Week of 7 September 2020
Building a company is far from a walk in the park—we all know that. The race to survive, let alone succeed, places immense pressure on founders, and the stress often increases as the business grows. But are there certain psychological stresses that entrepreneurs experience that they aren’t talking about enough? Let’s take a Deep Dive.

🤡 “Fake it till you make it” is a phrase that many entrepreneurs know all too well, and it’s even part of the culture in Silicon Valley. But there are mixed feelings about this mindset of pretending to be something you’re not until you no longer have to. 

🤐 Entrepreneurs often perceive it as a necessary evil; a mechanism that gives them the self-confidence they need to thrive in business and keep up a positive front, even when things aren’t going well. This, however, can also be seen as an unwillingness to show vulnerability, which remains a relatively taboo concept in the entrepreneurial space.

😰 In the longer term, suppressing our true emotions and darkest thoughts can lead to greater feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. The long working hours and little sleep can also take a toll on an entrepreneur's relationships, which can make them feel even more isolated.   

🗣️ The best way to start managing these feelings is to not ignore them until you can’t avoid them anymore. Rather than let your emotions consume you, work on focusing on what’s within your control and come up with a game plan for your next steps, even if you’re not entirely sure of the final outcome. 


“If you saw the list of names, it would surprise you a great deal. They are very successful people, very visible, very charismatic—yet they've struggled silently [with mental health issues]. There's a sense that they can't talk about it, that it's a weakness or a shame or something. They feel like they're hiding, which makes the whole thing worse.”

—  Brad Feld, managing director of venture capital firm Foundry Group, of the people who reached out to him when he was writing a blog post about depression




72% A study found that 72 percent of entrepreneurs have mental health concerns, which is significantly higher than the non-entrepreneurs surveyed.

49% An estimated 49 percent of entrepreneurs will suffer from at least one mental health condition in their life.

11 A 2019 report found that 11 out of 12 startups fail, with the information industry seeing the highest rate of failure. 

65% A Harvard Business School study found that 65 percent of startup failures can be attributed to personal stress experienced by founders.


According to a study, how many times more likely are entrepreneurs to suffer from bipolar disorder than non-entrepreneurs?

A. 3
B. 6
C. 10

Scroll to the bottom of the email for the answer.


ADHD—or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—has become an unlikely asset of the entrepreneurial world. After big-name founders such as Virgin’s Richard Branson and Ikea’s Ingvar Kamprad were said to have the condition, it has become closely associated with their success in business. 

ADHD entrepreneurs are said to have an impulsiveness, a high level of energy and an alternative way of thinking that have all worked to their advantage.

It might be no surprise then that a study found that entrepreneurs are six times more likely to suffer from ADHD than non-entrepreneurs.  


5 Stories To Get You Up To Speed
  1. The Fearsome Nightmare Entrepreneurs Never Talk About

  2. True Singapore Startup Stories: The Dark Side Of The Boom
    The Business Times
  3. Elon Musk Details 'Excruciating' Personal Toll Of Tesla Turmoil
    The New York Times
  4. How Founders Can Recognise And Combat Depression 
    Harvard Business Review
  5. Why Startup Founders Should Open Up About Their Mental Health
    The Next Web


The Cost Of Being An Entrepreneur

Mental health experts discuss the most common mental health problems that founders face and what they can do to tackle them


Among the list of mental health conditions that entrepreneurs face, some are more prevalent than others. This chart shows how likely entrepreneurs are to suffer from various mental illnesses, compared to non-entrepreneurs of a similar demographic and the general public.   

Data: Michael A Freeman


An honouree to know

Jamie Chiu
Founder of The Brightly Project, Jamie Chiu is helping Hong Kong’s youth fight mental health issues with technology. Armed with a doctorate in clinical psychology, she and her co-founders have designed a chatbot that can identify students with symptoms of depression and lead them to resources from which they can seek help. The idea for the startup was spurred by Chiu’s own struggle with anxiety and depression at a young age.  



Did you miss our Deep Dive on Asia’s Booming Sexual Wellness Industry? Read it here


Songs For The Soul
Entrepreneurs know the work never ends. But you can stay sane by remembering to look after yourself. This could mean taking a 15-minute breather to listen to some music, like this playlist curated by Fave Group founder and CEO Joel Neoh, which was put together for anyone needing a quick wind down. 


The Power of Saying No

That's it for this issue. Have a productive week!

The Deep Dive is a weekly close-up look at an idea, issue or trend that’s shaping Asia’s future. This issue was written by Chong Seow Wei, with editing and production by Samantha Topp and Lee Williamson.

We’d love to know what you think of this issue, and future topics you’d like us to cover. Please send your comments to And if you missed it, don’t forget to check out last week’s Deep Dive, on Asia’s Booming Sexual Wellness Industry.

The answer to the quiz is C (10).

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