The Startup Spouse by Gerard Doyle


Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour yourself a cup of ambition…

Much of the world is happy to clock on at 9am, enjoy water cooler chat, and head home after clocking off at 5pm. But then there’s a different breed.

These strange beings wake in the middle of the night with a seed of an idea. They lock themselves away, toying with strategies. Their thought processes are not linear. They dream of seed investors and cap tables and disruption.

Entrepreneurs. Founders. Impresarios.

Said to have a stronger professional pain threshold than nine-to-fivers, entrepreneurs work longer hours, stay focused and, for reasons unknown willingly sacrifice their social lives - and more - to achieve their dreams and visions.

But they do it alone?

Not in my experience. Behind many a founder, is a long suffering partner. These start-up widows have many roles to play for their entrepreneurial other half, from surrogate colleague to cheerleader; from devil’s advocate to financial adviser.

So what’s involved for the start-up spouse?

Not just the number of hours a day they will dedicate to the cause - and it will be many - but the timing of those hours. He’s got a call at 6am – so start-up spouse does the school run solo. When inspiration strikes you go with it, so when he conjures a new algorithm at 2am, you ignore the light flooding under the bedroom door and try and go back to sleep.

Job description.
“But what does he doooooo?”asks your mother for the 18th time. It was fine when he was a marketing manager for a well-known bank, even though your Mum doesn’t know what a marketing manager does – but a start-up? “Is he not in banking? IT?” “Is it like the Google?” “Is it like the uber- they’re taking jobs you know…” “Do you want to take these leftovers love?” And when you do find an understanding ear, it’s like a secret language. Thankfully start-up partner is in your corner.

Surrogate colleague.
Patient partner has probably been in interacting with the world all day. You’re founder has not. Patient partner has dissected the latest episode of The Bachelor, Trumps tweets and Taylor’s new video. You're founder has not. Patient Partner walks in the door and is suddenly being bombarded by the Founder with proposed value propositions, cost structures, and new target markets. Founder has been so starved of company they don’t even notice Patient Partner is watching tele out the corner of their eye and nodding sagely. While Patient Partner might just be allergic to data leading to the next decision, your role as a partner is a soundboard, human resources adviser, and cubicle buddy.

Code breaker.
Patient partner is half asleep and scrolling through Twitter after a 14 hour day when suddenly The Founder makes a declaration. Random thoughts and talking in riddles are now par for the course, and sometimes your spouse will have to crack the code, and other times they’ll just let it go through to the keeper. It might be an isolated world, but at least on the surface, your partner is interested and invested. Smile and wave, boys, smile, and wave…

Being a founder means being isolated, inspired at all hours, and on a different path to most of your peers. Being the person behind the founder means that during inevitable periods of doubt, isolation, and financial hardship, you need to be the cheerleader. This isn’t for everyone. Some want the easy path; some want the white knight. If you are the other half of a founder- this isn’t for you. Patient partners are there with an encouraging word and a creative way to stretch your savings; Positive partners are here for the journey – not the destination. They are a partner in every sense of the word and for that, we founders are grateful.

So to the cheerleader and code breakers; the unwilling colleagues and social widows – we founders thank you. There is sacrifice on both sides; and an unorthodox journey that can be hard to explain. But it wasn’t for the steady hand behind the dreamers – where would we be?



By Gerard Doyle

Gerard Doyle is a veteran of digital marketing with more than 20 years of experience. Gerard’s career is a blend of agency and startups, which he uses to provide a unique and innovative approach to his digital strategies. Gerard’s startup experience uniquely positions him to help businesses navigate through rapidly evolving marketplaces that are constantly under the threat of disruption. After spending 10 years in London, Gerard has vast international experience working with some of the biggest global brands including HP, GM, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Burberry.