They have ambitious plans for their "baby": Sugar. It's in the process of expanding its content network and escalating its commerce business. And Sugar recently unfurled PopSugar Shop, a dedicated site to national and local discount offers in fashion, beauty, food and fitness. Their company is smack dab in what some might call Matrimonial Alley.
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.com, 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.
"Sharmila gets jet-lagged if she takes the train," he says, laughing.
Silicon Valleyis 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 start-up. It isn't easy, as any of them will attest, but their life partnerships do offer some advantages.
Cisco Systems was founded by Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner, a married couple who worked as computer operations staff members at Stanford University, and Richard Troiano, in 1984. VMwarewas the business union of Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum and three others in 1998. Michael and Xochi Birch, who co-founded Bebo in 2005, struck it rich when AOL bought the social-networking service for $850 million in 2008.
Then, there were Judy Estrin and Bill Carrico. For two decades, Estrin and Carrico were the Romeo and Juliet nerd love story in Silicon Valley. Together, they founded seven companies, including Bridge Communications, which pioneered technology for linking different networks, and networking-software maker Precept Software. Cisco acquired Precept in 1998.
Family businesses are responsible for 80 percent to 90 percent of all U.S. businesses, with husband-and-wife teams accounting for about one-third of that, according to several reports on small businesses.
"The most important thing is they respect each other the same way they respect any good employee, and they remember that all work and no play will be the death of their marriage," says Diane Lykes, who counsels couples in business together.
With the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, most marriages face steep odds. Things get even more complicated when you add the onerous task of starting a company and being responsible for the livelihoods of dozens of others.
Imagine, then, the pressure of running a start-up in the fiercely competitive tech world while raising children. Calling Superman and Superwoman.
But into this yawning chasm of responsibility have stepped several couples, who have combined their complementary skills, divided up responsibilities, invoked trust in each other and fine-tuned their communications skills to create profitable enterprises employing hundreds of people.
Donna and Adam Powell have been down this road before.
Before they co-founded Meteor Games, an independent online-gaming studio, in 2007, they sold earlier venture Neopets, the first major Web-based kids game of its kind, to MTV for $160 million in 2005. A third company, Shout Advertising, was sold before Neopets.
"I could definitely see us starting a few more companies together," Donna, 32, says. "We love the start-up process. Getting people to believe in your team and making it a reality is incredible."
The start-up process "helps strengthen our marriage, despite some ups and downs," she says, referring to a decision they made to pivot Meteor from 3-D technology to social games.
Like the Sugars and Kogers, the Powells have been together for years. They met as teenagers. They married in 2008.
"Adam and I get on incredibly well," Donna says. "It comes naturally." She describes chief creative officer Adam, 34, as the "reclusive, eccentric type."
"He rarely gives talks," says Donna, who is chief operating officer. "That is his idea of hell. I am a lot more outgoing about the company." Zac Brandenberg is CEO.
The Kogers founded ModCloth in 2002 in a college dorm room, when both were teenagers. Since then, the business has mushroomed into a 250-employee operation and was named "America's Fastest-Growing Retailer" by Inc. magazine in 2010. They recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of their first date, when they attended the same high school in Cooper City, Fla.
Their collaboration is classic left brain-right brain. While Susan is the creative force, with a hand in designing clothing and keeping close tabs on the fashion industry, Eric handles the technical side and operations. "It's a pretty clear divide," Eric says.
Of course, tandem partnerships don't always work. Despite their track record of multiple start-ups, Carrico and Estrin divorced, and no longer work together. Estrin did not return e-mail messages seeking comment.
"There are plenty of founding teams that separate," says Michael Moritz, a partner at venture-capital firm Sequoia Capital, which has invested in Sugar and Eventbrite. "Microsoft, with Bill Gates and Paul Allen, comes to mind."
"Sugar is proof of when things are harmonious," Moritz says. "Brian is tickled to not only work with Lisa, but see her all day at work. There is deep affection that permeates the company."