While it’s to be expected that a couple starting a business together will experience some bumps in their relationship, Amit Rapaport and Jonathan Wasserman, co-founders of Compete, share that the process has been good for their marriage. Wasserman, the CTO, explains that there are benefits to being partners in all aspects of life: they share business and personal goals, and it improves their communication. Rapaport, who is the CEO, shares that the tough times in a startup’s journey aren’t that tough when you go through them with someone you fully trust. Big decisions in a company often rest with the CEO, and Wasserman says his marriage doesn’t change that structure. Rapaport explains that the foundation of their relationship is respect and open communication, and those are key for any couple looking to start a business together. She also advises being bold and authentic with each other to build something successful.
You two are co-founders of Compete and are also married. Was it always in the plan that you two are going to start a company?
Amit: No. When we met, we were extremely loyal to Nir Zuk. We work at Palo Alto Networks. It was a dream for both of us to create something just for the two of us.
Tell me how you two met.
Amit: We met at Palo Alto Networks. Yoni was one of the first engineers at Cyvera, which was acquired by Palo Alto Networks, arriving right after the acquisition to lead recruitment. I fell in love with this amazing man because he is beyond perfection. When we started dating—
Jonathan: We don’t really know when it happened.
Amit: At that time I had two sons of my own, Noam and Omer, so it was a big change in the relationship. Very fast, very soon. Since then, I wake up every day falling in love.
What made you realize that there was an opportunity not only to work together but to build a company together? What was going through your mind when you started talking about this idea?
Jonathan: We never really had any doubts because I think we are a perfect couple. We are partners in life, and we are partners in everything. We really can’t imagine life without each other. It is also so in business.
We worked together in Palo Alto, and then Amit went to a competitor. We felt like we wanted to work together again and just look forward to the opportunity. Building the company together was easy. We knew it’s a joint venture.
In the beginning, how much did you talk about what this means to you as a couple? It’s one thing when you bring your work home; it’s another thing when your co-founder is home. A lot of the conversation, I guess, naturally tends to be about the company.
Amit: 100%. No, 99% is about Compete, 1% of our three children. But that’s what motivates us so we don’t have to fill our lives with the extra. We don’t see this as, “Okay, let’s have a clear separation between our private lives.” When you are an entrepreneur, you are fully in this. The understanding is that this is our life.
Jonathan: It’s actually easier because everything is aligned. We have the same goals, both personal and business, so it makes it easier.
What is the best part of working together as a couple?
Jonathan: You always hear about entrepreneurship and how lonely it is, so I don’t think it’s lonely here. I always have someone I can trust and have my back, so it really makes the experience that much better.
We have the same joy for things and we can celebrate everything together. When we worked in other companies, the other side was happy for you, but it’s not the same. Here, everything is the same for us.
What is the biggest challenge?
Amit: I know it will sound a bit naive or too good to be true, I think the hard part of being a co-founder is not (anything) with my co-founder, it’s about being a co-founder in the beginning. stage set-up. But with Yoni, it’s easy. He is my safe zone; He is the one I trust the most, the one I admire the most.
We disagree from time to time, obviously. We are not the same person. But everything is so respectful. When you trust the person who is with you, the difficult times are not as difficult as described.
Jonathan: It even helps us improve our communication. When you have a business, you communicate much more. We have to keep talking all the time to help each other. Everyone has their ups and downs. It’s easier when Amit is here with me on this journey.
But no relationship is perfect. Conflicts arise, as co-founders or as a couple. How do you make sure these things don’t get mixed up? Or do you let them mix?
Amit: I have to disagree. I think my relationship with Yoni is perfect. I think it improves me. Bring out a better version of me. I consider myself the luckiest person on the planet.
Jonathan: I don’t have enough words like Amit to describe everything.
amity: it’s ok. Your eye speaks.
Was their relationship at any point a worrying feature for investors or talent?
Amit: We’re post-A now, but before we planted the seed, one of Israel’s most famous entrepreneurs told me, “You’re a first-time entrepreneur, a woman, and in HR tech, and you’re creating this company with your husband, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for you for the fundraiser. But in both the seed and the A, it was easy to raise. They had no concerns about the relationship we have. At the end of the day, it’s about execution, leadership, vision, the people behind it. When you put it all together, you see that it’s bigger than the founders as husband and wife.
I think it’s important for investors to understand that we run a business, we care about Compete, and we care about customer experience and innovation. That’s the kind of conversation we’re having.
What tips or ideas do you have for couples considering starting a business together?
Jonathan: It’s hard for me to put myself in other people’s shoes. I know about our relationship. I don’t know about other people’s relationships.
Our relationship is based on trust and we support each other. We have no ego. We decided early on that she’s the CEO, I’m the CTO. I handle all the technical part of the business, she handles all the other parts. I think maybe expectations and what people want, they need to set this up in advance. But it’s really hard to tell because you grow with the business; You change a lot. It improves, but it changes.
There are differences that we all know between the positions. What happens if there is a disagreement about a decision? Usually the CEO ends up deciding, right?
Jonathan: It’s very clear: the CEO makes the decision. The fact that we are married does not change the fact that a company should work like this. I fully trust Amit to listen to my opinion. But eventually, it’s the CEO’s decision. There is no ego here. Eventually, she’s the CEO, she’s also responsible for this, and I’m responsible for my part.
Amit, what would you tell me if I started a company now with my partner? What should I really be aware or intentional about?
Amit: I think the two key ingredients are being bold together and being authentic together. The combination of these two is crucial for success and for building something together. Whatever conversation we’re having, the infrastructure of it all is respect and open communication. Just make sure you’re in a relationship that has that.
Yoni, you said that the CEO needs to make a decision. But then you have really important similar decisions to make in real life and it’s not the CEO/CTO, it’s just two partners who have to come to a consensus.
Amit: Should I say that in our private time, you are the CEO?
Jonathan: No, because it’s not right. Maybe we are co-CEOs in private. I really don’t think we have this kind of problem. If we have disagreements, it’s just about big things and we work it out like you do in business.
Michael Matias, Forbes 30 Under 30, is the author of Age is Only an Int: Lessons I Learned as a Young Entrepreneur. He studies Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, is a Venture Partner at J-Ventures and was an engineer at Hippo Insurance. Matías previously served as an officer in Unit 8200. 20MinuteLeaders is a tech entrepreneurship interview series featuring one-on-one interviews with fascinating founders, innovators, and thought leaders who share their journeys and experiences.
Contributing Editors: Michael Matias, Megan Ryan