6 tech companies founded by married couples
12 min read
23 May 2013
What would it be like if your business partner was your spouse? These six couples made it work. Here they give some advice on building a successful business as true partners.
Co-founders with a longstanding personal bond have a better chance of building a successful company than those who don’t share, at least, a friendship. After all, they will spend long hours together to ensure their business will flourish. But what if your business partner was your spouse?
Risk-averse investors tend to stray from co-founding couples as the myth of potential chaos spirals the web. The tech world, however, has quite a rich history of married co-founders.
Here are six famous tech companies founded by couples.
1. Alt12 Apps
Founders: Casey Sackett and Jennifer Wong
They met, moved in together, got married and got pregnant all within the span of one year. After having seen each other at various tech events, they started talking. According to Casey, this common interest is an important quality when starting a business together. They hadn’t planned on being co-founders. In fact, they both started by searching the ideal business partner outside of their relationship.
The inspiration for Alt12 Apps dawned on Jennifer when she was five months pregnant. She was looking for a mobile app that would give her information and advice about pregnancy and found nothing of substance. Alt12 is a community built platform for mobile devices that boasts three separate apps: Pink Pad, BabyBump and Kidfolio. Each app covers a specific topic, from fertility to parenting advice.
The company has grown to over seven million downloads with over 1.3m monthly active users. On its own, BabyBump has hit eight million downloads, with 1.5m of those users spending at least an hour a day on the app.
“Besides finding a realistic match of abilities as a couple, you have to like spending 24/7 with your partner and you have to figure out how to mentally separate work from your personal lives. It’s a constant exercise of setting boundaries. We’ve created hard and fast rules about when ‘shop talk’ must stop, and from the moment our kids are home, through dinner, bath time and tucking them in bed, we don’t allow any work conversation. This isn’t just important for us as a couple, but our kids also need us to be there whole-heartedly.” – Jennifer Wong
Founders: Julia and Kevin Hartz
Instead of a normal proposal, Kevin asked Julia to create a company with him. She recalls that they had never spent more than two days together in a row, but his admission that she was the perfect co-founder had her move in with him, marry him and start Eventbrite.
Eventbrite was a notion that came from Kevin’s background. Julia wanted to democratise an industry using online payments and Kevin’s previous experience at PayPal gave him the right tools to get them started. The site allows users to plan events, sell tickets and promote across different social platforms.
The company recently sold their 100th million ticket. Eventbrite pulled in $207m in 2010, doubled that to $400m in 2011, and then bumped it up to $600m in 2012. They have recently announced the integration of their service with Facebook Event’s “buy ticket” feature.
“We had a couple of rules. We work on completely separate parts of the business. Basically, we never overlap so we’re optimising our complimentary skills, getting from point A to point B two times faster. It also really preserves our relationship because otherwise if we were working on the same spreadsheet, we’d be fighting over the mouth.” – Julia Hartz
Founders: Eric and Susan Gregg Koger
Eric and Susan have been together since high-school. Eric makes sure to point out that the company’s vision was and is Susan’s. While he takes care of business, she is the creative drive behind the company.
Susan has such a passion for vintage clothing that she even bought clothes that didn’t fit her or weren’t her style. When they went to college, her dorm room became so crowded that Eric convinced her to set up a site to sell some of her clothes. ModCloth.com is an online clothing and accessories retailer that focusses solely on vintage-inspired fashion.
By the end of 2012, ModCloth featured 1,200 designers who shared and sold their designs to the community. Their smartphone traffic has doubled, while their tablet device traffic tripled since 2011. Each day, ModCloth adds an average of 40 new items to its website.
“I was thrifting a lot and finding really, really amazing stuff that I just couldn’t pass up. So my closet got bigger and bigger. Although he’s not necessarily a good source for fashion advice, Eric was basically my tech department. We’ve basically being doing ModCloth our entire adult lives in some form or another. What better partner to ask for?” – Susan Gregg Koger
4. Six Apart
Founders: Ben and Mena Trott
Ben and Mena Trott were high-school sweethearts since the age of 17, but are now divorced. In college, they were already trying to create a startup web design company but according to Mena, they never knew where to start. Becoming co-founders was as much of a coincidence as the start of their company.
The name of the company was inspired by the six days difference between their birthdays. Ben, a software engineer, built a program to support dollarshort.org – a blog written by Mena – when the available tools didn’t offer enough control over web journal participation. Although their first product, Movable Type, may not be a household name, it’s responsible for creating the products that have produced what we now refer to as the blogosphere.
The company went on to create the TypePad hosted blogging service, and Vox, a free blogging service for friends and families.
“Ben does his job as CEO and puts in long hours while I’m at home with our daughter. I want to separate the husband, wife, co-founder relationship. It’s a big step for me to be at home instead of at work, because I have always been the sort of person that needs to be involved and to be making the decisions. I can, however, step away and say ‘I trust these people’ because having my husband there makes it easier.” – Mena Trott (when still married)
Founders: Rashmi Sinha and Jon Boutelle
Rashmi Sinha and Jon Boutelle both attended Brown University. In an attempt to approach her, Jon purposefully hid his watch and asked her for the time.
Jon believes that disagreements are healthy for the progression of the business. He stresses that your ideal business partner must have different points of view, but will know you well enough to understand your perspective.
SlideShare was founded in 2006 after Jon organised a conference and realised there was no way to share the resulting presentation files online. The YouTube for presentations, SlideShare is a Web 2.0 based slide hosting website where users can upload, view, rate and share PDF, PowerPoint and OpenOffice file formats.
The site gets more than 50m unique visitors each month. Small business owners and C-level executives visit SlideShare more than any other social network, according to ComScore. SlideShare has also recently passed the 10m mark for presentations uploaded to the site.
“You have to like your co-founders enough to be married to them. This makes it easier for us as we like each other even after working together all the time. You wake up and that thought you’ve been processing at night about the business is immediately in the other person’s head. By the time you’re in the office, you’ve already pushed that idea forward two hours.” – Rashmi Sinha
Founders: Jenn Deering and Hayes Davis
Jenn and Hayes first met in high school and have been together ever since. According to Jenn, a lot of what they learned about running startups together was figured out through their actual relationship, coupled with the process of trying and doing better next time round.
One day, while eating breakfast tacos, they were wondering how many people could be reached by a single tweet. What started out as TweetReach, became one of the metric tools for Union Metrics. Union Metrics focuses on delivering simple social metrics that enables marketers and agencies to measure and improve their social media campaigns.
In 2012, Union Metrics users ran more than 1.8m Twitter analytic reports and Pro subscribers tracked more than 700m tweets about their campaigns and clients’ brand presence. Union Metrics products are in place at more than 60 per cent of the top 25 public relations agencies and 25 per cent of the Fortune 500.
“The secret is that there is no secret. This is hard and we bust our butts every single day to make it work. We love working and building our company together. There is nothing more challenging and more rewarding than running a business and it’s pretty incredible that we get to experience it side by side.” – Hayes and Jenn Davis