Founder Stories are My Support Group

And Why All Startup Founders Need One

While Syria crumbles and the United States grapples with major political unrest, it can feel downright vapid to dwell on a problem so first-world as finding product/market fit before you‘ve run out of runway.

The StayAwhile team.

And yet, here I am. Dwelling.

The startup highs can be really high, but the daily struggle of balancing my sanity against my burn rate never seems to go away entirely.

I try hard not to beat myself up, but that’s not my nature. I was born a hyper-responsive hustler. (Test me: email me right now.) which makes me a natural-born entrepreneur but also borderline manic.

I cannot shake the constant pit in my stomach. I thought it would ease up when we got funded (it didn’t) or when we added a third full time employee (nope, not then either.)

I also have two young children, and so when I go home, even if I succeed at shutting off work, other responsibilities remain. There is always a nagging feeling that I could be doing more, both to grow my business and to be a better mother.

And so, balancing intense work pressures against the need for occasional mental catharsis remains a delicate balance.

I’m here to tell you that I’ve found the solution. Yes, of course, exercise, meditation, getting enough sleep, and spending time with friends all help tremendously. I’m not here to debate that. I wholeheartedly concur.

But surprisingly, the one thing that gives me the most peace of mind is reading first-person accounts by other startup founders.

You see, Medium is my support group. Reading first-person founder stories makes me feel much better. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

A few years ago, I had my first child. He was one of those babies that never slept and instead cried all night. I felt the effects of sleep deprivation so intensely that I started hallucinating. Good advice about how to fix the situation was non-existent, but the one helpful piece of advice came from a friend who suggested that I speak to other mothers in the same situation. And when I confided in these other, equally sleep-deprived mothers, I felt so much better. Eventually the baby started sleeping, and I returned to my old self. But, it was an intense experience. Talking it out with other mothers saw me through to the other side.

The startup struggle is similar to new motherhood in that it is also road well-travelled. And sharing about your troubles with others in the same proverbial boat helps. A lot.

So, here is my message to fellow startup-founder bloggers everywhere:

Even though we’ve never met, I’ve been inside your head, read your mind. I’ve read your posts, nodding in agreement, as you bared your soul to me, telling me about your rawness and vulnerabilities. Fretting over your burn rate, your employee discord, your hockey-stick growth curve (or lack thereof.)

Even though you don’t know me, the minutes I spend reading your thoughts comfort me by telling me I’m not alone. And for that I thank you profusely.

At work with the amazing StayAwhile team. (I’m the one without facial hair.)

Thank you, Ben Horowitz, for confirming that I’m not imagining that I’ve lost the taste for food. I thought it was all in my head.

Thank you, Matt Munson for publicly admitting that you burned $10 million of investor capital and that you feel terribly about it. Your words haunt me every day.

Thank you, Josh Pigford, for admitting that the race to grow quickly may actually be self-imposed. You’ve really helped me to slow down.

Thank you, Adi Nouriel for confiding that balancing babies and startup life is really hard. Adi, I feel you. Boy, do I feel you.

I feel genuinely excited when Nick Frost’s daily email hits my inbox. I usually lay in bed and read it before shutting off the lights at night. That’s where I meet scores of other founders, all grappling with many of the same issues I feel every day. Thank you, Nick, for introducing me to them.

This post is a humble expression of my gratitude to all of you. As founders, our most precious resource is our time, and so your willingness to share your time and your thoughts with me is a gift I don’t take lightly.

Please, keep the stories coming. And thanks again. I really do appreciate it. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Janine Yorio is the co-founder of StayAwhile, a startup at the intersection of travel, hospitality and housing, which is launching in Spring 2017. Please like this post if you enjoyed it. Thanks!