Married Couples Run Sugar, ModCloth and Other Tech Startups

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By Jon Swartz (Contributor, USA TODAY)

When Brian Sugar ponders an executive decision at his high-tech startup here, all he has to do for quick advice is instant-message his business partner -โ€” on the other end of the living-room couch.

His wife, Lisa Sugar, agrees that their 5-year-old online women’s network, aptly named Sugar, should make a key personnel move. In between shop talk, they comment on the San Francisco Giants game they’re watching on TV, after tucking the kids into bed.

Unconventional, yes, but this tech tandem has thrived. Their company reaches 25 million unique monthly visitors because they have created specialized content via a constellation of 39 sites for women under 34 years old.

Several city blocks away, Kevin and Julia Hartz of online-ticketing platform Eventbrite are trying to figure out how to squeeze more bodies into their cramped offices. The agency employs 175, but is in full-fledged expansion.

Two floors above, Susan Gregg Koger and husband Eric are readying a photo shoot for ModCloth, the online fashion company they created while students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In a whirlwind, two-month stretch in mid-2006, they managed to graduate from college, buy their first house, marry and move the company to a larger facility. Last year, they shifted headquarters to San Francisco.

A few miles south on Highway 101 in Mountain View, Evernote CEO Phil Libin is trying to persuade his wife, Sharmila Birba, who runs the company’s finances and human resources, to accompany him on a business trip to China and Japan. She’s not so sure.

Silicon Valley is rich in such tandems: married couples in technology who are able to balance the demands of matrimony with the pressure-cooker demands of running a startup. It isn’t easy, as any of them will attest, but their life partnerships do offer some advantages.

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