Aaron Swartz’s suicide hit me hard in a lot of ways. I didn’t know him and won’t guess why he killed himself. I don’t know his situation, and when more of his friends and family let us know what they think, we still won’t really know why. There is often no why. The rest of this isn’t really about Aaron.
Chronic depression and situational pressures can be hard on founders. Starting and leading a company is hard for most people. It can be very isolating, demanding, challenging, and frustrating as well as rewarding. Throw in anxiety, depression, and a series of failures along the way, and it makes for a tough road. Add marriage or a close relationship and your internal life can be hell.
It’s especially hard when things aren’t going well and you’ve wrapped your entire life and identity around your work. You’ve told people how great your vision is. You’ve invested your time and money, and accepted other people’s money and made representations to them that may or may not be true or come true (depending on how you frame things; please represent potential and never lie to people. Find some other framing when taking people’s resources).
I started Startup Lancaster for two reasons: to see if there were other tech startups around the area, and to create a safe place where founders can talk about issues they’re afraid of talking about with their investors, partners, employees, families, etc.
It’s not therapy. If you suffer from depression, consider therapy. But know that you aren’t alone, and if you don’t have something like Startup Lancaster in your area, consider starting one. The meetings are confidential, and they’re founders only (no employees, vendors, investors).
Tomorrow we’re meeting again, and we’ll probably talk about this. The following Monday is the first meeting of Startup LVTech (Lehigh Valley area in PA; meeting’s in Allentown), and Startup Mechanicsburg has been rolling for about 6 months.
Mostly we talk how to advance our startups. Sometimes we talk about personal issues. Just realize you are not alone, and that even if you feel deep despair over your situation and internal issues, there are people who love you regardless of whether you make your startup work or not, that failure is acceptable, and there are meaningful, great, worthy things you can to today and every day thereafter, and focusing on that can help get you through.