I’ve found that “hidden co-founders” – husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends and even parents – are often a crucial factor in the success of a startup. Why? Because being a founder and entrepreneur is not like a regular job. Startups are under-funded, under-connected and under-resourced compared to their competition. The way you beat these odds often requires super-human effort and commitment. This places you under strain, and the primary nature of this strain is physical. You have to travel, with no notice and at inconvenient times, often around the world. You have to focus entirely on the company and its mission, often pulling all-nighters and usually working through weekends.
All of this strain takes its toll. You will extract time and energy from some other part of your life and that probably means your family. Having someone else who can change their schedule at the drop of a hat, keep the trains running at home and go that step further to provide unconditional support, understanding and advice (after all, who better than your life partner or spouse?) is key in allowing you to perform at your best.
To make this relationship work in the long term, however, I believe founders need to be fully aware of the (often quiet) sacrifices these hidden co-founders are making and work to balance the effects of these contributions.
Suranga then proposes five principles to help this type of relationship work, based on respect, openness and balance.
This seems like very good advice, and is to be contrasted with the exceptionally terrible advice coming from a respected figure like Ron Conway, who stated:
Dating someone or married: warn them that they’re not first in line, that you have this vocation, that your duty is to your company. It has to be that fanatical.
Please don't do that. That is execrable advice, guaranteed to torpedo a relationship that you deeply depend on. On the contrary, respectfully start by making it clear to your significant other that they're always first in line, even though in practice it may not seem so at times.
You don't get extraordinary commitment from people without offering them extraordinary commitment on your side. If you tell someone they're second place, don't be surprised to find yourself also at second place (and therefore not worth all the hassle).
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