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  • Neil Ide

Investors avoid married co-founders. This makes sense. Sorry.

Updated: Aug 17


Phillip(M. Rhys) pulling Elizabeth's(K. Russell) tooth in an incredibly powerful scene about trust from "The Americans". Russell and Rhys are married in real life.


Nyborg is my second startup. My first startup was called Phanedyne which was a hugely successful failure of a company. Phanedyne I co-founded with friends, Nyborg I co-founded with my wife.


In the world of venture capital, co-founding with a friend or spouse is usually considered a big red flag. Companies are 25x less likely to receive funding with married co-founders. Though this might sound harsh and be upsetting to couples, know that this actually makes sense. As a married co-founder I don't harbor animosity or resentment to this fact, and would likely do the same as the investors.


The reason why is that most friendships and romantic relationships are based on co-dependent behavior. Why? Well for starters it has to do with how most people are raised. The predominant pattern of belief in parenting is that parents are to mold/modify/forge the behavior of their children. While this is partially true, it's mostly malarkey.


Monkey see, monkey do

Humans learn behavior predominantly through observation and direct experience. The behavior of our children is more a reflection of the parents than anything else. Have you ever heard the saying "do as I say not as I do"? This hilarious logical fallacy is how most parents think and behave. Children observe the relationship between their parents and then often carry that behavior into their own relationships. The reversal of that statement is also true. People will also act out to be the opposite of that behavior to "not be like my parents". Of course the opposite of a thing isn't necessarily healthy either. For instance people who have overbearing parents obsessed with rules that reactively raise their kids with no boundaries; also very unhealthy, making entitled pricks of people.


Frequently parents will exhibit two different sets of behavior based on present company. There are things that mothers and fathers will say that they would never dream of saying in front of each other. This behavior repeated by children which results in them developing two different personalities, one where spouse is present and one where they are solo. An exceptional example of this can be seen on the Joe Rogan Experience. Joe Rogan has hosted Bret Weinstein solo as well as Bret Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying together. Listening to both episodes its is abundantly easy to detect the behavior change. Once again nothing against Bret or Heather, this is a cultural observation.


This behavior also carries into the workplace where employees and management alike will say things to other employees/managers that they would never say in front of their boss/direct-reports. The same applies for racism as well.


Built-in sexism in culture

Judeo-Christianity is by and large one of the most sexist cultures there is. The number of examples that demonstrate this fill entire church-banned books written on the subject. What most non-believers and religious progressives don't realize is just how deep those waters run. We're talking about thousands of years of violently enforced behaviors that have made their mark on the western psyche. I won't comment on sexism in eastern culture as I know little about eastern culture; though it is clearly present as well.


Role-narrative is so deeply rooted in our minds and surrounded by shame (emotional razor-wire). Two people in a romantic relationship will predominantly adhere to practices rooted in religious practice, even if they identify as atheist. Most of this behavior boils down to the subtle behavior of "he's in charge, and she's less-than".


I've heard a Mormon father at his daughters wedding praying out loud: "lord grant my daughter an obedient mind". I've heard a Baptist preacher refer his partner as "my little wife". Gag me a f'ng river.


Though I wasn't raised religious at all and my partner was raised Southern Baptist our default relationship behavior in those first few years more than fit the pattern of inherent sexism. We got over it with lots of therapy, extremely difficult conversations, and lots of personal growth. Unfortunately, huge numbers of other couples don't get over it, they either divorce to escape the pattern, or stay together in a frustratingly mediocre relationship.


Mediocre relationships crumble under intense pressure

Starting a company is by far the most intense experience I've ever had. Naval nuclear power school and raising children is a cake-walk by comparison. A startup requires years of effort and hardship with little to no encouragement and no guarantee of reward at the end. Imagine skydiving where the parachute is thrown out of the plane first and you have to jump after it with no chute with anti-aircraft guns shooting at you.


It's intense and incredibly stressful. If you have a relationship that can endure a task like that, you'll make a formidable team. If you don't, you'll splat on the pavement or get shot to shit by ground fire. Most relationships are not co-founder worthy which is why a huge number of startup founders breakup before its over, a huge number of startups fail over founder issues. Remember my first company Phanedyne? Yep, co-founder castle made of sand, the first wave smashed it immediately.


Since most people hold mediocre relationships together, married co-founders and co-founding friends are a strong signal to an investor that the company is going to smash on the rocks before it ever makes a successful land fall. The strong relationship journey starts by being a good Shepard of your own behavior and beliefs, monkey see, monkey do.


Don't try to change the people in your relationships, focus on yourself, your relationships will change as a result; if your changes lead to relationship endings...it's for the best for all parties involved. Brush the dust off your shoulder and keep going.

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