Married... with Startups

Adam Sigel is a graduate of the product track of the Startup Institute Boston Fall 2012. His wife, Sara, is a graduate of the technical marketing track of SIB Summer 2012 and is now the community manager at GrabCAD.

“Are you sure you’re not moving too fast? You’re so YOUNG,” people said. “Have you fully thought through the commitment you’re making?” they asked. “What are you going to do when the honeymoon’s over?” they’d inquire ever so politely.

No one asked this when we got married, but some people just didn’t understand when my wife and I decided to shift into the startup world. She was a marketing student in the inaugural Startup Institute Boston class in the summer, and I just completed the product track this week.

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Some may warn you that you have to go all-in to make it in startups. The fewer obligations in your life, the better. But in the context of startups, our marriage isn’t a detriment or an obstacle. Rather, it’s proved to be great preparation and practice.

Being a couple of startup nerds has its perks. If you learn one thing in the product track, it’s that you have to know how to work with other people in the organization, particularly marketing. Well it just so happens that I’ve been co-signing holiday cards with a marketer for the better part of a decade. And as GrabCAD’s community manager, Sara has to understand how to appeal to designers and product-minded folks. Guess who she relies on for help in that area? (Don’t worry, we have an ironclad NDA.)

In a startup, you’re forced to coexist through chaos, awkward moments, and stressful times. We’re no Chris Brown and Rhianna, but we have the occasional tiff. In marriage, you learn about compromise, communicating delicately, and not letting little things get in the way of the bigger picture. What is marriage but the lifelong act of force rank prioritization? (So sappy, I know!)

Startups can often feel like a world unto themselves, so it’s nice to be able to come home to someone that gets it. Sara fully understood the sense of accomplishment I felt when I pushed the code for my first landing page to GitHub. I was so proud when she came home and told me about the bump in the click-through rate (CTR) of her weekly newsletter. On an even more microcosmic level, when I came home after the first week of the Startup Institute and said, “Katie Rae talked about colors today. I’m a red,” I didn’t need to say another word. She knew the whole story. (As a red, this pleased me greatly.)

There are concessions to be made, of course. That fifth anniversary in Paris we were planning may turn into a fifth anniversary at Paris Creperie. Our cushy lives as DINKs have evolved, but there’s still no Ramen in our fridge. We also have to work a little harder to coordinate our schedules. We have a dog, so a night out with peers must first be cleared in a quick daily stand-up where we make sure someone can cover the evening walk. We use “Find My Friends” regularly

to track the other’s location (you can never trust the Green Line), and we share task lists for things like groceries. We’ve essentially implemented Scrum sprints to make sure we stay on top of household chores. It’s one of those beautiful systems that could never exist, and would never need to, outside of startups.

We’re both lucky to have each other in our lives, and we’re particularly lucky to have each other as startup cohorts. The only true downside now is sticker envy.