TiEcon talks about what entrepreneurs don’t

RITU JHA

Anxiety and depression among entrepreneurs is higher than regular people even in normal times.

BJ Arun, TiE Silicon Valley president, said it like it is, with rare candor, at the Road to TiEcon panel discussion on “Anxiety, Depression and Entrepreneurship”.

According to the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 34 percent of entrepreneurs — 4 percentage points more than other workers — reported they were worried. And 45 percent of entrepreneurs said they were stressed, 3 percentage points more than other workers. The psychological price of entrepreneurship is real.

Arun, a serial entrepreneur, and CEO of July Systems that Cisco acquired in June 2018, told indica News why TieEcon decided to talk about a topic entrepreneurs are shy of discussing.

Arun said this was a topic that was much ignored even during normal times, but during the worst pandemic in a century that was impacting many entrepreneurs both financially as well as emotionally, it was “all the more important for us to talk about it.”

Sharing his own experience, he said: “Like most people, I too have personally dealt with stress during my own personal as well as entrepreneurial journey.”

“On the business front, as the founder or CEO of a company, there are times in the early days when we have had to worry about how to pay salaries and rent. In later stage companies, we have to deal with issues such as how to scale revenues, manage large, geographically dispersed teams of people, etc,” he said.

He said that it is particularly lonely at the top since entrepreneurs have to put on a brave face in front of their teams since they are looking to the leader to solve all the problems.

“Opening up our challenges too much with them might cause them to panic and leave to join companies that they perceive as being more stable,” said Arun.

For companies with venture backing, CEOs are not able to share their problems with their superiors (typically the board of directors) since there is the risk of being perceived as being a weak leader.

And mainly for people from the South Asian community, this is a particularly difficult issue since there is social stigma around mental disease and it is a culturally taboo subject that no one talks about.

“We have had high profile cases such as the unfortunate suicides of VG Siddhartha, the founder of Cafe Coffee Day, last year, and more recently that of movie star Sushant Singh Rajput,” Arun said at the panel.

Others on the panel were Russell Glass, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of behavioral health platform Ginger; Dana Udall, chief clinical officer, Ginger, and psychiatrist Atur Turakhia, MD.

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