Photo: XO Group
Carley Roney and David Liu have been married for 20 years and in business together for 18.They co-founded XO Group, formerly known as The Knot, in 1996. It’s now a publicly traded company. Liu says 80% of women who are planning a wedding join the site.
Although the pair have been successful as cofounders, they give other aspiring entrepreneur couples the following advice:
“Don’t try this at home.”
Is it really that tough to go into business with someone you love, even if your startup doesn’t fail?
Liu and Roney say it is.
“Cofounding a company with a spouse is really hard,” Liu explains. “The rate of failure for startups is so high that you kind of attach your marriage to a business that has unpredictable outcomes.
“As a married couple in business together you will experience highs that most couples will never experience. When you close a big deal or IPO with your spouse it’s extraordinary. But some of the lows can be unbelievably dark. Deeper and darker than other couples will likely experience. Marriage is tough as it is. To add the unpredictability of a business is really hard. You have to really make sure you’re ready for the ups and downs.”
That said, being married to your cofounder can be more than just a financial benefit if all goes well. Roney says she thinks it’s a competitive advantage—if you can pull it off.
“We’re big supporters of married couples with startups and have personally invested in them,” she says. “We know they’re doing business more hours of the day than anyone else. When they’re brushing their teeth and pillow talk—it’s all strategy.”
And, according to Roney and Liu, it’s better to work with a fellow entrepreneur than to just be married to one.
“If your spouse isn’t actually working with you, I think there’s a greater chance you wind up in divorce because of the lack of understanding of the intensity,” Liu says. “The passion for the business steals the attention and time.”
“I’d hate to just be married to an entrepreneur,” Roney says. “I’d rather be married and working with an entrepreneur.”
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