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My girlfriend an I are currently both IT consultants.

I've been thinking whether there have been any successful cases of couples developing applications that actually have made it big.

Anyone can advise on this?

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I am not sure whether the fact that other couples have made it or not matters (there are many family-run businesses that work well and many that don't...): all couples are different and it's down to your combined individual skills and how you function as a professional team. In developing applications you will need to have a combined skillset that includes project management, business analysis, technical skills, financial management, communications, problem solving and decision-making, product development management, sales & marketing. Ideally you each have different strengths that complement each other.

I would advise you to do the following:

  • list down your skills and strengths and assess whether you two, as a team, are competing with or completing each other.
  • assign responsibilities accordingly. For example one is focused on technical development, whilst the other leads the marketing side. It doesn't mean that only one of you programs, but that one of you has responsibility for it. It's about being clear about who leads and who supports in which area.
  • honestly look at how you work together and be candid about what works and what doesn't, and address any issues.
  • one of the challenges you may face as a couple could be around leadership and decision-making, unless it is already clear for both of you there is a natural leader. It's important not only for you as a team so you can move efficiently through problems and decisions, but also for your customers.
  • remember to draw the line between home and work: establish clear rules and don't bring home issues and problems to the office, and vice-versa.
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Agile Zen was founded and is still run to this day (even after acquisition by Rally Software) by Nate and Niki Kohari. They have a good working relationship and it doesn't seem to negatively impact their personal life. Niki has a razor sharp sense of what Zen users need and Nate is has been able to bring it to life in an elegant implementation. This is an example of complementary skills.

I'm helping my wife with her mobile app development and she has helped me with my development projects in the past, while she is primarily a stay-at-home mom. Our working relationship is more an example of similar skills and making more rapid progress by working together, than one of complimentary skills.

I know of one other husband/wife team at Rally Software in a Developer/Product Owner role split. Another couple I know runs their head hunter business together. It works for them.

I also know of another couple who tried it and had to change the situation before it ruined their relationship... in the end they broke up anyway and it may have been that working together was not the source of their difficulty.

I think that's the main point. It works if it works... but it may not. Go into it with an open mind, but make a commitment that if it's hurting your relationship, you'll make an adjustment.

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lanyrd.com was developed by Simon Willison (@simonw) and Natalie Downe (@natbat) while they were on honeymoon. They are co-developers on the project, it has succeeded in getting Y combinator funding and they are currently starting to hire their first set of employees.

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The poster-kids for couples who have founded a tech start up is Kevin and Julia Hartz founders of eventbrite.com

Here's one interview of the many interviews you'll find on line.

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