There has been a lot of chatter recently around husband-wife combos in startups, following some instances of couples who were previously helming highly successful businesses getting estranged.
As it invariably happens in such cases, the media tends to play it up, giving rise to generalisations and even prompting a debate on the so-called “dangers” to investors and other stakeholders of having couple-preneurs. In fact, the percentage of husband-wife ventures that grow from strength to strength over the years far outstrips those that do not.
It is important to cut through the noise and consider a couple of points. Building a venture is a long-term journey. Market conditions may change and business models evolve, people and their priorities change and they may begin to see things differently.
While ShopClues co-founder Sandeep Aggarwal cries foul, his estranged partners swear by fair play
There are many cases of partnership breakdowns where one or more of the original founders exit — sometimes within months, years or some even decades later. Businesses are hived off, spliced and diced all the time to accommodate one or more parties. Many times, the warring sides could be siblings, or parent-child combos. In other cases, the partners are completely unrelated, and still a split happens — either early in the companies’ evolution or years down the line. Often, businesses go on to become more successful as separate entities.
In some of the more high-profile cases recently of startup couples who have gone their separate ways, it is important to consider that the husband and wife have worked together to build what is widely regarded as highly successful businesses. Their ventures employ thousands and have attracted funding from top investors. Obviously, this is an indication that the combination worked. After years of working together, if people have decided to part ways, it’s neither professional nor useful to run them down or paint other ventures with the same broad brushstroke.
My own experience across multiple ventures has shown that our investors have embraced our "all-in" approach, and appreciate that my wife Meena and I are professionally and emotionally invested in the businesses. Entrepreneurship is a very hard game, you need a lot of passion to stick to it and it helps when both are bound by a common desire and emotionally tied together.
Of course, there are tensions and frustrations as you build the business and, like it happens on the domestic front, there will always be issues on which you disagree. In fact it is beneficial and productive to have strong alternative viewpoints being discussed. Healthy debates are essential in business, and in life. But mutual respect, understanding and the chemistry that you share help in agreeing to move forward. The joy that one feels in establishing a venture that goes on to make a mark, changing the paradigm for customers, employees, partners and contributes to shaping new thinking, is unparalleled. The feeling is amplified when you are building it together as a couple.