I once met a VC-backed founder who explained, in earnest, that the key to his success was that he had cut himself off from all outside relationships. He’d deliberately relocated from his home country Canada to the U.S. and cut off all communications with friends and family, some of whom still didn’t know where he was, so that he could minimize “distractions” and focus 100% on work. He looked like he maybe hadn’t seen the sun in weeks.
I can’t speak to how that ended up working out for him, but I think it’s fair to say that most of us can’t, and don’t, operate like that. We need the support of others around us to thrive—and if you have a significant other, it goes without saying that they’re a key part of that support network.
I sometimes joke that I think the only job harder than being a founder at a startup is being a founder’s significant other. I mean, I joke about it, but I’m also kind of serious. Here’s my hypothesis: They don’t know it, but they just signed up to be your investor. You’ve heard of Series B, Series A, seed rounds—your S.O. is like the seed round before your first seed round!
Your S.O. is your Investor #1.
1. They believe in the team like no other.
In many cases, your significant other is one of the first people to believe in you. They’re one of the first people to tell you to go for it, before anyone else thinks you and your piddly idea are worth shaking a stick at.
2. They’re willing to pay a high price to have their fortunes tied to yours.
Their investment may not come in millions of dollars, but it’s no less of a price that they’re agreeing to pay. Startups come with a lot of lows and highs. During the lows, when you’re convinced you’re the biggest failure there ever was, they’ll be the one who helps scrape you off the floor and breathe some hope back into you. But during the highs, they won’t get any of the credit. No press release ever thanks the S.O.s.
And, just like any other investor…
3. They require a return on investment.
There will be lots of times your S.O. will keep the wins and losses of their day to themselves, because your wins and losses will seem so much bigger and more important to you and to other people too, who themselves also seem to be bigger and more important to you at the moment. But just like any investor, they can’t keep investing without needing something back eventually.
When you’re building your company, it will be easy to forget that you’ve got one more big investor in your company who doesn’t show up on the cap table. So if you want to start a company and you value your relationship with your S.O., think of them as your Investor #1—and treat them as such.
Amelia Lin is working on Hollyberry, the best way for women to discover, share, and support great new products.