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How do investors really feel about married cofounding teams?

X
You hear a lot about investors having a negative reaction to husband/wife or married teams. But they seem to love the story of friends starting companies together.
There are a few success stories that are always touted - Bebo, Eventbrite, Slideshare and Wildfire. But are these more exceptions to the rule than the rule? Would love to hear from investors and also entrepreneurs who have been there, about how investors really feel about married confounding teams.

6 Replies

Josh Benjamin
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Josh Benjamin Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder of Lifechime | Authentic Human Being
Like any cofounding arrangement, it seems they work better when there is more skill complement than overlap. I would expect more long-term success from a dichotomy of product + business than both working on product (e.g. designer + engineer).
Steve Simitzis
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Steve Simitzis Advisor
Founder and CEO at Treat
My ex-wife and I were on the founding team of a company (it's still running with a different team). Imagine the high pressure environment of a startup, woven completely into your marriage.

You can't go home and vent to your spouse, because your spouse becomes the person you need to vent about. Or you find yourselves not aligned on a business decision. Or you take different sides in a dispute with someone else on the team.

How do you handle those arguments? How do you handle your home life when your home becomes your office? How do you handle your work life when simple disagreements about UX turn into deeply personal shouting matches?

These are very tricky to navigate, and can drive a wedge in your marriage. Not ALL marriages. But it's a fundamentally differently kind of cofounder relationship than anything else. It is more volatile. And if it blows up? The whole company is at risk.

So, yes, I don't blame investors for steering away. I don't know how they would do diligence on your marriage and communication skills.

If you're a developer married to a designer, I would say, build some fun side projects together. But if one of you has a startup idea, support your spouse by finding a great cofounder to work with. Think of it this way: if you each have your own cofounder buddy, not only will you keep your marriage happy, you're diversifying your portfolio.
Michael Barnathan
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Michael Barnathan Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder of The Mountaintop Program, Google Alum
Quite simply, starting a business with someone you also have a personal relationship with adds risk to both the business and the relationship, because a quarrel in one area can spill over into the other. I briefly worked for a company that had a married founding team - they split, it was messy, and they nearly took the whole company with them.

I'm sure there are examples of it working, but from the investor's standpoint, it further biases the odds. And investing is fundamentally an odds game.
Corey Blaser
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Corey Blaser Entrepreneur
Founder at Origami
50% of all marriages fail, and that is without the stress of working on a startup together. Which means any investment is almost guaranteed to fail.
Alison Lewis
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Alison Lewis Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO/Creative Director
I work with my significant other and people have family run and operated businesses for years. I do not agree at all that it is what causes a business to fail or your marriage to fail. It is a little strain on us, so we set very clear boundaries.

What we've done as well is build a triad of three people/founders. We are all very different in our knowledge, capabilities and approach. When there is something on the line (like investors) to be discussed, we discuss it together. It isn't just two people.

We also have the third person agree that they have the right - at any time - to speak up if they see us (the couple) causing difficulties within the partnership or hindering or causing issues.

You have to be with someone that can really take honesty and vice versa. I'd rather be working with my other than some of the other people who have left and quit during the start-up phase. He's got my back while I'm hustling. Loyalty and a shared vision go a long way - if you are married or not. Building something together can be rewarding, just take time out together with a "no work" nights and activities.

Sean Percival
2
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Sean Percival Advisor
VP Marketing Topix + Distribution Hacker at 500 Startups.
As an investor I personally don't have a bias against husband/wife teams. Although many investors do so you are likely to get some push back in market. I have been there before myself so understand a lot of the value this type of team can drive. Of course doing a business together will either make or break your relationship. In the case where it breaks and the founders split up the company is pretty much done so this is likely the biggest concern for investors.

If you are a husband and wife team and have done several businesses together I would note that during any investor meetings. That at least tells them you have been there before (and survived).

I have seen some founders hide their relationship or have the wife use a madden name. I would not recommend that personally as they are likely to find out in the end anyway.
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