“Maybe I’m not the typical founder or CEO,” says Houzz’s Adi Tatarko. “Maybe I don’t like the standards that others apply to themselves and their companies. But this is me, this is my company, and this is how I want to do it.” As the CEO and Co-founder of one of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing startups, Tatarko has transformed Houzz from a former side project to a multibillion-dollar business, and she’s done so by staying true to herself. 

After struggling to communicate with architects and designers during their own home renovation, Tatarko and her husband, Alon Cohen, launched Houzz in 2009 to ease the collaboration process for homeowners in similar situations. In the years since, the company has grown to 40 million unique monthly visitors, 2 million professionals, and a $4 billion valuation, making Tatarko one of the few female founders to break the elusive unicorn barrier.

Tatarko admits, however, that the entrepreneurial career path wasn’t one she intended to pursue, and that the personal sacrifices often associated with startup life were a turnoff. “I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many people who’ve built remarkable careers in the tech industry. And I always heard how much they regret not spending enough time with their kids or with their families,” she says. “No matter what, I didn’t want to be in that place. I didn’t want to get to a point in my life where I would look backwards with regret.”

As Houzz has grown, Tatarko has been deliberate about designing a career that prioritizes the personal dimensions of her life as much as the professional ones and urges others to do the same. “You need to learn how to switch between the two,” she says. “I have three children, each of them their own universe, their own startup. From the beginning, I said, ‘My kids are here and they’re not going to go anywhere. I’m not going to abandon my role as their mom.’ I refuse to live by any other standards.” This willingness to follow a more authentic path has set Tatarko apart in her industry and she believes she’s better for it. “Prioritization forces you to focus on what really matters and our ability to juggle makes us much more efficient.” 

When asked for her best advice to fellow female founders, it’s no surprise that Tatarko stresses the importance of staying true to yourself. “It’s possible. You just need to do it your way,” she says. “You need to set up rules the way that work for you. It doesn’t need to be perfect or be exactly like what someone else has built. Stay true to yourself; that’s what counts.”

Tatarko discussed her untraditional career path, how she learned to live by her own standards, and best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

On Pursuing Her Passions:

“I truly believed in it. And we were not getting into it [Houzz] in order to get something out of it. It was a journey. I was just super passionate. In the end, when I had to answer myself and be honest with myself, I said, ‘I don’t want to stop doing this because I really like it.’ I felt like a child in a toy store in a way. Every day was so magnificent in terms of what I was surrounded by.”

On Finding Balance:

“Women can do it. They can do it alongside doing other things in their lives, including being a parent if that is what they want. We live in times where it’s possible to choose whether you want to just have the career first, just have kids first, or combine both. And that’s actually beautiful. I questioned it before I jumped into this crazy adventure, but now I’m doing it and I don’t think it’s crazy at all. And I see lots of amazing female leaders and contributors at Houzz that are having kids. And they are doing amazing. They are thriving. And they are doing so much, both at home and at work.

On Her Greatest Inspiration:

“My grandmother survived the Holocaust. She rebuilt her life from the ashes. She did lots of remarkable things, including building an amazing career at a time when women were not so into their careers. She kept saying all the time that everything is possible. As long as you stay true to yourself, as long as you live by your own standards, not by other people’s standards, not by other people’s expectations.” 

“That got stuck with me. I couldn’t ignore the fact that, if she did it having no support, coming from where she came from and was able to create something so wonderful, I don’t have any right to complain about anything. Everything looks like nothing compared to what she had to go through. It’s very helpful when you have somebody so inspiring to look up to.”

On Learning To Let Go:

“The hardest part for me in the beginning was to let go some of the things that I used to do in the early days. When I do something, I like to control it and do it all the way, by myself. And back then, I didn’t have any resources or money to let others do it. But when you build a company, you need to pretty quickly identify which areas you’re going to let others run and which areas you’re going to focus on. It’s actually good to let go and let others build it and things forward.”

On Her Advice To Her Younger Self:

“I would tell myself from the beginning to not wait until things become easier in order to structure it the right way. I would tell myself, because I didn’t know that. I would tell myself, ‘It’s not going to get easier. It’s not.’ The challenges that you have in the early stage will change. And you will keep moving on.”


Photo Source: Houzz Images and Resources