If you’re a startup founder, you know that building a company is tough work. From ideation to raising money, building a minimal viable product to scaling, there’s a lot of stress that comes with the job. And statistically, the rate of failure for founders is high. But there’s an organization out there taking a unique approach to making success more attainable.
If you look into the details of why 90% of startups fail, it’s often not because of the product or the business plan. Rather, 66% of the time it’s because founders are burning out or struggling with mental and emotional wellbeing. And with 31 million founders in the U.S. alone, that’s a lot of people who aren’t reaching success because of mental wellness (or lack thereof).
This was something Mark Phillips recognized as he set out to launch 11 Tribes Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Chicago that specifically invests in purpose-driven entrepreneurs. Mark saw that there was a poor relationship between venture funds and startup founders, one that fostered a cut-throat environment and lacked purpose and values. This can lead to terrible issues with founder wellbeing, so he set out to literally invest in founder mental health. Two percent of a company’s investment from 11 Tribes Ventures goes directly to supporting the founder’s entrepreneurial wellbeing.
Each founder is encouraged to use the two percent commitment on their own personal and professional wellbeing. However, it can be incredibly difficult and time intensive for a founder to find the right program and coach, especially one that understands the unique challenges faced by entrepreneurs. Enter Kadence Group.
Kadence Group helps founders find their entrepreneurial rhythm to generate personal and professional wellbeing which also impacts and changes the trajectory, growth and success of their startup. The core program offers personality and leadership assessments, cohort based learning and development, individualized coaching, and community support.
“Too many founders are burning out, and we don’t want people to lose sight of who they are for the sake of their business. Kadence Group was built to help founders understand how their wellbeing makes a difference to their business, their relationships, and themselves,” said Sarah Parkins, the startup’s CEO (pictured left).
To help entrepreneurs create a foundation for success, Kadence Group works with founders at the earliest stages of their business. The number of founders in each cohort is intentionally capped to facilitate engagement, sharing and learning. Furthermore, they hand-match founders and coaches based on personality and leadership style to create impactful and well-aligned coaching relationships.
“The whole aim is to help them create more balance and wellbeing,” Sarah said. “It’s about eliminating risk for investors and helping founders become good, wellbeing-aware leaders.”
The Founder Mental Health Crisis
Even before the pandemic, business owners were reporting feeling lonely, isolated or burnt out. Over 70% reported mental health issues, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse.
“Professional athletes have coaches, working professionals have mentors, students have teachers. So why do we expect entrepreneurs to go at it alone? Traditionally, they’ve been hung out to dry, and it’s unfair to put them in that space,” Sarah said.
Consider high-profile founders that make headlines for their tragic falls: people who lose sight of themselves and develop toxic behaviors (like Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes), or those whose sense of importance overrides their ability to lead (like WeWork founder Adam Neumann), or the saddening news of Kate Spade taking her own life.
We will never truly know the personal stories behind these founders and what led them to take the actions they did, but we can surmise from the events that occurred that their actions cost them a lot personally, and with absolute clarity others were significantly impacted.
“However as a society, we shouldn’t be surprised when someone topples,” Sarah said. “We’re all human, all imperfect. What we can do is offer entrepreneurs a new level of support to give them an opportunity to discover how wellbeing makes a difference in their journey and their business.”
That’s why Kadence Group is on a mission to help these founders find and build community to feel less alone in their entrepreneurial journey. It’s about relieving the pressure, normalizing the wide range of emotions that leaders feel, and finding consistent support in your wellbeing.
“It’s really important to develop this community because of the loneliness and isolation that comes with being an entrepreneur,” Sarah said. “People may accept that they have to give up social time and personal time in order to succeed. Then you add in a pandemic, and it only intensifies.”
Topics that people in the cohort learn about range from sleep to stress, communication to identity, and emotion management. Sarah said that the last one in particular is so important for founders.
“Our internal emotions act as guides and can be like our GPS,” she said. “In business, we tell ourselves to ignore these emotions. But now we’re saying don’t ignore them. Recognize them, explore what they mean, and understand how to respond to them.”
Sarah added that wellbeing is a lifetime commitment and a necessary priority. It’s about understanding yourself more, recognizing when you’re out of alignment, and discovering your personal and professional life is impacted by your own wellbeing.
Kadence Group launched in August 2021 with a pilot cohort and received overwhelming support for the program. Their first official program begins in June this year, with ongoing programming offered on a rolling basis.
While some founders who have received investment from 11 Tribes Ventures choose to enroll in Kadence Group programming for their entrepreneurial wellbeing, the program is open to any early stage, purpose-driven founder.
From the Kadence Group perspective, the partnership with 11 Tribes Ventures is an important early step, but the team is eager to develop partnerships with other early-stage investment firms that are prioritizing founder wellbeing. Founders who participate get access to wellbeing experts, coaches, fellow entrepreneurs, venture funds, strategic partners, and alumni of the program.
“It’s a great community at the intersection of entrepreneurship and wellbeing - a whole ecosystem of support,” Sarah said.
Kadence Group is accepting applications for the next upcoming cohort until May 23rd. You can learn more and apply here