What are some examples of early-stage tech startups in which married couples work together and have publicly talked about that?
Hello! Thanks for your question about early-stage tech start-ups that are currently run by married couples in the Bay Area. The short version is that there are many tech start-ups being run successfully by married couples who are able to balance the demands of their families as well as the pressures they experience in running a new company. Below you will find a deep dive of my findings along with all the details for how I came to this answer.
POPSUGAR - LISA AND BRIAN SUGAR
This media and technology company for women was created by husband and wife duo Lisa and Brian Sugar in 2006. Their company provides customized lifestyle information for their target niche of women who are aged up to their mid-30's. This information is distributed through 39 websites (including PS. Must Have and ShopStyle) under the PopSugar umbrella. Due to on-going success, they now boast 25 million unique visitors per month and are in the process of expanding their services by further enhancing their content network and growing all business aspects of the company by managing their business strategy. Lisa manages the editorial content while Brian manages product and partnership development as well as pursuing new technologies.
Lisa and Brian have 3 daughters and enjoy working together. This positive energy is felt throughout the organization and has developed into a culture of family togetherness. To help balance work and home life, their oldest daughter had her own office space for when there was no other option but to bring the kids to work.
MODCLOTH - ERIC KOGER AND SUSAN GREGG KOGER
Similar to PopSugar, ModCloth is an online fashion and lifestyle company dedicated to inspiring the community around them. Founders, Eric Koger and Susan Gregg Koger, created the company together while in college in Pittsburgh. Their strong work ethic led to the gradual growth of the business and its current success. Today, the company is headquartered in San Francisco but also have offices in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. Currently, they employ over 350 employees and in 2010 they were voted "America's Fastest-Growing Retailer" by Inc Magazine.
Susan is the Chief Creative Officer and oversees the designers and all creative aspects of the company while Eric is the former Chief Executive Officer who managed the business aspect of ModCloth (he stepped down from this role in 2015). Both are highly organized and rely on a variety of management tools (such as Google Calendar, Evernote and Asana) to keep on top of everything on their to do list. The secret to their success is figuring out what they're each good at and delegating everything else. They're both in their early 30's and have one dog.
EVERNOTE - PHIL LIBIN AND SHARMILA BIRBAL Located in Mountain View, CA, Evernote is a digital platform that allows users to take notes digitally as well as manage them. It was founded in 2007 and its goal is to empower users by allowing them to better communicate throughout a team and create quality presentations. Sharmila is heavily involved in the company as her husband's assistant.
Their goal is to transform the way their over 100 million users interact with the tool by providing opportunities to integrate Evernote into their everyday work life. This can be achieved through Evernote's Presentation Mode and Work Chat software. Phil stepped down as CEO in 2015 but is still heavily involved as executive chairman.
Y COMBINATOR - PAUL GRAHAM AND JESSICA LIVINGSTON
Y Combinator, founded in 2005 by husband and wife team Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston, itself a start-up, has created a program for budding start-up ventures to prepare for presentation of their businesses. It gives them the tools they need to attract and retain investors. Over the years they've founded over 1,000 start-ups including DropBox, Airbnb and Reddit and is considered a leader in this field of tech.
Paul stepped down from running the company 6 months ago due in part to his role becoming more administrative which he admits isn't one of his strengths. Both have stated that they've enjoyed working together in the past and have recognized and focused on the strengths they each brought to the company. Both have great respect for each other. Paul often calls Jessica Y Combinator's secret weapon based on her skill and expertise. The couple has 2 children.
HOUZZ – ADI TATARKO AND ALON COHEN
Houzz is a home design start-up that was founded in 2009 by a husband and wife pair. Their goal is to transform client living spaces into the type of whimsical scenes found in magazines. Based on their hard work, they now enjoy 25 million visitors to their website monthly which has in turn contributed to their company’s astounding net worth of $2 billion.
