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Tell HN: How to get back at your start-up husband
119 points by christeen on Dec 5, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments
“in order for any tech startup to succeed — there must be a strong spouse who is picking up the slack at home, being the emotional rock and feeling the high’s and low’s so deeply that they too are a de facto stakeholder” ~ Jonathon Sposato

Wow, I can relate to that quote! Being a startup-spouse for the past 5 years was no walk in the park. After much hard work, blood, sweat and tears my husband sold his start-up business. It seems unreal still, but hey, it was on Techcrunch last week so it must be true!

When I look back now, there were quite a few ups and a lot of tough downs, right to the end. The lessons learned though, are more valuable then anything. I’d love to share one of them, from my perspective as an involved spectator. When you’re in a start-up, the perimeters of what is good or bad in business are very vague, because what makes for doing well is very relative. Obvious reasoning would be ‘the more money there is coming in, the better you’re doing’. I don’t think reality is that simple. I’d say for a founder what defines being on track, is when you feel happy about the outcome of your work. It seems obvious, but make no mistake, after working long and hard on something, you get in a situation where it’s hard to remember what makes you happy. Happiness is an emotion. And your emotions go all over the place, especially when you’re running or selling your company.

A good way to remember what would makes you happy might just be to think back why you started the adventure you’re currently in. Was it for the money? Maybe a good media story and good image? Is it continuation of product building, or maybe just the continuation of a concept or product name? What dream did you have in mind when you started you start-up? For my husband it might have been something in the lines of these things

Change and innovate the tech world Change the way we do business in this world towards a more value driven approach Create amazing user experience Now the question is; has he achieved these things by doing his start-up, and therefore done well? When I think about it now, these dreams seem to be bigger then his first start-up idea. So I would say he’s not finished yet. So far though, I think he has done pretty amazing. Often just by being himself, open and honest about his start-up experiences, he’s inspired countless of people to think different and bigger.

I’d say defining whether you’re doing good or bad starts with writing down what (output) makes you happy. Why not grab pen and paper and put it down right away. Give that note to your spouse, mom or earliest fan and instruct them to show you once every while. Especially when emotions cloud your thoughts - and there is no escaping from that if you run a start-up. You might be surprised how your own words will inspire you later in time and how much you’re actually on track.

As for myself, I’m in the process of writing a note like that. Because I actually just started my own start-up. I’m not really sure yet what would make me happiest at the end of the run: ‘Getting couples into a radical new dimension of fun and intimacy through gameplay’ or… ultimate revenge on my start-up husband by running an even more successful one myself!

I’m curious to hear what makes you happiest. What thoughts and dreams made you start your business or start-up?

Well it seems you have an unfair advantage here :). You have been watching him go through it and taking notes. He is also going to advise you on product, growth, etc. I hope you win this bet, however you must win it by at least 3 folds (maybe 3 times the number of users, or 3 times the revenue) to be able to call it a clean win. Good luck and congrats to you guys (it wasn't just him, obviously. I am sure your support tremendously helped).

That is so very true, I can't tell you how lucky and privileged I feel.

You're right: it really wouldn't be fair and I love it you're challenging me to talk numbers! The thing that motivates me most are users, so i'll pick those as a measure.

To triple the amount he has at the moment, I would need about 360.000 of em. Let me figure out what the exact number is. Then i'll add at least 1 more as a target for being MORE successful than my husband! ;)

Yeah, that's about right.

You may want to mention that you are in Amsterdam, otherwise all the HN readers from Europe will assume this is a US project and won't even bother to check it out.

Care to elaborate? I'm US based and I don't understand this comment whatsoever. Increase my global perspective. :)

Ah thanks for that Alain!

Congrats. My answers below; just celebrated year one of self employment. Often doesn't feel like I imagined.

Why started: 1) Age: Start now or never 2) Independence: Prove I could scratch out my own living 3) HN: Seemed possible

Happiest: 1) Any "go live" part of projects 2) First inbound wire transfer 3) Meeting interesting people and so much free help 4) Running errands mid-day without crowds 5) Being available for family 6) Realizing survived a year; feels like experiment worked

I mention briefly about my girlfriends support and care during my trials here:


Only mentioned in a few of the later chapters, but she was always supportive and always urged me to do what I felt was right. She was constantly by my side for the bad, as well as the occasional good.

For any "Startup Significant Others" out there, your support means more than you realize!

Your blog is brilliant. Thanks for posting it here. (I realize that's sort of unnecessary but in case you doubt plugging it in the future, don't. It's actually really good.)

One of the cool side effects I'm expecting from christeen starting this is that through her experience she'll understand me better. Looking back I hope she can place into perspective all the ups and downs that startup-life brings.

And I hope I'll be able to understand better what she's going through.

Thanks for the positive feedback!

I agree, you will probably both get an eye-opening experience as to what the other person was going through. You guys have a really rare chance to walk a mile in each others shoes

Hopefully you both remember what it was like in your own shoes during the first trip.

Best of luck!

BTW FYI - I'm the husband. ;-)



Curious to know, when did you start and did you have a co-founder?


The original idea started in 2006 while I was working with Eight Media, which I had founded together with Daniel Spronk (spazmaster). After hacking away at a prototype for a while we presented our MVP to a live audience in London in 2007. The response was overwhelming, we got serious about it. Found an angel willing to invest.

Then in 2009 Daniel went back to focus on Eight.nl while I kept going with Soocial. Looking back I think it was much harder without Daniel as a co-founder than I expected. It makes such a big difference to have someone there to bounce idea's, make decisions together and just have the support of someone else who's just as involved and committed.

Very much agree with PG's statement that although possible as a single founder, you're chances of success are less.

Isn't it always as simple and small as this? To enjoy the freedom of coming up with something you would love to use, visit, read -whatever, play around with the idea, talk about it a lot, get it done, evangelise mucho and: get rid of it. Just because you can. I never get attached to the actual thing itself, it's the ride I'm in for. More rides, more learned about myself.

What drives me to start ups is something like self-expression. There's no-one else's expectations to worry about, just my own big ones (which exceeds the investors' :-). The feeling when those expectations are even partially fulfilled is amazing. And every little step forward feeds the feeling, whether it's finishing yet another investor pitch deck revision to walking out from a successful meeting to the big ones like signing a customer and maybe even exiting.

With regards to spouses; I've so far been one of the lucky one's to have a supporting spouse and kids whom have gone through the ups and downs with me. It's not easy for them, but I suppose they also partially feel the excitement and anticipation of a breakthrough.

Nowadays it might also help that they know there's a reward for them too. After my first exit I bought and renovated a house and after the second we took a few weeks luxury around the world trip. Which leads me to the question for you Christeen; What was your reward? A chance to start your own startup?

I wanted to build a place for myself where I enjoyed coming everyday and build stuff. Pretty simple idea, but hard to do.

It's interesting, and sometimes scary, how connected my life happiness is to making things. But at least I know that if I can keep doing that, life will be good. So that is my biggest goal.

PS. I'll count on you to remind me once in a while Nini :-)

Punching me in the face makes you happy as well, sadly it hasn't happened that very often! Keep trying;-) K

With all pleasure :)

Great to hear of your husband's success, and good luck to you!

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