Many founders will readily admit to deprioritizing their health over their startup. To some, it’s a badge of honor or a way to signal that their company is permanently stationed at the top of their priority list, 24/7. For others, it’s just the reality of being 100% focused on their company, combined with the accompanying stress that is involved. I am guilty of at least one of these myself. When I started my first company, I gained 30 pounds in 18 months.
Almost every team has a story (or many), and ours is no exception. As former operators, many of us have ridden the rollercoaster just as you have. When our partner Dan Abelon was a founder, startup life became so difficult that his doctor warned him that he was 15% overweight and needed to change his lifestyle. Some have even actually documented this rollercoaster, which is terrifyingly correlated to the rollercoaster of building a company. One of my favorite charts, below, shows how weight is not just tied to building a company, but also being a VC and running a marathon.
Over the years, as I’ve shed the pounds I’ve gained from building my startup and met an ever-increasing number of founders with a similar story, the concept of founder wellness has inched closer to my heart. As early-stage founders and investors, we are all betting on the potential of humans, and our team firmly believes that human potential increases when personal health is not neglected. If you ask anyone on our team on why founders should prioritize their health, you’ll hear something similar to what Dan shared when we asked why wellness is important:
I believe that personal health leads to more productive days, more pleasant interactions with customers and colleagues, and heightened creativity to build the future we want to live in. The brain needs downtime in order to maintain its creativity and problem-solving ability, and as startups are a string of ambiguous situations, these skills are essential. When building our companies, we wish we had asked ourselves whether we were optimizing for our team’s ability to solve the thorniest problems, or simply maximizing the amount of time we were working.
In keeping with this belief, last fall we launched Founder League: a new, wellness-focused community for early-stage founders in New York City that we hope will inspire positivity and fitness by encouraging entrepreneurs to prioritize their health and well-being. Each week we bring together small groups of founders for free workouts to give founders that are putting everything on the line for the success of their company some time to decompress with a community going through similar challenges, while focusing on one of the things that matters most, their health.
It’s our small way of paying forward what we wish we had known when we started building our companies, and it’s been incredible to see this thesis resonate with founders. Five months post launch, we are 250+ founders strong, and we’re excited to open up the group to the wider community today. Founders and teams in the network are building impressive companies, but they’re also running marathons, meditating, doing prenatal yoga, and waking up at 5am to do crossfit. We do not think this is a coincidence that some of the best founders prioritize their health.
If you’d like to join our community, please send me a note or sign up here!