Startups and Relationships: How to Get Them Both Right

My job now is to try to keep our startup alive; there are no trips and no cars -- there are baby puppies though. My girlfriend is now my pregnant wife and we live at her mum's place. Glamorous, no?
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A while ago, I was sitting there in my well-paid executive job running marketing for 62 countries, as you do. I had my apartment and company car, a hot girlfriend and took amazing trips whenever I felt like it.

Photo: George Diakou

Fast forward to today. My job now is to try to keep our startup alive; there are no trips and no cars -- there are baby puppies though. My girlfriend is now my pregnant wife and we live at her mum's place. Glamorous, no?

Life is fast, unpredictable and often served best with a little bit of planning and a big chunk of 'just dive in, get focused and believe in what you're doing.'

That's essentially been the Funifi way so far. When my co-founder Andrew and I left our jobs, apartments and friends behind to move out to Copenhagen for four months last year to take our new startup to Startupbootcamp, people said we were being irrational, impulsive and risky. Truth is, we were probably being only two of those.

Throughout this whole process, one thing has consistently stood out. The quality of the people around me always helps me to make decisions that seem to work out well in the end!

So here are three things that I found useful for creating and maintaining healthy personal and professional relationships:

Tip 1: Know your partner

For me, this meant my co-founders and my then girlfriend.

The selection process here is about seeing character traits that you like.

Andrew and I had worked together for a few years so there was more than enough scope to understand each other's motivations, values and vision.

With co-founder number two, Denis, we'd done some work together previously. I knew he was talented and he seemed like a good guy but Andrew had also worked with him more closely before so it became a case of 'if he likes you then I do too.'

With Anna, we'd already been together for years but it takes a special person to also quit her job and come along for the adventure with a team of crazy guys chasing a dream.

So we took the plunge and made our way to Copenhagen to build our company, wow what risk takers we were. We assumed that the tough part was over and that, as soon as we got there, everything would be so smooth. It didn't quite work out that way.

Five of us living in a small three-bedroom apartment wasn't easy. Add that to being told that we were selected for the program mainly because of our awesome team and despite our original idea (which we obviously thought was amazing at the time!).

We had to reshape our plans and pivot and we'd only been there for a week.

At times of doubt you need the right people around you. It's important to understand each other and to also be on the same page about where you are going.

Tip 2: Have common goals

Many relationships collapse when people seemingly grow apart, one wants one thing out of life and the other wants something else. This doesn't just happen overnight though, there's a whole chunk of time in-between where communication is key.

We started Funifi with a raw objective, to 'change the world.' Now I know that sounds cliché but it really was the thought process. An undefined statement like that though can cause havoc if not discussed and made more specific. It's like saying 'what do you want from this relationship?' and your partner saying 'to be happy.' Obviously we want to be happy but what does that really mean to each of us?

Denmark made us stronger as a unit, we homed in on what was really important and that eventually turned our vision statement into 'to positively impact every family on the planet,' which we liked.

Photo: George Vou

We lost a few people and added others along the way as what we represented became easier to define and relate to. We also welcomed Lach to the team who added experience to our talented young dev lineup with Kyriakos and Chrys.

With Anna we always talked about what we wanted in both the short and long term. The whole adventure we had begun fitted pretty well into the 'big picture' vision that we shared.

Tip 3: Commitment

There is no more serious way of showing intent than committing yourself fully to a cause, project or relationship.

When you know you want something you need to show it. This can come in the form of small steps or one large leap depending on the situation. For me it was the first way on a personal level and the second professionally.

I've heard people say 'I'm going to try this startup thing and see how it works out.' For us, that just wasn't an option. Once focused, we dedicated ourselves one hundred percent. Resignations were written, lives packed into a suitcase and all savings used on getting a good start with our startup.

With the now wife, It was best to go step-by-step. No need to declare undying love on the first date but you know, call back, tell her you like her, don't be scared to move in together when the time comes and so on.

There's a right time for everything but commitment must be demonstrated with actions.

It's been just over a year from when we decided to commit fully and our baby steps are turning into leaps as we now have our app in the App Store. There's still a lot to be done but our talented team is focused and growing as we recently added Celia, Maria, Lukasz and Stef to the family.

Some say to focus on the journey and the journey to me is defined by the quality of the relationships we form along the way.

So be smart, be honest and be selective when choosing the people you will share your valuable time with.

Find out more about our story so far here.

You can also download the app here.

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