What launching a startup taught me about marriage - Technical.ly Philly

Growth

Jul. 14, 2015 11:43 am

What launching a startup taught me about marriage

In the span of three weeks, Allison Berliner launched a mobile app and got married. The Cataluv founder says she's taking cues from her entrepreneurial life as she embarks on married life.
Cataluv CEO Allison Berliner and her husband on her wedding day.

Cataluv CEO Allison Berliner and her husband on her wedding day.

(Courtesy photo)

The week before my wedding, I took down the official registries from my website and swapped in a link to Cataluv, a mobile shopping app for home decor. But this switch wasn’t motivated just by my personal taste in throw pillows — although I do love the throw pillows on Cataluv.

It was a conscious decision about blending my startup and my wedding. I launched Cataluv on June 18. And on July 4, I got married.

A lot of people have asked me how I planned a wedding and launched a startup at the same time. The honest answer is that I took a back seat on my wedding planning and relied heavily on MOB (Mother of the Bride), as my mom continues to sign her emails. While she was picking vendors for the reception, I curated retail partnerships for Cataluv. We both seemed to have an endless supply of attention to detail, albeit for different things: she for gift bags and menus, and me for email marketing and product design. As MOB will tell you, I wasn’t exactly the easiest bride to deal with, since I tended to leave all wedding planning meetings early to deal with “urgent” startup business.

But if launching a startup took me away from wedding planning, it also gave me an outlook for how I want to approach marriage.

Both startups and marriages are about building something new, forging a family or product where before there was nothing. Both are also optimistic, about putting faith in “your partner” or your partner. And, unfortunately — elephant in the room time — both are also prone to failure.

I know this well, since Cataluv is not my first startup.

allison berliner wedding

(Courtesy photo)

Before Cataluv, I worked on two other concepts in the retail tech space, and at one point I had a mentor give me some really good advice. He had run a company in 2011 that failed, but he went on to start a new venture that has since been super successful — we’re talking name-brand clients, offices in multiple top U.S. cities and VC backing that makes other entrepreneurs salivate. He told me that there are lots of reasons why startups fail, things like “wrong time, wrong place” or not enough resources.

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But, he said, “The most important thing you can do as a founder is to make sure that you’re not the reason your startup fails.”

To paraphrase his words, when things don’t go the way you projected in your made-up financial model, you better test every possible reason for the aberration and try every possible solution you can afford.

There are two goals of this approach:

  1. Figure out what you’re doing wrong and then iterate incrementally and quickly until you get closer to right.
  2. Make sure that you can sleep at night if things go down in flames.

Like a startup, I expect that my marriage won’t go exactly according to plan. And while there’s an implication that weddings are a celebration of product-market fit — after all, you already iterated by dating each other, and other people before that — I think that products and markets are fluid. They change. Sometimes in ebbs and flows, and other times in tidal waves.

In my space, mobile commerce, this happens all the time. I’m prepared to do everything I can to make sure I’m not the reason that Cataluv fails — even using my wedding guests as a focus group — but I’m also prepared to do the same in my marriage.

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Companies: Cataluv
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