Beyond Business: The Reality of Being a Startup Founder

Beyond Business is one of the LTST23 focus areas, where we’re looking at entrepreneurship from a broader perspective that goes beyond financial success. As an entrepreneur, you often face challenges that might affect your mental and physical well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life. So, let’s talk about (mental) health, self-care- & optimization, family & work-life balance & biohacking to learn how to adopt a holistic approach to entrepreneurship – so you can thrive both personally and professionally.

Mental Health for Startup Founders

In the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, startup founders are often admired for their ambition and drive to create innovative solutions. However, behind the scenes, the pressure and demands of building a successful venture can take a toll on their mental health.

“The excitement of creating something new and groundbreaking can mask the reality that startup founders face an unprecedented level of uncertainty. This constant ambiguity and the fear of failure can significantly impact their mental well-being.”

The Dangers Of Mental Health Challenges For Startup Founders

Balderton recently released a Founder Wellbeing and Performance report, Optimising Founder Wellbeing and Performance, which revealed the high-pressure culture that the startup ecosystem is known for is extremely counterproductive. 

“Founders understand that after a certain point, simply putting in more time, under constantly stressful conditions, does not produce the best outcomes. Performance and productivity can actually be increased by investing time in other areas, such as health.”

Optimising Founder Wellbeing and Performance, Balderton

It is crucial that founders, investors, and stakeholders prioritize their own mental well-being. By acknowledging and supporting mental health needs, we can create a healthier and more sustainable startup ecosystem that fosters innovation and success while safeguarding the well-being of those at the helm of these ventures. Plus, if it helps you prioritize your own well-being by thinking of it as contributing toward helping others, then by all means use that! 

No one is under any illusion about how challenging it is to start a business: the start-up ecosystem is one of high pressure, long hours, and intense commitment and dedication. Founders know this, with 82% saying that working long hours is an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur. Source: Balderton, Founder Wellbeing & Performance Report

Combatting Entrepreneurial Loneliness

A major aspect of mental health challenges of founders is the sense of isolation that is created from the “always-on” culture of the startup world. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely experience, which gets even worse when things aren’t exactly going your way…

As an entrepreneur, you call the shots. You decide how to run the business. Consequently, all responsibilities rest on you. Business activities may take a toll on you and you have no one to share the challenges with. It is a struggle because you want to appear strong and motivate others, including your employees.”

4 Ways To Defeat Entrepreneurial Loneliness

This feeling of responsibility and pressure drives individuals to avoid sharing their struggles with others, despite the fact that all entrepreneurs face similar challenges. Forbes shared some actionable ways to combat entrepreneurial loneliness in 16 Effective Ways to Combat Entrepreneurial Loneliness. These are the ones that particularly resonated with us:


  1. Volunteer to share your experience
  2. Mark off your calendar with time to meet up with others
  3. Join an online community within your niche (or create your own)
  4. Design collaborative projects
  5. Connect with other entrepreneurs – attend events, such as LTST23

Overcoming Founder Burnout

Do you find yourself stressing over the perfect solution for your business, for your customers, or for your team? That’s where things can start to take a turn for the worse. 

“No single thing you do as an entrepreneur will ever “fix” your startup’s biggest problems. Even worse, believing a single solution exists is dangerous because you’ll burn yourself out trying — and failing — to find it.”

Founder Burnout Is a Real Thing — Here’s How You Overcome It

Giving yourself, and your team, some grace on problem-solving and timelines for improvements is a huge factor in preventing burnout. Accept the reality that the next solution will not be a magic solution because the truth is, there will be more bumps in the road along the way, and having realistic expectations will empower you to carry on and face them more effectively.

Decision Fatigue: Why am I so Tired of Making Decisions?

Because of your position as a founder, a leader, and even the everyday decisions you need to make in your daily life, you may find yourself suffering from decision fatigue. What exactly is it?

“Decision fatigue is “the idea that after making many decisions, your ability to make more and more decisions over the course of a day becomes worse.”

What doctors wish patients knew about decision fatigue

Why is it important to be aware of this? Because life is complex and full of the need to make decisions. Awareness of the symptoms and signs of decision fatigue will help you realise when to take action and prevent the fatigue from worsening. 

Common signs of decision fatigue to look out for:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Physical fatigue

Source: Decision Overload: How To Confidently Make Choices That Will Change Your Life

Facing decision fatigue? 

Luckily, plenty of strategies are available to help you tackle decision fatigue. While some less conventional ways include dressing like Steve Jobs, as discussed in Why Successful People Wear the Same Thing Every Day, that might not necessarily be for you.

