Starting a startup with your significant other: what it’s really like

· 9 min read
Starting a startup with your significant other: what it’s really like

The idea of starting a business with your significant other can be really exciting. Building something from the ground up with my favorite person? Sign me up!

It’s a unique blend of personal and professional worlds. Is it always a good idea, though?

Combining personal and business relationships brings its own set of challenges and rewards. It demands clear communication and a shared goal. You need to learn to navigate both personal and professional challenges together.

You’ll face work stress together, which can lead to more disagreements. Work becomes a major part of your lives and it could come at the cost of a happy personal life.

Andrew and I started Canny together over seven years ago. While I believe working together has strengthened our relationship, I wouldn’t say it’s been an easy journey. Mutual respect and complementary skills helped us get to where we are today.

I’m writing this based on the interview we did in this video so watch that if you prefer. It was fun because we both answered the same questions separately and got to see how our responses differed.

Alright, here are some tips for starting and running a business with your significant other. First, let us introduce ourselves.

Who is Sarah?

I’m Sarah, one of the co-founders at Canny. I studied graphic design in university and my first full-time job was at Facebook. That’s where I met Andrew and where the seeds for Canny were planted. I’ve always been passionate about design and how it can solve real-world problems.

Today, I focus on crafting a functional and user-friendly product design. I thrive on creating products that people love to use. I also spend lots of time trying to understand our users’ needs. On top of this, I juggle many other hats—from marketing to customer support. I enjoy being involved in so many aspects of the business.

It’s not all smooth sailing though. As a co-founder, making tough decisions is part of the job. Letting people go, cutting costs, and deprioritizing exciting projects are just some examples. It’s challenging, but it’s also what makes this journey exciting.

Who is Andrew?

Andrew is my co-founder and the one who built Canny’s foundation. Today, he makes sure our platform is not just up and running but also constantly evolving to be better. He’s heavily involved in shaping our product strategy and many behind the scenes functions that keep Canny going. When he can find the time, he still enjoys coding.

He’s also incredibly dedicated, sometimes to the point where it’s hard for him to step back and take a break.

“I really like talking about work. I can talk about it for hours. I find it really fun, even if you’re not making any material progress. It’s almost therapeutic for me. Sarah is not like that, so she’s the one who maintains our balance.”

Andrew Rasmussen, co-founder of Canny

Canny’s origin story

It all started at Facebook, where I began as a design intern. Andrew was starting his full-time engineering job, and we met through mutual friends. It wasn’t long before we realized we had much more in common than just our workplace. We began collaborating on small projects and participating in hackathons.

“One memorable experience was at an AT&T event in Las Vegas. Our team won the hackathon, and the prize was $45,000. This wasn’t just a victory for us; it was a turning point. It made us think: “Maybe we can really do this—build products together.”


Realizing we work pretty well together, we looked for something we could turn into a real business.

Canny’s evolution

Early versions of Canny were targeted at consumers and attempted to give them a say in the roadmaps of products they were using. We soon realized that we had it backwards: we needed to go to the companies who wanted to process that feedback. We shifted our focus to B2B SaaS companies. This change really transformed Canny into what it is today—a comprehensive feedback management tool for software teams.

Every step of the way, we leveraged our strengths—my design expertise and Andrew’s engineering skills. This synergy drove product development and helped us grow quickly.

Working together

When you work with your significant other, having clear roles is essential. In our case, it was easy. We capitalize on our individual strengths.

A part of why we work well together is because we have complementary skills. It’s not very helpful for co-founders to have the exact same skillset. We balance each other well.

Andrew is an engineer, so he has a final say in everything related to engineering. He also works on our business vision, revenue, compliance, and legal.

I’m a designer, so I’m in charge of design. I also get involved with product, marketing, customer service, and other areas.

Lesson: Assess your skills and capitalize on your strengths. Have defined roles from the start. The other stuff will fall into place as you go.

Aligning our vision for Canny

We often discuss and reassess our goals to ensure we’re on the same page. Our alignment comes from understanding each other’s perspectives and finding common ground. We don’t always agree. Over the years, we’ve learned to “disagree and commit.”

