Let’s Not Go Mental — the VC role in changing the mental health of startup founders

A startup journey is deeply personal and founder-driven

For many good reasons, startup founders suffer from psychological strains much more acutely than others. This doesn’t only threaten to erode their personal wellbeing, but also compromise the endeavors they dedicated their life to build.

Support the people, not just the business

As already pointed out, the one determinant factor for whether a company is going to succeed lies with the founders, especially at the early stages — only they can grow the company. So, supporting them are acute. Anyone who has been close to a founder, or has been one themself, knows that founders always live to fight another day.

De-stigmatizing & Creating an Open and Safe Environment

The first step of creating an environment where mental health and well-being can be discussed is de-stigmatizing mental health challenges. By opening up and sharing your own vulnerability and challenges, investors show the founders that it’s not only ok, but rather a necessity to talk about hardship and seek support.

Invest Directly in Well-being

Concrete actions from investors speak louder than words. One of the most direct ways of being “founder-centric” is to support portfolio companies in obtaining resources that facilitate the improvement of their mental well-being. Let’s face it: They won’t do it themselves as they’ll put the company’s well-being in front of their own any day.

Awareness of the ruling discourse and mindset

It’s hard to come around that being a founder comes with a certain degree of risk-willingness and determination. Unfortunately, those entrepreneurial traits are also tied with predisposition to mental health conditions and substance abuse. So, maybe we need to build new nuances into the discourse of ‘moving fast and breaking things’, ‘grow-or-die’ and what other things we tend to say.

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