Jan 22, 2020

VC firm addresses the mental health of founders

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Most venture capitalists aim to be "value-add" for their founders, providing advice and services beyond their primary role as financiers.

Why it matters: Freestyle Capital today is pushing this trend into mental health treatment.

  • The San Francisco-based firm will begin by offering two programs to all of its portfolio founders, free of charge.
  • One is a three-month digital program for treating depression, anxiety and burnout ⁠— provided by Freestyle portfolio company Meru Health.
  • The other is a one-week, intensive on-site program offered by a nonprofit called The Hoffman Institute.

What they're saying: Freestyle partner Josh Felser, who previously co-founded companies, tells Axios that he's publicly announcing the initiative in order to persuade other venture firms to follow suit:

"Founders say that they often don't have the money for therapy or have the time. And even if they had both, they wouldn't know where to go. I do think there's a growing realization that it's OK for a founder to get help, but the only two therapists I know are fully booked, so when founders do ask, I can't even recommend someone. ... So we did research to find two catalytic change options that address the time factor and we're taking care of the cost factor."

The big picture: This is different from executive "coaching" (which also is underutilized, as we discussed in the context of Away).

  • Instead, it's a recognition that while founders are in positions of power, many of them also are under exceptional stress that can metastasize into everything from physical ailments to poor decision-making — things that can put an entire company, and its employees, at risk.

The bottom line: This is one of those times when being a "copycat investor" would be celebrated, not criticized.

Go deeper: Corporate America opens up on silencing mental health stigma

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Employers struggle to handle mental illness

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Reported mental illnesses are more common among young people than other generations, and employers are struggling to figure out how to accommodate their young employees' mental health issues, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Between the lines: These young workers grew up receiving accommodations in school that helped them manage their mental health, but the laws — and pressures — around employment are different.

Go deeperArrowFeb 13, 2020 - Health

Peter Thiel's Founders Fund isn't really Peter Thiel's Founders Fund

Illustration: Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Charles Eshelman, Steve Jennings, and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Founders Fund has raised $3 billion for a pair of new funds, so expect a slew of headlines about how "Peter Thiel's venture capital firm" is now flush with cash.

Behind the scenes: Thiel is essential to Founders Fund, but he's not autocratic. Instead, Axios has learned that he's one of three people with veto power over most FF investments, and is unable to do a deal without approval of the other two.

The U.S. suicide rate is exceptionally high among wealthy nations

Reproduced from The Commonwealth Fund; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. has the highest suicide rate among wealthy nations, according to a Commonwealth Fund report.

Between the lines: That's potentially because of our high rates of mental illness, inadequate mental health screening, low investments in social services and the cost of mental health care, the researchers said.

Go deeper: Mental health coverage is getting worse

If you have any thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please pick up the phone right now and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Keep ReadingArrowJan 30, 2020