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Building a Mental Health Support Network: 5 Tips for Startup Founders

Updated: Apr 19

It’s crucial for entrepreneurs, and especially startup founders, to pay close attention to their mental health. Unfortunately, this is a matter often overlooked and under-explored.


Pressures from home, from investors, from co-founders and employees, and even self-imposed pressures all contribute to overwhelming feelings and uncertainties. 


Compounding these pressures is the fear of failure. This fear can be debilitating, sometimes causing more harm than failure itself, paralyzing founders' decision-making and risk-taking. As a result, they can grow hesitant to embrace new challenges or adopt innovative approaches – characteristics that are important for any entrepreneur to succeed. Particularly for younger entrepreneurs, the inherent risks of launching a new venture can escalate anxiety levels.


The Untold Toll on Founders

Intel Ignite, Intel Corporation’s global startup accelerator program for early-stage deep tech startups, teamed up with Startup Snapshot to explore the mental health challenges startup founders face. As part of the survey “The Untold Toll: The Impact of Stress on the Well-Being of Founders,”over 400 entrepreneurs were interviewed and the discovery was surprising: 81% of entrepreneurs hide the mental stress they experience, and only 23% of them seek professional help.


Many founders have adopted a “no pain, no gain” mentality, often glorified by successful entrepreneurs. This mindset leads them to neglect their physical and emotional well-being in pursuit of their goals.


The glorification of startup stress is a troubling trend. Stories of all-nighters and missed social events are worn as badges of honor. This narrative normalizes the emotional toll of entrepreneurship, and encourages founders to sacrifice their well-being for success.


Despite the importance of stress management for their mental health, many founders find it hard to openly discuss their struggles or seek professional help. Ironically, while entrepreneurs are known for stepping out of their comfort zones, discussing personal anxieties and hardships seems to be an exception.


And this extends to their relationships with investors as well. There is still considerable stigma surrounding the issues of mental stress: 90% of entrepreneurs do not feel comfortable discussing their difficulties with investors, mainly because they fear that the same honesty and transparency could endanger their ability to raise investment later.


It's essential for entrepreneurs to establish a mental support system and recognize when to seek help. Here are some practical tips for building such a network:


Contact Friends And Colleagues

Join or create a community of entrepreneurs, where you can share experiences with others who understand your journey. This will give you the ability to learn from each other, and support each other in the unique challenges you are facing. You can also consider joining a mastermind group where you meet weekly to tackle one member's goal, share input, and hold each other accountable. It's a fantastic way to achieve short-term goals and increase self-confidence.


Proactively Build Trust With Your Investors

Develop open and honest relationships with your investors so that you feel comfortable talking about any difficulties you encounter. Many investors have observed various mental health issues among entrepreneurs in their portfolio companies. Some are always ready to offer advice or connect individuals to appropriate resources.


Involve Your Spouse Or Partner

The nature of startup life often brings stress into the home, demanding both the spouse and the founder to actively work on minimizing its impact on their relationship. Having your other half in your corner can make a huge difference to your mental well-being, and let's be honest, it's beneficial for them too. However, it's equally important for founders to be mindful not to overburden the relationship with excessive stress. Express your gratitude for the contribution they make to your sanity, balance, and growth. 


Seek Professional Help

Don't hesitate to contact a psychologist, therapist, or join mindfulness classes to better manage stress and maintain your mental health. At the Intel Ignite startup accelerator program for example, we encourage entrepreneurs to prioritize their mental health, and make sure they have all the support they need. We connected entrepreneurs with mental health experts, and also organized mindfulness and self-awareness workshops for them.


Be A Source Of Support For Others

Helping others often provides a broader and healthier perspective. Even if the company is in a good situation, we personally might not be. The commitment to support another can be an immediate boost to our own morale!


And always remember – you are not alone. Joining a community of entrepreneurs who are going through a journey similar to yours and having similar experiences - can be a lifeline or a source of mutual support. 


P.S. Don’t forget to check out Intel Ignite - their accelerator is accepting applications until January 17, 2024.


About Intel Ignite 

Intel® Ignite is Intel Corporation’s global startup accelerator program for early-stage deep tech startups. Launched in 2019, the Intel® Ignite program supports founders whose goal is to change the world for the better using disruptive technology. The 12-week program focuses on all aspects critical to the success of early-stage startups. Global business and technology leaders individually mentor the startups to further accelerate their growth and enable them to successfully realize their breakthrough ideas. The Intel Ignite accelerator program for startups has seen over 150 companies participate to date globally, in its programs in Europe, Israel, UK and the US. For information, visit https://intelignite.com.


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