Solving An Actual Problem: Startup Founders and Depression

Photo by B.J. Mendelson of downtown Chicago

I’ve been in a funk recently. I made the classic mistake of getting excited about a couple of things on a personal level, both of which didn’t work out, and I’ve been bummed about it. I should know better by now than to be bothered when this happens. But it still does, and then I go into a spiral where I don’t talk to anyone for weeks / months and just pull back on everything. Like wanting to have children. I’m excited about having children soon-ish, but if that came up when I was struggling with something? You’d hear me swearing that idea off even though that’s not the case at all.

Professionally, though, everything is great. Exciting things are happening, and that’s why I’m writing this. I have a unique problem that I want to solve, and statistically, when it comes to startup founders and people in tech, I’m not alone in having this problem.

That’s where the headline for this post comes from. When you encounter a startup, almost all of them will explain to you that their company solves X problem, regardless of whether or not that problem is really a problem. It’s an annoying habit like bragging about how much money you’ve raised as if that answers the question someone just asked you about whether or not your service is any good. It doesn’t. Stop talking about how much you raised! Nobody cares!

Er. Sorry … Let’s get back on track.

It’s also a cliche for startup founders, in particular, to talk about depression. And I understand how, when you hear it from a startup founder, it’s difficult to sympathize with them. “Oh, you only raised $3 million instead of $4 million last month?” “You live in a $4,000 apartment and are making it unaffordable for other people to live in that same city? Poor you.” Trust me. I know all those arguments. As I write this, I’m looking at the rent for studio apartments in Manhattan for my move there, and I’m sharing the same thought. “This is not OK.”

(I wonder if the WeWork people will let me sleep in my new one-person office?)

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue to be addressed. In a lot of cases where startups and tech companies are concerned, you’re talking about a lot of young people thrust into this world that often has a “cheat to win” mentality with millions, sometimes billions, of dollars at stake. It’s a pressure cooker. Suicide is a serious problem. So is depression. So is drug use. The fact that a lot of those people may or may not be likable is sort of beyond the point.

We owe it to each other to not be shitty people and dismiss other people’s problems, because sooner or later, those problems become our own.

That’s where I come in. My startup does a dumb, very silly thing. We produce funny business book summaries. That’s all it does. I’d love to do a summary for every business and marketing book that comes out, and all the important ones you may have missed, but it’s a self-contained (and self-funded) project. So I’ll take it as far as I can, and we’ll see how it goes. You’ll see some test products here on this website soon. But I don’t want to talk to you about that. Because it’s self-contained, there isn’t much to talk about. I either do a crap ton of reviews, and the thing scales up, or it doesn’t and I do the funny reviews for my purposes here on this website.

What I want to talk to you about instead is that I’ve suffered from depression my entire life. Outside of a business setting, I also have a complete and (sometimes hilarious) inability to interact with people in a social setting. If you want to talk about work? I’m your guy! I can sell anyone anything given enough time and research. If you want to talk about anything else? Forget it; I immediately throw up this wall, and it’s incredibly difficult to get me to talk about anything. Or I’ll mumble or speak fast because that’s what happens when I’m in a personal setting and people start poking around.

You know the problem with blogging is that there’s often no point behind it. So people get all excited and produce a ton of content, but then it tapers off, and then they abandon it. Which causes dumb marketing people to go, “Blogging is dead! Nobody does that!” And then people who don’t know any better across every industry goes, “Why does my company have a blog? Why am I paying these people? This is stupid.” Here, in the best way I can describe it, I’m going to work through my shit using products and tools like Headspace, Talkspace, Joyable, WeWork and the gym. I also may or may not incorporate something like Blue Apron, because I don’t know how to cook anything and what you put into your body plays a significant role in determining your mood. The point is, if there’s a platform or service that exists out there to help people with depression, I’m going to use it and write about that, and other things on the subject here.

Maybe there’s a book in here about resilience. Maybe one about dealing with depression. I don’t know. I just got done ghostwriting a book for someone, so I’m not exactly looking to do another one at the moment. Although as far as anyone knows I’ve only done the one book back in 2012 because you can’t say much about the ghostwriting thing, so that kind of blows.

Anyway, my hope in doing this is to get people talking about depression, particularly within the tech and startup community, support great causes like iFred, and who knows, maybe it’ll put me on the path of being a functional adult.

Guess you’ll have to stick around and find out. At the very least, there will be a bunch of cheap laughs to have at my expense.

(Photo Credit: B.J. Mendelson. All Rights Reserved.)