If I am only for my start-up, who will be for me? Burnout as a Founder.

TIA Ventures
5 min readJan 25, 2021


For founders out there who might be living this…

Entrepreneurship can be all consuming, especially at the earliest stages when start-up life is defined by maximizing the limited resources you have. As you work on your business day after day, week after week… then month after month, slowly you can find yourself having two modes — working on your business…and being unconscious. It is in this place, which is very similar to the headspace of the parent of a new baby, when the lines between your individual identity and your founder identity begin to blur. It is vital that you actively fight to retain your individual identity, or you’re setting yourself up for problems.

I’ve been a founder or co-founder multiple times, a first employee, and an investor in and/or advisor of a few dozen early stage ventures. I am not an expert. But, I have personally blurred these lines or witnessed firsthand all of the problems that occur when you do.

Mental health: Start-ups are a roller coaster. If there’s no distance between you and your venture, you will only be as up or down as the immediate state of your business, and have no hope at consistency. For even as little as 5–10 minutes a day, get your head off your business and literally anywhere else. And as the leader of your venture, every member of your team will be looking to you for guidance, sustenance, and strength — and if your head isn’t in a good place, your team won’t be either.

Physical health: There is always more work to be done. Your venture does not sleep, but you must. It won’t benefit from exercise, but you will. It seems counterintuitive, but the well-rested, physically active version of yourself will accomplish far more in less time — and this will more than compensate for the hours you dedicated to adequate sleep and moving your body. Make the time 4–5 days per week. Whatever activity works best for you. It all adds up. Again, your team will be keying off of your energy and physical vibe — make sure that it’s a strong and inspiring one.

Personal relationships: You had valued friendships and familial relationships before your start-up came to life. Your relationships that keep score on how much time you’re spending together or ‘who called who last’ will likely not survive your entrepreneurial journey. But, prioritize the rest, and do at least the minimum necessary to keep them. We all need folks to share with and who can provide desired advice and perspective. Folks who are able to pick you up or to ground you, as needed. Success will be far sweeter when you have people with whom to share it, whom you know value you and not just your $. And, if the outcome doesn’t go as planned, you’ll want folks around who always cared about you, independent of your career.

Pressure: With assumption of risk, taking $ from your network, forgoing much higher immediate compensation elsewhere, leading a team and more, massive founder-pressure is inescapable. You have to be able to switch off “work mode” and to find outlets to relax. If you don’t manage it, the pressure will ultimately escape somewhere unhealthy. And we’ve all seen videos and read stories of such explosions/meltdowns. So make sure to release the pressure before it produces an uncontrolled release.

Perspective: You can only see the forest from the trees at a distance. Whether in the shower, on a walk, in an uber, on your balcony, wherever; you have to make the time to think about your business, industry landscape, trajectory, and take in all of it. Most of us need to get some distance to see the whole picture.

Conflicting Motivations: You’ll never land the plane if you view your existence as linked to keeping it airborne. Too many founders get hooked on the attention and accolades of start-up life and success. They fall in love with this version of themselves and their newfound status. It can be intoxicating. And, like other forms of inebriation, it can often lead to bad decisions. Don’t miss your lifeboat or what would have been the exit of your dreams because you’re too caught up in the game.

Your brand: Whether your start-up fails or succeeds, you’re statistically likely to work at a handful of subsequent ventures in your career. It’s possible, if not likely, you’ll want to do something completely different. A strong personal brand — what people say about you when you’re not around — will help you wherever your path takes you. Think about your ‘eulogy virtues’ more than your ‘resume virtues’ — those are the ones we carry for life.

Bad math: A high percentage of start-ups don’t make it. It doesn’t make you a failure. Don’t allow it to be so. You followed your dream and made others believe. You built a product and a team. You learned and grew. Your business may be done, but you move forward, better. Remember that great entrepreneurs are like great hitters in baseball — they have a .300 batting average. It’s just that you never know when the hits will come. So remember that there are more at-bats ahead of you.

There are too many things in life that you know you should do but you don’t do them until problems arise. You are probably going to read this and rationalize how your situation is unique. Maintaining your sense of self and thus avoiding these problems is far preferable to having to address them. Take care of yourself. You’ve got enough challenges on your plate already.

-Randy Brandoff, TIA Ventures



TIA Ventures

TIA Ventures is a seed-stage venture capital fund that partners with companies building emotional and visceral connections with their consumers.