May 20, 2024

Embracing Mudita: How Collective Success Shapes the byFounders Culture

In this article, Eric speaks of the importance of Mudita (finding joy in the success of others) as a life philosophy and core value of byFounders, encouraging people to ask: how can I help?

Eric Lagier
Founding Partner
Embracing Mudita: How Collective Success Shapes the byFounders Culture

In the world of venture, success is seldom and scrutiny is relentless. We see 1,200+ companies per year and evaluate each one in eight categories, but always with the conscious notion that we face a harsh reality where the odds of failure often outweigh those of success.    

Understanding your market and comparing yourself against your competitors is, of course, best practice, but the danger comes when we start to celebrate the failures of those around us. 

Schadenfreude, or deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others, is too often seen in the European startup world, and it’s one of the most common reasons people don’t take their innovative ideas to the next level. The fear of falling short, of becoming another cautionary tale, can be paralyzing. 

Given how well known the term Schadenfreude is, it’s incredible that we don’t actually have an opposite term in the European language. However, in Sanskrit, we find the antidote: Mudita.

Mudita embraces happiness, not in personal gain or self-interest, but rather in the joy derived from seeing others succeed and thriving in their endeavors. To me, it’s about going further than merely witnessing success, by actively contributing to it and finding fulfillment in the growth of others.

The term was first introduced to me by Howard Hartenbaum, from August Capital: my mentor and investor in my former startup, Memolane. I started to experience that Howard was not simply building our relationship with historical venture dynamics. Instead, he went out of his way to ensure my success and when I finally asked him about his kindness, he introduced me to Mudita.

Here is a picture of Howard Hartenbaum and the Memolane founding team, Nikolaj Hald Nielsen, Harry Vangberg & Eric Lagier in Dyrehaven north of Copenhagen. Sorry for the poor quality - the picture is old ;-)

Mudita helped me define my life philosophy. We can discuss different definitions of happiness until the cows come home but, personally, I’ve realized that it’s not about the size of your house or how many cars you own, but seeing the true impact that you can have on other people.

Since the inception of byFounders,  the sentiment of Mudita has served as a fundamental principle of the fund. 

It’s one of the main reasons we have decided to focus on early-stage founders, as this is where we feel our support can make the most profound impact. Because investing with Mudita in mind is not only about providing capital: it's about offering personal guidance and support to help nurture their growth and success.

It’s also why we established the Collective. Comprising 40+ of the most accomplished founders and operators in the New Nordics, the Collective, alongside our team, are driven by a shared commitment to paying it forward and celebrating each other's successes. It's this spirit that propels us forward, knowing that together, we can achieve more than we ever could alone (you can go fast alone, but far together).

In the last seven years, I’ve seen Mudita in action dozens of times in our tight-knit community. We recently documented some of our favorite cases on our newly-established Community page

Last year, we unveiled Basecamp: a bespoke two-day curriculum facilitated by seasoned mentors from our Collective, tailored for our founders. 

We also foster connections beyond our tight-knit community through a diverse array of events, spanning from intimate dinners to Voyage Week, where we sail aboard a majestic 72-meter ship from Oslo to Copenhagen, and back. 

Personally, I might have taken my commitment to Mudita a bit further than my fellow colleagues. You’ll actually find it tattooed on my arm.

Its placement is intentional. Above my right hand, Mudita is visible every time I extend my hand to you, and serves as a subtle yet powerful signal: a declaration of my commitment to support and assist you in any way possible.

It also serves as a nice reminder of the times when I've been able to make a meaningful impact. 

Take, for instance, an encounter back in 2011 during my time in San Francisco, running my own startup, Memolane. A man walked into our office seeking employment. He lacked the qualifications we needed, but we still had a heartfelt conversation for an hour in which we explored alternative pathways and strategies for him.

As it turns out, this man was experiencing homelessness. Yet, after our discussion, he gained a newfound perspective and made changes in his own life, and for his two teenage daughters.  It means so much that I had the possibility to play a role in that.

Shifting away from Schadenfreude and embracing Mudita, I hope that the work we are all doing in the byFounders’ community will continue to foster an ecosystem that celebrates one another, drives impact, and positive change. I hope that this access to experience, network, and support empowers aspiring founders to take the leap, laying the foundation for the companies of tomorrow. 

So let me end this with a clear call to action. Help spread the spirit of Mudita. Next time you meet someone, don’t ask them how they are, but instead, how you can help. It might be a small gesture from your side, but it could have a fundamental difference for the other person and change their trajectory forever.


Eric will be speaking at Latitude59 on 23 May, 2024, at 10:20 AM on: #Mudita - The Mindset of Great New Nordic Founders, on the Founder Stage.

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Eric Lagier
Founding Partner

Eric is a serial entrepreneur and managing partner of byFounders.


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