Here are three ways to combat decision fatigue:

1. Sync your personas – align your whole self (work and private life)
2. Focus on Relationships – cultivate more positive work relationships
3. Designate your spaces – actually use spaces for their intended purpose

Source: 3 Simple Methods To Achieve Work-Life Balance And Combat Decision Fatigue

Building Resilience

The pressure, loneliness, and fatigue that accompany entrepreneurship mean that there is huge value in taking the time to build up resilience. That way when times are tough, you can effectively cope without turning to detrimental coping mechanisms. 

“Experts have found that entrepreneurs are twice as likely to suffer from depression than non-founders and are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from addiction as a coping mechanism”

5 Practical Strategies Founders Can Use to Improve Their Mental Health

With that in mind, understanding the impact that harmful habits can have on your life expectancy might be useful in helping you adopt a healthy lifestyle. Consider swapping them for some healthier habits, it can even add 20 years to your life expectancy.

According to the recent study, these eight lifestyle changes that could extend your life:

  1. Eat well.
  2. Avoid cigarettes.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep.
  4. Be physically active.
  5. Manage stress.
  6. Avoid binge drinking.
  7. Be free from opioid addiction.
  8. Have positive social relationships.

For your health: take care of your team

Feeling like taking care of your team is just another added pressure on top of caring for yourself? Well, it turns out that the health and well-being of your team directly impact that of leaders

So for your own good, take care of your team, and the culture you create by doing so will reflect back to you. Harvard Business Review shared 8 ways managers can support employees’ mental health. 

Here are some of our favorites from their list:

  • Be vulnerable. share your own challenges with mental health with your team. It helps to eliminate the stigma.
  • Model healthy behaviours. take care of yourself first, and share about your healthy activities and boundaries, especially around work-life balance.
  • Offer flexibility, inclusively. Check-in regularly and offer flexibility proactively. Announce to the whole team when flexibility is available.
  • Communicate more than you think you need to. Mental health resources should be outwardly shared, often. Not just when you feel your employee needs it.

Biohacking Your Brain

For those looking to do more than traditionally healthy habits are ready to incorporate new tech, which means embracing biohacking. 

“Biohacking, also known as human augmentation or human enhancement, is do-it-yourself biology aimed at improving performance, health, and wellbeing through strategic interventions.”

What’s Biohacking? All You Need To Know About The Latest Health Craze

Founders, tech enthusiasts, and generally busy people alike are turning toward biohacking to make a healthy mental state a little bit easier and optimize the performance and productivity of one’s brain during work hours. Surprising to some, with all the buzz around biohacking, you might already be doing it!

Three main categorizations of biohacking can be thought of as: 

  • Habits and behaviour
  • Diet and supplements
  • Technical gadgets

Source: How to Get Into Biohacking Today With Simple but Effective Tactics

Forbes shared Six Biohacking Tips Guaranteed To Boost Productivity, and while we don’t dive into anything too technical (yet), our favourite hacks that the Female Founders team uses are:

Sobriety and Self-care

Are you sober-curious? Maybe now is the time to consider sobriety as a form of self-care and productivity hack. Some of the benefits include boosted brainpower, improved sleep and better stress management.

What it really all comes down to, is self-care. Take care of yourself and your team; implement healthy habits and you will have the opportunity to be happier and more productive in your professional life.

Self-care is Important

Does it seem like biohacking looks a lot like self-care? Maybe that’s because at the end of the day, the best way to care for your mental health and be in a state of productivity.

Looking for a few habits to work into your weekly routine? Business Insider shared, the self-care habits 11 successful founders are taking into 2023, like meditation, walks, and sticky notes

We mixed a few of our favourites in with theirs:

  • taking yourself out to eat at a restaurant
  • retail therapy aka. a little shopping trip as a reward
  • spend time in nature and water your plants
  • read more books, or join a book club
  • hit the gym, yoga class, or find a local running group! 

Discover What Beyond Business Means to You

Did we convince you that taking care of yourself can significantly improve your work and life as a founder?

Then take the next step and join us in Vienna at LEAD TODAY. SHAPE TOMORROW. You will meet fellow innovators, experts, founders, and investors eager to commit to and co-create an inclusive world, where entrepreneurs can thrive.

Allie Trok

Allie Trok

Communications Manager at Female Founders

Originally from California, Allie moved to Vienna in 2021 and is a part of the Female Founders team, working as a Communications Manager. With a background in Communication and Sociology, non-profits, startups, and tech, is also pursuing her Master’s in International Management and Leadership. Allie’s combined skillsets prepare her to problem solve, think critically, and approach communication in a relevant and creative way.