As President of the company Alon also manages the technical and digital sides of the company. He’s constantly working on new methods to further enhance the services they provide. Adi is the CEO and also manages the editorial department. Both have strived to create a nurturing and open environment for their employees. Married since 1998 they both have a passion for what they do since the company was born out of their own personal experience attempting to renovate their home. They work well together, smoothly fitting into the roles that come naturally to them.
DUCK DUCK MOOSE – MICHAEL FLEXER AND CAROLINE HU FLEXER
Located in Palo Alto, this company was founded in 2008 when this husband and wife duo realized the interest their young daughter had in their cell phone. The mobile app they launched was is a learning tool for children and now boasts 2.4 million paid downloads. The company started out small with just 9 employees but has steadily grown to include 20 employees.
Michael and Caroline have 2 daughters and have nurtured a passionate and energetic culture based on their dedication and understanding of their market. As parents themselves, these co-founders understand the value of work/life balance and encourage each other and their employees to always keep this in mind and try to put their families first when possible.
MEFEEDIA – FRANK SINTON AND LISA CONNELL
Based in Burbank, CA, MeFeedia was founded in 2007 and began as a video sharing service. Today’s is a major "video-aggregator" constantly updating user feeds to keep them knowledgeable about the world around them.
The couple chose to move their family to Ormond Beach, FL in an effort to achieve quality work/life balance. As CEO, Frank regularly travels between Burbank and Ormond Beach while Lisa manages sales and works from their home office. Their goal for their children is to raise them in a low-key environment that allows them to connect as a family. They make an effort to set aside time every evening to have dinner together. Frank often works 20-hour days but as a family they’ve found a balance that works for them.
FACTORS THAT MAY AFFECT MARRIED CO-FOUNDERS
It's important to note that 80% to 90% of all U.S. businesses are family owned and operated. Of this group, one third of companies are run by husband and wife partnerships. Diane Lykes who works for Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany, NY counselling couples who run businesses together states that, "The most important thing is they respect each other the same way they respect any good employee, and they remember that all work and no play will be the death of their marriage". This rings true for how Lisa and Brian Sugar choose to manage their work/life balance, they make time for their family.
Divorce rates in North America sit at around 50%. With this in mind, in addition to the stresses of running a new business and managing everything that this entails, general relationship and familial issues can contribute to the downfall of startups if not managed well. Often times couples see their business as their baby, in addition to their actual children, and strive to put in as much energy to ensure its success and has longevity.
Differing personalities can also compromise longevity. Partners work together all day and are together in the evenings with their family. It's important that partners enjoy all of this time together. It's also important to find the right balance between family and the demands resulting from starting a business.
HOW TO MAKE IT WORK
All of the co-founders mentioned attest to the following methods of making their start-ups become successful. It's key to figure out what each person does best within the company and allow them to manage that aspect. If one partner is better able to communicate versus someone who can manage the financial aspect; trust their abilities. Likewise, allow the more creative partner to manage design aspects of the company while the tech savvy partner manages technical operation.
It's important to ensure that both partners have equal division of responsibility both within the company and within the household. Just because couples work together all day doesn't mean that their company needs to be the only topic of discussion outside of the office. Couples should consider allocating time for family meals and activities together. However, just like marriages, sacrifices may have to be made for the company. In the early days of a start-up, many hours of hard work are required but it's important that there's still some form of agreed to balance.
Trust in one another as well as clear, concise communication is needed. In the early days of starting a business both parties have a strong belief in the product they've developed and trust in each other. It's this unity that allows them to convey to investors the importance of what they have to offer as a business and get the business started. This early trust and open communication must remain consistent in order to them to work well together to build and maintain their company.
In addition to employing the best individuals for teams within start-ups, the opportunities above will allow companies to enjoy steady growth and fruitfulness in the long-run. Like marriage, running a business is hard work but staying focused and compromising when needed will go a long way in achieving an agreeable work/life balance.
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