Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Startup Love

Startup Love: Starting a relationship is like launching a business

Why is starting a relationship like launching a business?
Let me count the ways...

As someone who teaches innovation and entrepreneurship at Stanford, I know a great deal about what it takes to start a new venture. And, based on the years when I changed my boyfriends like my socks, I now realize that these are the same tools that are required to launch a new relationship.

First, you need to be passionate about both a new partner and a new business. Passion allows you to weather the inevitable storms that will blow through your company or your relationship. It will enable you to have the willpower to find creative solutions for the problems that will certainly arise. Without passion, we bail out when the going gets tough, as opposed to being fully committed.

Second, both a new venture and a new love require a significant investment of time and energy. Without the commitment of substantial resources, both will wither on the vine. If you can't muster the time or mind-share to invest in a new relationship, don't even consider starting. Business ideas, just like infatuations, are cheap, but real implementation in both arenas takes a tremendous amount of effort. So take out your emotional checkbook, make sure there's enough dough in your account, and be ready to sign on the dotted line.

Third, when you form a business or launch a new romance, you need to make sure that both partners have an equal interest in the venture. A relationship won't thrive unless both parties have skin in the game. As with equity in companies, your stock will likely start with a low valuation, but with time and tending, it will appreciate, and both parties will enjoy a sweet return on their emotional investments. Keep in mind that love stock fluctuates in value, but, like company stock, you shouldn't be overly influenced by daily gyrations; instead, focus on creating long-term value. 

Fourth, despite your rationalizing, you can't be involved in two or more startups or relationships at once. For all of us who have tried, we know… Each company or romance takes all your emotional and physical energy, and dividing your focus in two or three or four will doom all of them. You can flirt with lots of ideas or new romances, but once you commit, it's a full-time job. So pick the one with the highest potential and dive on in.

Fifth, keep in mind that nothing stays the same in business or in love. As soon as you get comfortable, you can be certain that something will change. You need to be flexible and responsive as the outside world throws surprises your way. True entrepreneurs are masters of managing in a dynamic environment, and the best lovers are, too. They pay attention to the shifting landscape and find creative ways to see earthquakes as gifts as opposed to glitches.  

Sixth, in both matters of the heart and matters of the mind, on average, only one-in-ten startups survive in the long run. You need to be willing to go all-in at the beginning but to be able to cut your losses if things don't work out. Embrace the concept of failing fast and frequently. That is, try lots of things and keep what works. This is the secret sauce of Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs know that the worst outcome occurs when you inhabit the land of the living dead, where your company stumbles along, just waiting for someone to put it out of its misery. So be willing to gracefully extract yourself when it's clear that things won't improve. Write off the losses on your emotional tax return, and move on to your next investment.

Finally, like successful entrepreneurs, you must be able to bounce back quickly and begin again. There is nothing worse than wallowing in the sour soup of a lost love or a failed business. Add it to your failure résumé, take time to learn from the experience, and buy a brand-new pair of socks! Your next pair might just be the one that rocks your world and delivers amazing returns.


Tina Seelig is the author of What i Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Way in the World, published by HarperCollins.