OPEN LETTER: My mental health battle & why I’m stepping aside as CEO of Unlockd
From what started as a piece of paper and bold vision three years ago, Unlockd has grown into a global company with 55 staff in five countries, high profile brands and companies as our partners and record performances where we ended 2017 with an annual recurring revenue run rate of ~$20m. During this time we’ve also built immense shareholder value — all of which I’m extremely proud of.
It has not been an easy journey and as many of my fellow founders can attest to, it’s required me to pour blood, sweat & tears (and all of my money) into the business. Throughout the journey I began to experience symptoms, which I attributed for far too long to stress, lack of sleep and the start-up roller-coaster. What I did not know at the time was I was fighting a battle with bi-polar disorder.
Bi-polar is an illness that has an over indexed relationship with high functioning business leaders, artists, sportspeople & musicians. Over the last 15 months, despite continuous and multi-faceted treatments I’m still struggling to return to my optimal holistic health, and as a result I now need to put a larger commitment in place to con-currently prioritise my health with my commitment to Unlockd.
Effective immediately I will be stepping aside as CEO of Unlockd to take a role as Executive Director, focusing on major shareholder relations, overall strategic direction and corporate development. This will allow me to continue influencing the growth and future of the business, whilst also giving me the required space to make my health a priority.
This has been an agonizing decision professionally and personally, especially knowing the public nature of our business and those that surround it. However, great companies don’t rely on one person, and Unlockd is no different. All of this wouldn’t have been achievable without the contribution of so many people, including our Board, 79 shareholders who have entrusted me with their money, our clients, partners, suppliers and of course the 1+ million consumers using our product. Most importantly, integral to our success has been my amazing team who have put everything into growing Unlockd, standing alongside me throughout our journey and now today stand right next to me in full support of my decision.
Throughout Unlockd’s journey, my first investor, key advisor and most recently Chief Operating Officer Jane Martino has been instrumental in what Unlockd is today and I’m now proud to announce her as our new CEO. This is a role she has effectively been playing for some time now behind the scenes as I continued balancing my own personal health challenges with being the founder and CEO. The success of the business is significantly attributable to her operational control, and in addition to the qualities she exhibits as a person leave me in total confidence and faith of her succeeding me as CEO. I will work closely with her in my new role to continue to drive the business and its success well into the future.
I am sure my news will evoke various reactions, some of which I know will include further discussion and debate about mental health. Mental illness continues to be one of the most misunderstood and hidden epidemics of our generation. Like others before me, the decision to make my journey public, is another important step forward in helping engender greater awareness of mental illness. Hopefully in some incremental way it helps the community better understand that mental illness — which affects one in five people — doesn’t discriminate, whether you are a professional sports person, high flying executive, small business owner, employee working 9–5 at the local butcher or a parent at home with the kids…. And nor does it debilitate someone’s ability to achieve their goals.
I want to publicly mirror my private appreciation and thank-you’s to my immediate family, close friends, Unlockd board and my medical team for their care, treatment, support, discretion and endless commitment to improving the state of my health. Something I’ll always be indebted for.