Empty Hero - Mental Health for Startup Founders
The ongoing funding winter and the SVB collapse have put the spotlight on mental health for startups. It's a tough time out there. Julia, one of our founders we are allowed to work with, gave us an insight into today's reality of founders.
Julia runs a fast-growing platform startup on the US West Coast and we have been working together for several years. She was on the tail end of a fundraising cycle when all hell broke loose. Despite all the drama, she got her company funded.
What could have been a great victory week pushed her into emptiness and exhaustion. What has happened? When her investors wired the funds, SVB - her bank - collapsed, and she was stranded. She had great news to share, and still no cash in the bank.
In her "get shit done" mentality, she organized new bank accounts and secured temporary cash for her employees. All while helping to sort out some technical platform challenges and closing a series of important deals.
Yet, all that activity added more to her fatigue. In our weekly coaching session, she was unusually quiet, with her eyes staring into the far distance. While her team sees her as the ultimate startup hero, she feels empty.
Mental Health is a critical aspect of (startup) life!
Mental health is not an event that may hit you or not. It is a critical aspect of startup life and requires our attention. Moments like the collapse of a bank or the crash of the funding market are unique in that everybody, even outside the startup community, got a glimpse into the daily reality of founders. While some observers ("I told you so …") focused on the "event", for most founders, it was just another day in the startup world. Or as Brad Feld summarized: "Something New Is Fucked Up In My World Every Day."
Take the Pledge
Brad also introduced me to the Founder Mental Health Pledge for Investors and Startup Leaders. I am supporting it personally, as do the teams of Moinland and several of the accelerators we support.
"We make a commitment to take an active role in encouraging mental healthcare for founders and the greater startup community. We pledge to encourage the founders we partner with to invest in their personal mental health and build a workplace culture that promotes mental health. Ensuring the mental health of founders and their teams is crucial and leads to the highest probability of startup success. We pledge to be supportive of founders treating the direct cost of caring for their mental health as a legitimate, worthwhile, and encouraged business expense – including therapy, coaching, group support, and app-based solutions. Founders should look at their mental health as a business priority."
Julia is fortunate to have investors supporting her mental health, investing in coaching, and making mental support part of her development. If this is not the case for you, use the Founder Pledge to raise your investors' awareness and allow them to be part of the solution.
For practical support, we're running a mental fitness program for startups. All of the Moinland founders have taken the program and we believe it is awesome. Over the course of a few weeks, you're gaining practice tools to increase your mental fitness and resilience for a successful startup journey.