So you think couples are a bad investment?

Today when I heard about Salesforce buying Buddy Media for $800 million, I tweeted that perhaps that would be the end of venture capitalists saying that it isn’t prudent to fund married couples. I say why not? I mean, just look at this list. Do you really need more testimonials?  

  • Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner were co-founders of Cisco Systems
  • Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum were co-founders of VMWare
  • Michael & Xochi Birch were co-founders of Bebo
  • Caterina Fake & Stewart Butterfield, co-founders, Flickr
  • Rashmi Sinha and Jon Boutelle, co-founders, Slideshare
  • Brian & Lisa Sugar, co-founders Sugar Inc
  • Michael & Kass Lazerow, co-founders, Buddy Media
  • Kevin & Julia Hartz, co-founders, Eventbrite
  • Victoria Ransom & Alain Chuard, co-founders, Wildfire Interactive.

I personally know four couples on that list and frankly every time I have interacted with them over past decade or so, I have only found admiration in how they handled work and personal life and found a balance. Some say that you are essentially married to your co-founders. I think in this case they literally are. 

Despite the success of these companies – there are many more out there – VC community suffers from weird sort of dogma. They look for patterns and use those patterns to make predictable investment decisions. I don’t get it.

Responses

  1. Andrew Hyde (@andrewhyde) says:

    June 5th, 2012 at 5:26 am Reply

    Some of my favorite founders are also couples. (page.ly and foodzie.com)

  2. Terry Jones (@terrycojones) says:

    May 30th, 2012 at 4:28 pm Reply

    See also Simon & Nat of Lanyrd.

    1. Om Malik says:

      May 30th, 2012 at 9:50 pm Reply

      Thanks Terry. I have met both of them at some point.

  3. Rashmi Sinha (@rashmi) says:

    May 30th, 2012 at 1:37 pm Reply

    I think its a huge advantage to have your partner as your co-founder. There is such a high bandwidth connection between the two of us – I can think of an idea and have a discussion over breakfast. By the time we come in to work, we have already brainstormed for an hour or more.

    Being passionate about the same thing also helps the relationship. Given the crazy hours we work, it would have been hard for the other person to deal with that. But this way, at least we share the same passion which makes it easier.

    1. Om Malik says:

      May 30th, 2012 at 9:50 pm Reply

      I think it is a great counterpoint and I think the bias against couples is mostly because VCs don’t want to delve into human relationships, when the entire busiess of “business” is human relationships. Actually don’t even get me started on the biases…

    2. Rajib Aditya says:

      August 30th, 2013 at 9:38 am Reply

      Hey Rashmi- you have a great site/idea. And you have support, understanding and collaboration in one package deal- your partner. All the best. I love Slideshare and I spend a lot of time on it.

  4. Joshua Strebel (@strebel) says:

    May 30th, 2012 at 1:28 pm Reply

    Joshua & Sally Strebel are founders of Page.ly

  5. Mary Lou Jepsen says:

    May 30th, 2012 at 8:42 am Reply

    My thinking is that it happens often (more than is acknowledged). The arguably most accomplished woman in technology – with 2 Nobel prizes – Marie Curie – also collaborated with her husband. I was recently at the Anita Borg Innovation in Computer Science awards dinner – two of the three winners were married and the 2 that were cited their husbands as their main collaborators. Also, you left Marvell off the list – Sehat and Weili the founders are married. (less famously I too started a company and hired my husband as its first employee – we run it together),

    VCs have told me they don’t fund married couples because they worry about the “problems”. I wonder if they could do the diligence to find out if there are problems more often with married couple founders or otherwise – e.g. would they please base their decisions on data. While I do know the Cisco founders and Flickr founders did divorce – the companies were successful (which I is supposed to be the priority for VC). If someone would collect the data I would be interested to know if the divorce rate is lower than the national average, looking at the above list would suggest so, I’d also like to know if the founder “kind-of-like-divorce-but-at-the-company” rate for married co-founders is lower than the average for startups.

    1. Om Malik says:

      May 30th, 2012 at 9:51 pm Reply

      Thanks Mary Lou. What a nice, thoughtful comment.

  6. Nitin Nanivadekar says:

    May 29th, 2012 at 11:29 pm Reply

    Did I see the closest couple (only 6-apart) of Ben and Mena Trott here?

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