Kaveh KavoosiJun 21

The Life of a Startup Depends on the Life of the Team

Two hands reach out to each other with buildings in the background.

Mental health support does not apply to those who are in distress only, it applies to us all.

Any startup's life depends on the willingness and desire of a group of individuals to come together for one of the most exciting but challenging tasks of taking an idea or concept and making it into reality. It is incredible to witness, especially for the first time, where there is a significant discrepancy between the idea, inception, and vision for what it may be, to the immense amount of steps for creation, highways to task completion, hurdles, back alleys, pits and troughs that are along the way.

The distortion of what is deemed a success by society’s standards is one that we can reorient, as there are far more ‘non-successes’ than what is seen. Many of the barriers to attaining success are internal, hidden, and not made public, and for good reason. Not everything needs to be shared, including success itself. The toll can be both nourishing and fulfilling or heavy and exhausting.

A simple chalk drawing of a rocket taking off.

Many have succumbed along the way to have a start-up to establish itself and survive, including me, in the past. Maybe, it could have been blamed on vision, execution, partnership, loss of passion, or finances falling short, regulation, or maybe there was a health concern or a death.

The life of a startup is minimally dependent on the life of its team who have set themselves out to birthing, caring for, and supporting it in its growth, maturity and evolution. These responsibilities require astute delegation, profound adaptability, willingness to be completely wrong on a theory and pivoting, and, in my opinion, the most important component, the capacity for the team itself to regularly check in on the health, sustainability, and burdens any of the individuals themselves in the team are having.

Where one can pull their weight based on their skills, competencies, and capacities, when they are feeling challenged, exhausted, or even morally fatigued, for a time it may be sustainable, but left unaddressed, they become a weight on the project, and it can quickly reflect in their contributions, or lack thereof.

The project can suffer as a result of the personnel in their own set of mental constraints. Yes, it can be in response to challenges from the project itself. Yes, personnel can be replaced, too. But replacing a human is difficult, especially when traditionally, a startup has a minimally viable number of team members who likely shared that intrinsic belief in the early vision.

Depending on the geographic distribution of qualified replacements, this may still be an option, but for many startups, for a host of reasons it isn’t. And so, many teams can benefit from having space and capacity to support this unspoken of, but profoundly common hurdle. Can the challenges existing within the individual be addressed?

Before teams get here, in the name of the health of the team first, many startups, and even thriving companies can benefit from implementing systems for regularly checking in, as well as systems for individuals to voluntarily naming their challenges or hurdles. Especially for the senior team members, who themselves can work to embody the transparency and open environment for expressing personal challenges in the workplace, it is important to maintain the integrity of this space for support and have it be known to the whole team.

Some things to consider:

  • Can the environment be one that open communication is supported, and all challenges are named without judgment? It sets a powerful precedent that can minimize our human tendency, especially in this day and age, to refrain from sharing challenges or what is perceived to be a negative emotion.
  • If support is needed, is the time and space one that provides an adaptation where professional support can be accessed if the challenges exceed the competency, capacity, or resources of colleagues or senior team members to address?
  • If time off to address the challenge is required, can they do so in such a way that they are liberated to immerse themselves in the adaptation, understanding healing and/or resolution of that thing, should they need to? Can a temp be hired in the meantime? Can hours be reduced for them to feel progressively less burden?
  • Can round table authentic discussions that are possibly guided by a mediator exist where people express themselves while minimizing blaming, to support the minimization of internal frustrations, conscious, unconscious subconscious resentment, unsaids, and improve cohesion, openness, and the recognition that supporting the lives of one another is supporting the life of the startup or company, too.
  • If a team member is, in a space of support, ultimately causing more harm to self and/or startup, are there steps and approaches in place for reorientation, addressing of the harm, and a process to let someone go in the healthiest way that minimizes pain to them and/or the company itself?

The life of a startup is contingent on the lives of the members within it and those who engage with the project over time. Even if it ends up not lifting off the ground or attaining what it originally set out for, its incredible process is riddled with an incredible array of lessons that everyone who immerses themselves in an experience. The best outcomes include the growth and lessons for the individuals in the team while simultaneously being present in the startup as it evolves, matures, pivots, and grows.

Mental health awareness in the workplace is essential as the burden of societal obligations and expectations collide and enmesh themselves within an individual whose life energy output, passion, competencies, and sense of self can be hindered under those very obligations and expectations.

That is why, in my quest to be a part of the conversation and support for individuals mental health, I am honoured to be a part of Nurosene, a mental health startup company based in Toronto and LA, that is focused on researching, supporting, and strengthening people’s mental resilience and overall wellness. Here, we practice what we preach, we embody what we invite others to. Most importantly, this is essential for us all to thrive, not just survive, from the under-spoken field of mental health in otherwise well-functioning individuals.

Mental health support does not apply to those who are in distress only, it applies to us all. With the team at Nurosene, I am confident that what we provide will be profound, of high integrity, and with the greatest form of support ultimately for you, embracing yourself as the powerful medicine to your life and those of others.