An open letter to our portfolio company founders and the startup community
We are excited to announce the next element of our platform and portfolio services focused on improving founder wellness.
We understand on a very personal level how extremely difficult it is to be a founder. Mental health challenges are commonplace, and often pushed to the back corner, not to be discussed. Being a founder of a startup can be one of the loneliest and most mentally challenging undertakings in the world. Founders may feel like they can’t talk about these stressors with their Board or may not feel like their partners, family, and non-founder friends will understand the challenges.
If you ask a founder how they are doing, it’s not uncommon to hear “Great!” or “Killing it” or some other positive aphorism. Sometimes there is intense pressure to be positive, be a cheerleader, be a salesperson—for employees, investors, and customers. Paradoxically this can be harder when business IS great, since the pressure is on to keep doing better. But behind the scenes, we know that anxiety, burnout, sleep issues, and depression can be very real issues for startup founders. And, even if a founder isn’t experiencing these issues, there can still be the feeling of isolation and not knowing how to talk to about and work through that.
As a first step in a larger founder wellness offering, we have rolled out a stipend—separate from our investment in the companies–that our founders can use toward professional coaching. We have negotiated specific offerings with two large, well-respected coaching organizations, ReBoot and Pilea. These organizations may not be right for all, so we have also assembled a list of coaches that work specifically with startups, and a guide to choosing a coach. We’ve additionally partnered with Pilea to offer “drop in” coaching for our founders and we are looking into group coaching programs as well. We intend to devote a meaningful portion of time for our 2022 founder gathering to mental health and wellness.
We feel like this is a natural undertaking for The AmFam Institute fund team. John and Rob were both founders and had some significant challenges as part of their journey. Joy has been focused on mental health and development for most of her professional career and knows what it’s like to be a “team of one” trying to tackle system-level policy changes. Under Joy’s leadership, we have also made several investments in startups that deal with different aspects of mental and behavioral health—X2AI, Manatee, Bark, AnswersNow, and Vincere Health.
We know that we don’t have all the answers. We intend to work closely with our portfolio companies to meet them where they are and broaden the wellness platform for them, and with them. We invite other VCs and startups who aren’t part of our portfolio to be part of the conversation and share ideas and best practices. Please reach out and let’s talk. We look forward to working together on this critical issue.
John McIntyre, Managing Director
Dr. Joy Ippolito, Social Impact Investment Director
Rob Kornblum, Principal and Fund Manager