22, 26, and 47 are the ages of the three famous entrepreneurs who killed themselves. Then Ilya Zhitomirskiy, a co-founder of social network Diaspora was 22 years old in November of 2011. Araon Swartiz was the creator of RSS and died at the age of 26. Recently, Jody Sherman, the founder of Ecomom at the age of 47. Both Araon and Jody killed themselves last January, 2013.
These tragic events not only make me sad, but I believe make every true entrepreneur out there sad, too. It brings to mind Steve Job with his famous quote “I want to put a ding in the universe.” It is very sad, but true. These entrepreneurs have put the ultimate ding in themselves, after having shared their gifts of creation to us.
Having worked and suffered nearly five years alongside many U.S. Army soldiers, this feels almost like the “ultimate sacrifice” that the soldiers in the war on terrorism have given.
With a heart filled with the sadness of this news, I read about a term called: “Soft Bipolar.” According to the article, a soft bipolar is “a distant cousin to manic depression that often includes mild depressive dips and a light form of enthusiastic, energized, creative mania, called hypomania.” It was depicted in an article titled “Why many entrepreneurs are privately suffering, and what to do about it” by Bryan Neuberg and Michael A. Freeman M.D., a psychiatrist and former VC startup executive, who’s experience in the industry and background led him to coin the title, “Soft Bipolar”.
For a passing reader of the article, it makes perfect sense. Michael Freeman is a doctor and venture capitalist who understands what entrepreneurs go through. In the end, who can discredit a doctor and venture capitalist? Especially, if an opinion against a doctor and V.C. come from unknown people who can’t show data and graphs to prove things.
Allow me to share my opinion with some salt and paper feelings. The term Soft Bipolar makes me feel insulted and sick to my stomach. In his article, Bryan describes many entrepreneurs as being depressed, facing extremes ups and downs, and vulnerable to mood fluctuations in peruse of their dreams. The case may be true; some entrepreneurs may be sad and feeling low under a great deal of pressure and in their darkest moments when failing to achieve their dream. But my problem is with the labeling and name calling of the article. To label certain people as “Soft Bipolar” is what I call a “Crime Against Entrepreneurs”.
My thoughts and concerns to fellow entrepreneurs are to be aware of the “Soft Bipolar” label. Being the founder of a startup and having been an eyewitness to three wars in my life, I understand and feel the pain of many entrepreneurs who have buried their startup in the “Cemetery of Dead Startups.” I am sure, if people like Dr. Freeman were to treat me, they would diagnose me with many such labels and prescribe an unthinkable amount of medication such as Prozac or alike.
In my opinion, I have lost faith in pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. These industries are being driven by maximum leverage and are constantly seeking new segments and categories to achieve maximum profit. The ethical classes in their corporations are nothing more than a facade for balance sheets. Once I read that article, I felt that it was a new beach segment emerging for the new marketing campaigns theoretically titled “Prozac for Entrepreneurs.” It is almost as if they are trying to force a fix for people like us in any way, shape or form. Their opinion of people like us is that we have come with the wrong user manual.
They are willing to divide, subdivide, label, categorize, and subcategorize us to the last end of the long tail to generate profit. And this is where the danger starts, with the label: “Soft Bipolar”. Once they make such a label, they are able to commercialize it, qualify it, sell it, and measure it. If you try to resist that, you will be placed under the natural pressure of life, they will play the game of denial against you. If you are easily placed into their scientific marketing, they are able to manipulate your brain through its subconscious. This is when you know they have succeeded in reaching their target market. They take advantage of weaknesses of the (average) human mind.
I pray and hope that these three sad events will not be an excuse to start a new wave of Prozac pushing or similar campaigns driven to maximize the profit margins of the corporations in these industries. My faith in these industries is diminished. As these corporations are hungry and in constant search for an excuse to new wave of ad campaigns, they could very easily take advantage of entrepreneurs who are under stress. As the constant search for that perfect blueprint of society is to fix the natural “defect” in using the veil of improved science, and caring for the mental health of the average human. Hence, what I call “Capitalistically Ethical”.
Speaking from experience of going through a difficult life, my advice to entrepreneurs is to not let failure of one startup lead to the failure of life. Happiness is not always achieved through the success of your startup. If you cannot make it, then try next again. Failing is a success if you are learning from it. And, it could be a connecting dot as it was in the life of Steve Jobs from his famous speech at Stanford University.
As I write this blog, I have a Bible next to my laptop on my desk, I think of the following quote: “While many are called, a few are chosen,” Mathew 22:14. This is the controversial issue of predestination to the Kingdom of God; however, this time the predestination is to the “Kingdom” now known as Silicon Valley. While Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Marissa Mayer are among the chosen for this new kingdom, I am sure there are many entrepreneurs who continue to pursue their dreams, including myself, facing many barriers and filing constantly.
Being the founder of a startup, I understand and feel the pain of many entrepreneurs who have hosted a funeral in the “Cemetery of dead Startups”.
I am confident in my assumption that many entrepreneurs’ hearts are filled with stories of untold grief. Many seek salvation and redemption by trying to copy and paste what they consider to be magical strategic steps, ones that worked for other startups, or by reading articles/blogs/books that educate them in adjusting their strategic planning with the hope that they will be illuminated and find a way to the path to the “Kingdom” of Silicon Valley.
My advice to my fellow entrepreneurs who are suffering, feeling sad or emotionally low is to examine themselves and check their motives of why they are seeking such ventures in the first place. I hope that love for what they are doing is their true motive rather than seeking a chair in the “Kingdom” of Silicon Valley with its false allure of happiness, money and fame.
There are no better words than those of Steve Jobs, the perfect example of a failed entrepreneur who sought love and did not let failure stop him from advancing to his seat in the great “Kingdom” of Silicon Valley.
I would like to reiterate the following sentences from his famed speech: “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again… Sometimes life hit you with a bike, don’t lose Faith.” Find love in what you like to do, keep looking, and don’t settle.
I encourage every person to watch this video: