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A Clear Picture of Founder Mental Health

As told to me in a letter from a founder.

Dear Miriam,

I very much enjoyed your presentation.

One of your requests of the community was for video interviews with founders about some of the issues causing stress. I'd be glad to participate in one of these.

As you know, the principal stress for founders is emotional isolation.

The founder has a clear picture of the challenges and opportunities. It is in the founder's best interests to present a calm and confident picture of the future of the company to other members of the team, to outside investors, and to family and friends. This is often in conflict with the founder's knowledge.

For challenges, the founder cannot share any misgivings with anyone inside the company (they might wonder if they are on the right team), or anyone outside the company (potential investors will look elsewhere, family and friends may encourage the founder to get a regular job). If any particular challenge is addressed successfully, the founder cannot share some of the details, and certainly does not share an account of their thoughts or their emotional state while the challenge is being addressed.

For opportunities, the founder is often bound by an NDA that is in place for a substantial period of time. They may not be able to discuss matters that are sensitive pending a resolution.

This adds up to a founder's experience of isolation, where the founder cannot discuss matters that may affect his or her emotional state. Relationships with family and friends can be affected by this necessary keeping of secrets.

I would also add that it is common for a founder to experience rejection. Pitches to potential investors frequently fail. Grant applications are not funded. Publications are rejected. Over time, a founder may learn to be stoic about rejection, but it is part of being human that rejection always hurts.

I'd be glad to discuss this, as well as coping strategies.


Paul Szauter, PhD

Chief Scientific Officer, EquiSeq

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