Our interview with Bumpers founder Jacob Thornton

“I invest in therapy because I owe a lot of my success to it, frankly. I don’t think I could operate at the level that I operate without it.”

This week on #braintalk, we interviewed fat, founder of podcast startup Bumpers.

We covered everything from:
- Jacob’s first panic attack
- The meditation that triggered his anxiety
- Tools he learned in therapy that help him everyday
- One weird but effective trick his therapist taught him
- How cool it was to realize many of his friends went to therapy
- What you should look for when finding a…

In June, I was lucky enough to be an invited speaker at the Wellbeing@Work 2017 conference in San Francisco, and wanted to share some thoughts about the event and a few excerpts from my talk. As you can imagine, I was pretty psyched, being able to present Kip to an audience of business professionals who already understood that wellbeing at work is a productivity issue that really matters to any company. Of course, what I hoped to show was how Kip, with its data-driven approach to effective therapy, can provide mental wellness support for high performing leaders and employees. …

Why mental health matters at startups

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Today we’re launching the Investor Pledge for Mental Health, inviting investors to take collective action to build a healthier culture in Silicon Valley. If you’re an individual investor or part of an investment fund, you can support the mission by joining the pledge here.

A founder’s mental health is vital to startup success. There are many ways to describe mental health, including grit, mental resilience, emotional fitness, brain health, and stamina. All of these words mean a strong mind. Founders succeed by the speed and quality of their decisions combined with their ability to weather stress and uncertainty on a daily basis. Startups fall apart when founders burn out, make bad decisions, or manage their teams poorly. …

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Why I decided to go to therapy

My therapy story starts with a really bad night. Six weeks ago, I left my office and cried for 40 minutes as I walked to Super Duper, a burger chain in San Francisco. I’d meant to walk home, but my god, do greasy garlic fries taste good when you’re in a terrible mood.

I knew something wasn’t right. For a few weeks now, I’d noticed a sense of ever-present anxiety. I’d wake up anxious and stressed out before getting out of bed. I got agitated more easily and had frequent disagreements with my co-founder. I felt more distracted at work–fighting not just the typical startup fires but a wandering mind. Confidence gave way to self doubt and my productivity slowed down. Something that I used to accomplish in 10 minutes became a one hour chore. …

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My first therapy session

I had no idea how bad it had gotten until my first therapy session.

I felt eager and frustrated as I walked to my therapist’s office, just a few blocks from my own. My stress levels had been off the charts for weeks and it was affecting performance at work. I had a company to run–ironically, a therapy startup. Anxiety and self-doubt had eaten away at my confidence. My to do list grew longer as the speed of my work ground to a halt. I was making slow decisions and, quite frankly, bad ones. …

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Since we started building a mental health startup, Kip, we’ve fielded a lot of questions from people who are curious about therapy. These questions have been enlightening and validate the work we are doing. They have also revealed many common misconceptions about what exactly therapy is, who it is for, and how it works.

Have you ever had these thoughts about therapy?

  • Therapy doesn’t work.
  • Therapy is not for me–it’s for people with serious mental health issues.
  • Talking to someone about my problems won’t help me.
  • I can fix the problem myself.
  • Once I start going to therapy, I’ll have to go forever. …

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All names and identifiable information has been changed to respect the privacy of those interviewed. This photo is not Jay.*

Jay, Part II

Continued from: The Panic Attack: Jay, Part I

Jay* was in the middle of telling his story to me when he brought up depression:

What were the scariest moments in the company?

Shutting down the startup was definitely the worst moment. Over the course of the company, I dealt with anxiety and I learned how to manage it. But when we shut down the company, I was definitely depressed for at least 6–9 months afterward.

I hadn’t expected him to tell me this. Jay had mentioned nothing about depression before or during the interview. But I was so glad that he did because it’s incredibly common to go through both. …

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All names and identifiable information has been changed to respect the privacy of those interviewed. This photo is not Jay.*

Jay, Part I

I met Jay* a couple weeks ago over coffee. He was your prototypical San Francisco startup founder: an engineer in his twenties who found his way to Silicon Valley by joining a startup as their first employee. He’s someone you wish you had on your team: smart, fast, and also courteous and kind.

He sat in the quiet corner of the coffee shop, taking a call, when I walked in. I learned later that he was asking a former cofounder for advice on his new startup.

We’re all good friends now. It wasn’t always like that. There was a specific point of the company where things were so bad that our employees weren’t happy and my cofounders and I were at each other’s throats. …

Founder’s experiences riding the emotional startup curve

Most founders know Paul Graham’s startup curve and its dreaded trough of sorrow. Yet few founders anticipate the turns of the emotional roller coaster that follows. They’re not prepared because we in the startup community don’t talk openly about mental health issues, even though almost 50% of founders struggle with one.*

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Modified from Paul Graham’s Startup Curve: http://avc.com/2012/03/the-startup-curve/

This is changing, however, as founders reveal their personal encounters with anxiety, depression, and suicide through stories. Blogposts by entrepreneurs including Brad Feld, Ben Huh, Rand Fishkin, and Tim Ferriss bring mental health into public conversations. Their admissions encourage us to talk about our mental health struggles with other founders. Many times, our friends and colleagues respond by sharing personal stories of their own. …

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Photo source: gwangju blog

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” — Eli Wiesel

This is a movement against slacktivism.

Last week nine people were killed in Charleston in an act of hate and racism-fueled terrorism. We felt angry, confused, and most of all unsure what we could do to help.

Working and living in San Francisco, most of us walk by at least one homeless person on our commute. But most days, we don’t even look up from our phones to see the people around us.

We hear about the gentrification, the out-of-control rent, the evictions, and the 30-year-old mom and pop stores closing in our neighborhoods. But so often our contributions are limited to the stories we post on Facebook, the long dinner conversations we have with friends, or the quick Wikipedia research we do before the conversation. …


Erin Frey

YC ‘S16 Yale ‘08.

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