Startup Loneliness: Why It’s Dangerous and How Founders Can Overcome It

“It may be easier than ever to start a product, but building a company is just as hard as it’s ever been.” — Sarah Lacy, Founder and Editor in Chief of Pando

Founders face many challenges when building their startups. Even founders who have multi million dollar exits to their names work long hours and face constant rejection with their current ventures.

Although most founders of struggling startups will tell you “Everything’s great” or “We’re killing it right now,” many are dealing with some intense problem all of the time. For example, many startups have a tough time hitting product/market fit. Similarly, lots of startups have very little runway left and can’t seem to close another round of funding to save the company.

It’s hard for startup founders to admit that they’re struggling. Many founders feel like they have to project an invincible image so that employees, investors, and members of the broader community have confidence in them.

You can have tons of supportive people around you and still feel lonely. Running a startup is hard.

Even when startup founders are surrounded by supportive co-founders, employees, investors, friends, and family, it’s easy for them to feel alone. In fact, if you’re a co-founder at an early stage startup you might feel very lonely right now. The pressure of working long days and maintaining a positive attitude in the face of constant challenges can be isolating.

Building a startup is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. You shouldn’t have to bear the added burden of loneliness while you work on it. Use this article as a motivator and guide for turning yesterday into your last lonely day.

Statistics on loneliness

Loneliness is extremely unhealthy, especially for your your mental health. When your mental and physical health are in bad shape, productivity plummets. Vulnerability rises. Consider some statistics:

  • Researchers at BYU found that feeling lonely can increase your odds of dying prematurely by 14%.
  • A 2010 study from University of Chicago showed that people who are lonely have less effective immune systems.
  • The researchers Sigal Barsade and Hakan Ozcelik looked at the relationship between levels of loneliness and productivity for hundreds of employees across more than 100 teams. They found that employees who felt lonelier had significantly lower levels of productivity than their more socially active colleagues.

The below strategies and tactics may not only help you eliminate your loneliness, but also strive toward a happy, healthy, and productive mindset.

Combatting Loneliness

1. Attend startup meetups and networking events in your city — Go to Meetup.com and look for local startup events in your city or town. Then, go to Startup Digest and subscribe to the digest for your city. Find a few events on Meetup and Startup Digest that excite you AND attend them. Meetups with startup founders, operators, employees, and investors are a great way to network and meet people who might help your business. They’re also helpful when it comes to reducing feelings of loneliness. Even if it’s hard or feels unnatural, introduce yourself. You might even make a friend or two to commiserate with about the trials and tribulations of startup life.

2. Start an interview podcast or video show — Interview podcasts and video shows are extremely popular right now, particularly among entrepreneurs. Though some people feel the market for these podcasts is oversaturated, that doesn’t mean you can’t start your show. Reach out to your business/startup heroes and tell them you’re working on a podcast. Ask these successful founders if you can interview them over Skype or the phone. When you do, put a recording on iTunes and/or Youtube so viewers can always tune in. By starting a business interview podcast you’ll have an opportunity to speak with other entrepreneurs. Plus, you’ll have an engaging new way to grow your business or personal brand. For more information on how to start a podcast check out this article.

3. Apply to and join an accelerator program — Accelerator programs like Dreamit bring founders together under one roof to work on their companies for 10 to 16 weeks. When you join a startup accelerator you also meet and work with lots of mentors, investors, and operators. With access and exposure to so many different people, you’ll never be lonely. Also, with all of the help and money you receive from the accelerator your company will have a much better chance at being successful. For a comprehensive list of startup accelerators you can apply to, go here.

4. Join an exercise class or an intramural sport — Most startup founders don’t exercise enough, if at all. Exercise classes and intramural sports are a great way to get a workout in while being social. Look for a gym near your office and spend a few hours a week going to an exercise class at it. Or, Google “intramural sports” in your city and join a league.

5. Be honest when you network with and meet other founders — When you hear startup founders telling you about all of the success they’re experiencing, you shouldn’t always believe them. If your startup isn’t doing well, don’t be afraid to tell other founders, as their businesses probably aren’t doing great either. Other entrepreneurs will appreciate your candor and vulnerability. They’ll trust you more and might open up in return.

6. Seek professional help if and when you need it — If you’re going through a very hard time and don’t know what to do, seek out professional help. Look for a therapist, psychiatrist, or some other professional to give you strategies and support to feel better. For more information about how startup founders can deal with mental health issues, check out this article.

Loneliness has been a major problem in startup culture for some time. It will continue to be a problem unless founders proactively seek out help and social interaction, especially when things aren’t going well. Building and running a startup will always be tough. But, that doesn’t mean life can’t be a little bit easier for founders.

The application deadline for Dreamit has been extended to July 13th! If you want access to enterprise customers, capital, and a community of founders and operators, apply to Dreamit today.