The Investor Pledge for Mental Health

Why mental health matters at startups

Erin Frey
Kip Blog


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. Time may be a founder’s scarcest resource, but their ability to make good use of that time matters most.

Therapy is time spent every week strengthening your mind.

Despite its importance, founders often forget to take care of their minds. They don’t prioritize mental health, talk about it, and or take action because it seems taboo. I’ve met countless founders who avoid therapy because it would make them seem weak. I’ve also met founders who credit their success to being proactive about taking care of their mental health and going to therapy.

Therapy is a fantastic tool for managing stress and learning skills that help you optimize the way you work and live your life. It’s time spent every week strengthening your mind, an insurance policy against bad decisions and burnout. And it’s a high-value business activity that founders should consider as important as other items on their roadmap.

Therapy in the Bay Area costs roughly $200/session. If a founder goes a few times a month, that’s a small investment to ensure a high-performing leadership team. Put another way, a founder could spend the equivalent amount of money per year on a top of the line Macbook plus related accessories. What’s more valuable to a company–a high performing founder or a high performing laptop? That analogy is relevant for any member of a startup team.

Last month, CNN did a documentary on mental health issues at startups, calling it Silicon Valley’s secret. But I don’t think it’s a secret that startups are hard or that the pressure of startups can push a founder to their limit. A bigger secret is that many founders go to therapists to perform at their best and avoid burnout. It’s not talked about widely, which means many founders feel weird going to therapy and many more don’t realize it’s an option.

This is where investors can play a powerful role. By joining the pledge, you send a positive message to founders in your portfolio that it’s important to invest time and resources on mental health.

I once talked to a founder who’d been through depression and burnout that led his company to shut down. He said that if he started a company again, he’d track the mental health of his team along with the revenue and growth numbers. Mental health is that important–it’s the lifeblood of efficiency for startups.

We’re thrilled that two of our investors, Refactor Capital and Slow Ventures, have pledged to take action and cover the tab for a first therapy session for founders in their portfolios. [Update: we’ve added more! Shatter Fund, Honeycomb Portfolio, Techne Ventures, Zynik Capital, Susa Ventures, John Ramey, and Greg Osuri.] These investors are setting a new standard around what it means to support founding teams. You, too, have the power to turn conversations into action that will positively benefit every team in your portfolio.

“Slow is passionate about improving brain health. We understand that celebrated traits found in entrepreneurs can be the same traits associated with depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADD, OCD, and other brain health categories. Yet, caring for brain health is often stigmatized and misunderstood. We believe that taking care of your brain health should be as important as taking care of your physical health. Just like you would not ask an athlete to run a marathon without their body being in shape, we do not believe you should ask an entrepreneur to build a startup without their brain being in shape. A therapy membership is as important as a gym membership. As a demonstration of our commitment to brain health, we’re excited to offer therapy sessions to our community of entrepreneurs through Kip.” – DAVE MORIN, Slow Ventures

“We are extremely happy to be sponsoring sessions on behalf of our founders. Hopefully it raises awareness around the value of these services and more importantly reduces the stigma around “mental health” and therapy. The reality is that being healthy means feeling good physically, emotionally and mentally. Top performers in many fields understand this and commit themselves to being healthy in mind, body and spirit. They understand that seeing a therapist or coach is the equivalent of seeing a trainer — these services help them maintain and improve their health and fitness along all three dimensions. We encourage founders to try therapy even if they don’t feel like they “need it” — it’s like a workout for the mind and soul.” – David Lee, Refactor Capital

The Investor Pledge for Mental Health

As investors, we encourage founders to build a workplace culture that promotes mental health.

Mental health is crucial to team performance–it affects decision making, productivity, and leadership. Therapy and coaching are powerful tools to build grit, mental resilience, and avoid burnout.

When founders invest in their mental health, along with the mental health of their teams, they have our full support.

Thank you to all investors who are sponsoring sessions for their founders including Slow Ventures, Refactor Capital, Shatter Fund, Honeycomb Portfolio, Techne Ventures, Zynik Capital, Susa Ventures, John Ramey, and Greg Osuri. Thanks to investors who have joined the pledge including Great Oaks VC, Upside Partnership, Version One Ventures, as well as Phin Barnes, Brett Berson, Bill Trenchard, Rob Hayes, Courtney Broadus, Christian Meyers, Aston Motes, Hoda Eydgahi, and Dasha Maggio.

Join the pledge.