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How long until women don’t need to marry a technical cofounder?

Right now I’m listening to founders Susan Koger (Modcloth), Susan Feldman (One Kings Lane), and Julia Hartz (Eventbrite) on the Commonwealth Club on NPR. As I’m hearing them speak, I’m noticing a very common pattern between their stories that I have not recognized before.

I wonder about the ratio of female to male startup founders who are married to their business partners. A husband-partner seems like a huge advantage to female founders, as typically the man is the technical co-founder. If you don’t have the coding know-how, that stuff has to be hired out, which can drastically slow the pace of growth and dilute the strategic vision. As I considered this I was surprised to realize that most of my personal women heroes in tech are partnered with their (independently successful) male spouses. This is good, this is still progress and I’ll take it, but it also feels vestigial of the women working revolution in the 70s/80s–a bit limiting. A little exclusive, putting women in a very comfortable and familiar pigeonhole.

That’s not to diminish the amazing accomplishments and leadership of the three women on this panel, or the importance of a supportive spouse. But isn’t that an interesting pattern in female founder origin stories?

Edit: I also hear these women founders and leaders on stage thanking male mentors for showing them they can do anything…but of fucking course you can do anything. TAKE IT! PARTICULARLY when you’re a middle class woman in silicon valley with a car and an idea and a computer and eight hours of spare time after your job every evening. That’s when you have the platform to raise yourself up and make room for others up there too who don’t have the power. Who is going to give you permission? Who is going to tell you it’s okay for you to push? Why is that so revolutionary?

I respect that many of us aren’t told growing up that we can do anything. There is so much to deprogram, to unlearn, which takes self-criticism and self-awareness and a lot of empathy (which I’m still trying to learn).

How long until we don’t need to marry a programmer or VC to launch successfully?

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4 + = six

  • BJ

    This is just my personal outlook, but co-founding a startup with my spouse sounds like my nightmare. I see hubby in his “role” as, say, a coder, and me in my “role” as, say, buyer. It makes sense for partners to play to their strengths, so sure, let one person do the coding and the other do the buying. But what about if I want to code one day? Will he be okay with that? Will that make him uncomfortable? Will he think I’m edging into his domain? I would do it anyway, and he would be happy to teach me, but what if I become better at it than him? What then? I see it becoming personal really fast. The only way I see it remaining harmonious is if you stay in your little role and don’t overstep your boundaries. And I consider myself to have a progressive marriage for what it’s worth.

Five things I’ve learned as a full-time Airbnb host

1. Airbnb is actually about entrepreneurship (which can kind of sneak up on you).
When I started hosting, it was truly out of desperation because I needed a way to fund the new company I was building. When I made my first few hundred dollars in a month with seemingly little effort, I realized that by taking hosting more seriously I could avoid what I thought was the inevitability of needing a part-time job (in addition to my 60-hour/week at Hello Holiday plus parenting my daughter). As my personal finances were dwindling, I could never have stomached the idea that starting a second business would be the solution, which is why the possibility of so much hosting success surprised me.

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