Announcing the Founder Support Fund

I’m excited to announce the Founder Support Fund.  It’s an evergreen microgrant fund dedicated to supporting founders’ mental and emotional health and well-being.

As we enter the first full week of Mental Health Awareness Month, the GAN team, like many others, has been thinking about the additional stress many people are facing in the midst of this global pandemic. The pandemic has ushered us into a season where many people are struggling with heightened levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc. 72% of Americans think that they’re going to reach an emotional “breaking point” if quarantines and stay-at-home orders last until mid-June. 

And many startup founders have been particularly affected by the stress and unknowns of this time. 

  • 94% of founders have experienced severe anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges. “No one is immune to the stress that comes with founding a company.” And, The World Economic Forum declared a mental health crisis in entrepreneurship. 
  • Founders are “on a mission to solve a problem”, and can feel like every moment not spent on that problem is wasted. There is a tendency to place high expectations on performance. 
  • Entrepreneurs often struggle silently, neglecting their own health and well-being, in fear that talking about it could be perceived as weakness. 
  • As we did some research in the GAN Community, we learned that founders frequently identify as their company, causing their sense of self-worth to fluctuate with the fate of their company. You will hear things like “I am my company,” which means founders’ well-being can fluctuate with their company’s performance. This means the impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been particularly devastating for the founder community.

All of this is concerning to me, and I know it is for you as well. 

Governments and corporates have created immediate and helpful options to support startups and small businesses. Now, let’s support the people behind those businesses—founders.

The goal of the Founder Support Fund is for startup founders to do something that brings them joy, contributes to their well-being, and reminds them that their worth is rooted in much more than the performance of their company.

Funds could be used for activities like making dinner for their family or friends, providing gifts for their teams, doing a (socially-distant) activity, getting coaching, mentorship, or counseling, or any other activity that helps a founder feel more happy, healthy, and grounded. 

Founders can be nominated by someone to receive a grant, or put in a personal request here. Grant amounts range from $250 to $2,500, based on need, and can be used for anything that supports the founders’ emotional health. Founders can apply or be nominated starting today, and nomination criteria are outlined on the website. The grants are available to founders anywhere in the world.

GAN is seeding the fund with $10,000, and we’ve received a financial commitment from UPS for an additional $2,500 that will be put towards the fund. Also, I’d like to thank GAN Advisory Board Members Eric Mathews (Start Co.), Liz Roberts (formerly at VVM), Dina el-Shenoufy (Flat6Labs), Marc Nager (Greater Colorado Venture Fund) and Tim O’Connell (H-FARM) for all personally donating to the fund.

If you’d like to contribute to the fund, we would be honored. You can donate either personally or through your organization.

We’re so thankful for the GAN Community and how much this community cares about the emotional wellness and health of the people around us.

Other Resources Available to Founders In This Season

  • Every GAN Accelerator Follows the Founder Wellness Pact
  • AA: The international fellowship of people who have struggled with alcohol addiction. 
  • Al-Anon: Network providing resources, strength, and hope for families & friends of problem drinkers. 
  • A mobile platform with 24/7 care for stress, anxiety, and depression. 
  • Failcon: Conference for startup founders to learn from and prepare for failure, so they can iterate and grow fast. 
  • Founder Stories: Suicide, Entrepreneurship and the Road Home. 
  • Female Founders: My startup failed and this is what it feels like.
  • Fortune: Depression and Startups: The Emotional Toil of Entrepreneurship.
  • TED Talks: Common TED Talks that focus on the topic of mental health.
  • TWLOHA: Find a list of local resources and a help hotline.
  • Crisis Text Line: Free, 24/7 line with trained crisis counselors.
  • Spiritual Director for Founders
  • Subsidized Counseling for founders who went through a GAN Accelerator or GSSN Studio.