Any entrepreneur will tell you that the job is filled with the highest highs and lowest lows. At the LAUNCH Festival in San Francisco, a panel of venture capitalists from startup accelerators discussed the lowest lows.
The conversation took the turn when LAUNCH founder Jason Calacanis brought up some tragic events that have recently hit the tech community, including the suicides of Ecomom founder Jody Sherman and hacker activist Aaron Swartz.
David Cohen, the founder and CEO of TechStars, says one thing accelerators can do is provide the right mentors to founders when there is any sign that something is wrong. He mentioned TechStars adding certified life coach Jerry Colonna as a mentor. “Even since those events, we’ve put more of these people in place,” said Cohen.
Another approach is fostering a trusting relationship with an entrepreneur. “I’m usually the first call when something goes wrong,” said Thomas Korte, founder of AngelPad. “I haven’t gotten the suicide call yet,” he said, relieved, with his hands together as if in prayer. The best case, he says, is having the founder look at him not as an merely as an investor he has to please at all costs, but also someone who was there with the company from the very beginning.
Halle Tecco, founder of Rock Health, said it is also a larger matter of nurturing mental health – a fitting comment for the head of an accelerator focused on health startups. She mentioned two portfolio companies: Neumitra, a wearable band that detects stress and anxiety so people can track patterns. And Cognitive Health Innovations, which makes tools for therapists to provide to patients between visits.
Tecco’s comments may be the most salient. While more dialogue is better than less, this is, after all, more of an issue of mental health than it is the rigors of entrepreneurship. In the search for answers to these tragic events, a lot of people have pointed to the pressures of entrepreneurship. But we should remember that we don’t know why anyone takes his or her own life. While very real, these pressures are also felt by thousands in our ecosystem who don’t take such drastic actions.
[Image courtesy MW@CMS]