge believer in work-life balance, and when we became parents, our culture reflected our changing life circumstances. This is something I’m particularly proud of. We have a lot of team members who are family-oriented and have responsibilities outside the office with their children. We believe that work should be left at work, and our culture changed with time to reflect that world view. We still wake up hungry every day to build a huge business, but not at the expense of our personal lives, and the personal lives of our employees.
It’s an amazing thing to have a shared vision. When you talk about having aligned goals – personally, financially and professionally – there is no better way of being perfectly aligned then co-founding a company with your spouse. If you ultimately share the same vision – short and long-term – for your life, it’s amazing to realize that vision in the form of your company. It’s exciting betting on each other and taking a chance on each other to build something great.
Starting a company with my wife was one of the best decisions I made. I’m proud of what we’ve built together and I’m proud of the culture we’ve built at Replicon. I encourage any husband-wife teams to take the chance on each other and start something together. It’s one of the most rewarding life journeys you will take, regardless of whether you fail or succeed.