“We don’t always see eye to eye, but we can make most decisions together. You don’t have to get every decision perfectly right. We certainly don’t, and that’s OK.”


Suppose one of us has strong convictions about a particular decision. In that case, the other partner is open to trying it out. Ultimately, it’s about trusting each other’s judgment and committing to our joint decisions. If the decision turns out to be the wrong one, we adjust, no harm done.

One of my favorite things about our relationship is trust. It’s easy to take things personally but we both trust each other to make the best decision for the business

Lesson: Trust your partner to own decisions in their area of expertise. Otherwise, when you need to make a decision and don’t agree, try “disagree and commit.” 

Being a couple

When you run a business with your significant other, work can quickly take over every conversation. Andrew and I manage this by setting clear boundaries. We have a rule: discuss work for a limited time, then switch off. When we walk our dog, we can talk about work on the way out but no work talk on the way back.

We are very intentional about these boundaries so that we have space for our personal lives.

“It’s all about finding that switch between work and play modes. Regardless of how Canny is doing, we turn off the “business brain” at the end of the day.”


Lesson: Set boundaries and don’t let work take over every conversation. Make space for work and for being a couple.

What makes our relationship work

Our shared vision and values are the core of our relationship.

There are definitely advantages to starting a company with your significant other. Andrew and I already had a foundation of trust before we started Canny. We also knew how to communicate and have disagreements.

Startups aren’t easy. If they were, everyone would start a small business. We’ve seen some co-founder relationships fall apart because of little things. It usually happens because of a lack of trust.

I can’t imagine stressing over ownership percentage, for example, on top of running a business.

At the baseline, we are pretty different people. Still, we share the same morals, beliefs, and goals for the future. This alignment keeps us grounded and focused when dealing with daily tasks or big life decisions. We both know what we’re working towards every day.

Lesson: I’ve already talked about how important trust is but it’s nothing without communication. Understand how each person prefers to communicate. You need to be able to talk to each other about anything. Otherwise, both your personal and business relationship may suffer.

The future

To be honest, the future feels pretty uncertain right now. The economy isn’t great, but we have a great team and exciting plans for Canny.

When I read books or get advice from other founders, it doesn’t hit me until I feel it myself. Nothing replaces your hands-on experience, so welcome it.

Our exit strategy?

We sometimes get asked about our exit strategy. “If Canny blows up, will you cash out?”

We don’t have any plans on cashing out. Our focus is on building a long-lasting and successful business. We want to start offering equity sales every few years to give our team some liquidity. Our heart is in Canny for the long haul.

“I love this company and team we’ve built. We’re planning on operating this company for the long term.”


Lesson: Enjoy the journey.

For those starting a business with their significant other

Here are our biggest learnings for entrepreneurial couples contemplating starting a business together.

  1. Complementary skills are key. It’s about having strengths that balance each other. People are happier when they get to do what they love too.
  2. Prioritize communication. It’s the vital foundation of any relationship. Be clear, open, and honest with each other, especially when disagreements arise.
  3. Learn to disagree productively. Not every decision will be unanimous. Disagree and commit, respect each other’s perspectives, and make a joint decision, even if it involves compromise.
  4. Balance work and personal life. Set clear boundaries. Find that switch from work mode to play mode. This balance is essential to maintain a healthy relationship outside of work.
  5. Support each other through challenges. The path won’t always be smooth. Support each other even more when the business is challenging. Your partnership should be a source of strength in good and challenging times.
  6. Celebrate small wins together: Take time to acknowledge and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. These moments of joy can be a significant morale boost on your entrepreneurial journey.

As we reflect on our journey with Canny, one thing is clear: starting a business with your partner is a unique and special experience. It blends the lines between personal and professional life in challenging and rewarding ways.

While it’s not always easy, the journey is worth it. Embrace the challenges, celebrate your successes, and cherish the experience. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Sarah Hum

Hey there, I'm one of the co-founders of Canny. As a founder, I dabble in pretty much everything but my expertise is in product design. Outside work, I enjoy digital illustration, a cappella, and hanging out with our dog, Emmy.

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