Applying a Lean Startup Model to Relationships


By Steve Dean

Premise: You & your partner are cofounders in a relationship.
The relationship is your startup.
Keep it lean.

Startups don’t exist in a vacuum.
They need founders.
They need you.

You invest time, energy and resources into your startup.
You believe in it. You want it to succeed.
You know that it’s worth the sacrifice.
You build this startup from scratch and it’s thrilling to watch it take form.

Can you have a startup with one founder?
Can it succeed?
Yes, but a startup with 2 cofounders allows you to complement one another and iterate more rapidly.
Three cofounders?
Definitely could work, but it’ll take a lot of coordinating.

Time to build.

But what are you building?
It depends on your customers.
Luckily, you and your cofounder(s) are the only relevant customers.
You build the product, and use it together.
If you can’t use it, no one can.
If you can’t justify your startup’s existence, who else can? Who else will?

Why a lean startup? Because everything you build must be interative.
Discuss. Listen. Trust. Experiment.
When things don’t work, fix them and adapt.
Test the waters, plug the leaks, forgive, and forget.
Find out what works best and do more of that.

You work tirelessly to make your startup grow.
Some people may point out reasons why it doesn’t seem feasible.
You ignore them.
Startup founders need to be the strongest advocates for their startups.

Some things inevitably do go wrong.
Market forces can shift: friends, cities, jobs, health.
Your customer's wants and needs can shift.
Are you prepared for that? Have you been checking in with them?
You probably should if you want your startup to survive long term.

Sometimes these market shifts will pose existential threats to your startup.
You must pivot each time to keep afloat.
No one ever said this was easy.

As you invest more and more into this startup, a sudden departure by either one of you could be devastating, leaving the other riddled with confusion, rejection, and [emotional] debt.
Stay on the same page.
Communicate clearly and constantly.

Ultimately, most startups do fail.
But in failure, we learn.
We learn about ourselves, about the market.
We learn about mistakes to avoid and about how to do better next time.

Remember, the failure of one startup doesn’t mean you can’t come together again later to build a new one. It just means that the specific startup you set out to build, in this particular context, didn’t have legs.
Maybe the timing just wasn’t right.
Maybe your cofounder wasn’t right. Neither of you is necessarily at fault. You’re both still worthwhile people. You can surely go on to cofound many more startups in life with others, or perhaps just do a solo venture for a few years to really push yourself to the limit.
Or maybe you should stop worrying about why your first startup failed and just move on. Your future startups won’t just build themselves.

You need to get back out there.

Stay passionate. Grind it out. You wouldn’t stop even if you could.

Your startup is an extension of your very self.
There is no one-size-fits-all model for startups.
There is no one-size-fits-all model for relationships.
They are all unique.
We are all unique.

Time to build again.

writer photo

Steve Dean

Steve is an NYC-based online dating consultant and matchmaker. He is the founder of Jobsuitors, an OkCupid-inspired career matchmaking platform that automatically connects talented professionals to their best-matched open roles at popular startups around the country. Steve likes to write about dating, relationships, and how to get connected to apartments, roommates, jobs, friends, and romantic partners.

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