One of our core pillars at byFounders is Founder Compassion: we invest in our founders, not only financially but also in our long-term relationship with them.
Recognizing that a healthy company needs a healthy steward at the wheel - someone in touch with themselves and reality - we strive for transparency and candor in all our interactions with founders.
Yet we have to acknowledge that, as investors, there will always be topics, challenges, and situations for which we are not the best sparring partner.
We spend plenty of time with our founders outside the boardroom to help them get from Point A to Point B and also to connect on a personal level, and we’ll never stop doing so.
But we too - similar to nearly every single person with whom a founder interacts daily - have our own interests to protect. The founder knows it. We know it.
And while we do everything in our power to align our interests with the founders, for example, through our term sheet, that doesn’t change the fundamentals of our relationship.
That said, there are measures we can take that are well-suited to our particular situation. Considering the size of our portfolio, and the relatively similar stages of maturity among the companies we’ve invested in, we occupy a spider-in-the-web position that allows us the overview and insight to offer something valuable across multiple companies.
We’ve long discussed the perils of entrepreneurship, especially for a founders’ mental health. As several Nordic media outlets (Shifter, Finans.dk) have pointed out recently, founder burnout is one of the prime causes of “startup failure” (in quotation marks because failure is a relative and highly controversial concept).
Hardly exclusive to the startup scene, a perceived lack of connection is one of the main contributors to mental issues and chronic problems, such as substance abuse.
This brings to mind the late author and professor of social medicine, Per Fugelli, who time and again highlighted the importance of being part, and taking care of your tribe as opposed to living your life in success-oriented solitude.
Or to bring it closer to home, as Johan Brand from our Collective would put it: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” (yes, it is an African proverb 😉).
Long story short, given our position, we realized we could provide two things:
1) A space in which vulnerability is welcomed, encouraging honest and difficult conversations facilitated by an independent third party, and
2) A connection to peers - a tribe - going through similar experiences.
The led to the coaching initiative we have now launched.
In practical terms, the program will last for 10 weeks with a mix of individual and group sessions dispersed throughout.
We’ve teamed up with an organizational coach and psychologist to design and facilitate the full program primarily based on input from the founders themselves.
The individual sessions will focus on personal and professional development departing from the founders’ main perceived challenges and strengths whereas the group sessions cover themes of shared problems uncovered in the initial chats with the coach.
Of course, the participants and the coach have a non-disclosure agreement between themselves, external parties, and towards us at byFounders.
We currently offer this program to a small subset of our founders/CEOs particularly selected to foster the long-term peer connection and continued support we would like to see.
The ambition is to roll it out as a broader and permanent Platform offering of which format we will determine on feedback from and evaluation of the first batch.
We hope to equip our founders with a solid foundation to steer their companies sustainably into the future.
Stemming from our belief that leaders with a holistic approach to work, life, and health make for higher performing companies, this will, all things equal, contribute to better overall performance for our portfolio. In this way, our and the founders’ interests are well-aligned.
Beyond our selfish focus on portfolio and fund performance, we hope this initiative will contribute to the normalization of seeking professional help and support throughout the startup ecosystem, whether to address personal or professional challenges.
No one should walk the path of entrepreneurship alone.
If you want more information about our coaching program or platform offerings, reach out to Ida Åsle.