In a world where conventional wisdom often cautions against mixing business with pleasure, one power couple is challenging the norm by not just working together but thriving in their separate entrepreneurial pursuits.
The Tech Panda spoke to Rajat Mishra and Deepti Juturu. Rajat is the Founder and CEO of Prezent, a communication success and presentation productivity platform for enterprise teams powered by Astrid, a multidisciplinary AI communication assistant. Deepti is the Founder and CEO of Prezentium, an enterprise level presentation partner for many Fortune 2000 companies.
This dynamic duo has not only built a loving family over 15 years of marriage but have also nurtured two successful businesses side by side.
“People tend to generalize a lot. But I think some of these generalizations are not necessarily true. I think we’ve been smart about how we do it as well,” says Deepti.
I think you should really take the time to understand your spouse. Because the person you married or you’re with, she has some unique talents
Rajat thinks it’s actually not that complicated when you apply mutual respect. “I think you should really take the time to understand your spouse. Because the person you married or you’re with, she has some unique talents. She’s great at so many things, which may not be the same as yours. She may not react to a situation exactly the way you do, but many times I think, we as men, we just take our perspective of the world and assume. You’ve got to genuinely respect what they bring to the table and build on that,” he says.
Their story began in The Wharton School, where fate brought them together as interns at McKinsey. Rajat vividly recalls the moment he first saw Deepti, saying, “The moment I saw her, I said, ‘Okay, this is the girl I want in my life.'”
A lot of times, we don’t even know what we’re capable of, because we come up with excuses in our mind before it even happens
Fast forward 15 years, and they have built a life together, complete with two children. Despite dating for only six months before getting engaged and married, their relationship has flourished both personally and professionally.
Companies as Children
The couple’s entrepreneurial journey started when Deepti opened her company, turning draft presentations into masterpieces overnight. The company grew to serve a 100+ enterprise clients and also gathered valuable metadata. After some research, Rajat too quit his 7-figure job at Cisco, invested US$1 million of their own money, and founded Prezent.ai. They soon raised a US$4.3 million seed round, and snagged a US$20 million Series A right before the Ukraine crisis hit. They now serve 80+ Fortune 2000 companies.
The way we take care of our kids is kind of how we take care of the companies as well
Rajat describes their businesses as “our kids as well.” Drawing parallels between parenting and entrepreneurship, he explains, “The way we take care of our kids is kind of how we take care of the companies as well. There are days when we both say, ‘why are we doing this? Because business is a roller coaster.”
Their approach is one of work-life integration rather than strict separation. Whether watching a ball game with the kids or cooking together, the couple seamlessly blends family and work responsibilities.
Communication & Hacks
One of the challenges they face is resolving disagreements, especially when they arise in the context of their businesses. Between the two companies, with 500 plus people and 90 plus enterprise accounts, there are bound to be issues. However, unlike colleagues who can go home after work and reflect, Rajat and Deepti must continue the conversation at home.
“If you’re working with someone at work, and you have a disagreement or an issue, at five o’clock, you are done and then you have the night to think about it. But of course, for us, if we have a disagreement about one of the businesses, we still have to go back to each other and continue,” says Rajat.
He says, in the end, it comes down to communication. To address this, they have implemented a few interesting rituals. For example, every day they have lunch together.
“Every single day, we go to a restaurant and discuss what happened in the morning, for which both our calendars are blocked from 12.00 to 1.00 PM,” he informs.
Values are markers for how to live your life. We feel like they will help our children make decisions as they grow up. So, we came up with courage, kindness, and learning as our three core values
Another hack their son came up with is to ensure family time every day from 5.00 PM to 7.00 PM, during which, the couple cooks together after which they sit down as a family to talk or play board games. Another tactic they use is to maintain a calendar, where an argument about work or family entails a cross on that day, while a no-argument earns them a check mark.
Another important aspect, says Deepti, is building the values in the family. Their values, including courage, kindness, and learning, serve as guiding principles both in their family and business lives. “Values are markers for how to live your life. We feel like they will help our children make decisions as they grow up. So, we came up with courage, kindness, and learning as our three core values.”
Starting her company with a six-month-old child, Deepti embodied the value of courage and kindness.
“When I left Genentech to start Prezentium, I was scared, but courage is doing it despite being scared. I also had a social mission, to help underprivileged children realize their potential,” she recalls.
Keeping in sync with her goals, for every slide, Prezentium donates a dollar to a children’s charity. Prezent too has also pledged 1% of its equity to children’s causes.
“This is important to us in terms of values and making sure that our kids live these values, as they’re thinking, as they’re growing up, and as they think about the decisions that they’re making as well,” she says.
Another hack the couple makes use of is going for a walk.
“We go for walks quite a bit,” Rajat informs. One of my friends once told me that a walk has two sides. On the walk from here to where you’re going, you be quiet and listen to the other person’s perspective. And then on the way back she can be quiet and then you can share.”
Despite being different in personality and work styles, Rajat and Deepti have learned to appreciate each other’s strengths.
“Deepti and I interestingly are very different people. We are both introverts, but outside of that we are totally different. She is a strong feeler. I’m a strong thinker. She’s very organized and planned, and I’m more spontaneous,” Rajat acknowledges.
In the end, because you love each other, you always look for the most generous explanation for why someone is behaving in that way
“I am more detail oriented and Rajat is more a visionary. But we have learned that we are so different that we know what our sources of tension are,” says Deepti.
Why working with your spouse can help, she says, is that there’s more empathy. “In the end, because you love each other, you always look for the most generous explanation for why someone is behaving in that way. If you don’t know someone, you think they’re doing this because of some negative reason.”
Words of Wisdom
As their journey continues, Deepti encourages women to embrace their capabilities and not succumb to self-imposed limitations. “I would encourage women to go for it,” she says. “A lot of times, we don’t even know what we’re capable of, because we come up with excuses in our mind before it even happens. Like I had the excuse of ‘Can I do it as a mom and run a successful business?’ So, I was almost going to take myself out of the game before I even tried. But you don’t know what you’re capable of till you try,” she adds.
Rajat emphasizes the simplicity of the approach, urging couples to understand and appreciate each other’s perspectives and talents.
Read more: A 4-point plan for successful DigiOps
“I think just taking the time, the genuine time and effort to really understand your wife’s superpowers, or what makes her tick, what makes her special, and then supporting her, appreciating that, is important.
In a world where many shy away from the challenges of working with a spouse, Rajat and Deepti stand as a testament to the power of love, empathy, and shared values in building both a successful family and thriving businesses.