Half of startup founders felt the pressures of innovating negatively affected their mental health

Tolhurst and O'Conner (2018) carried out a study and found close to half of the startup founders felt that they were under constant extreme pressure in growing their business. 25% of them said the pressure of growing their business had affected their mental health and have suffered in silence.

Mental health issues for innovators and entrepreneurs has becoming a growing problem. The growing pressure is because of the level of the high levels of competition, the accelerating speed and pace of change in the modern world, and expectations that new ideas my exceed and surpass such innovation giants as Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Samsung, Intel, Coca-Cola, and Walmart.

A lot of money goes into these businesses with a huge level of expectation. A huge amount of pressure is being placed on the shoulders of these small business owners, a pressure they probably weren’t anticipating. They went out into the market, found a good idea, raised the capital, and thought, “Fantastic, I’ve got my money,” like on Dragon’s Den, but what they haven’t realized is that’s the start of their problems. With investment, of managing someone else’s money, comes a responsibility, a pressure that goes with that.

Innovation is a tricky business, not for the faint of heart. It requires resilience, persistence, tenacity, and inner strength because an innovator swims against the current and disrupts. Humans have a natural tendency to flock toward the familiar, the well understood, and the proven paths to achieving an objective. Innovation turns that upside down, and we enter the realm of failure. Anything that humans create that is groundbreaking, new, transformational, and innovative is, by definition, risky, uncertain, unproven, and carries a significant risk of failure.Ninety percent of innovative ideas for groundbreaking products or services are marketplace flops (Payne, 2014). Innovation is not an instant process and you have to cycle through a few failures before you eventually formulating a winning innovation.

A Harvard Business School study by Shikhar Ghoshv (2011) found the failure rate of all U.S. companies after five years was over 50 percent, and over 70 percent after 10 years.

  • Hoque (2014) identified seven reasons that entrepreneurs experienced business failure:
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of motivation, commitment, and passion
  • Too much pride, resulting in an unwillingness to see or listen
  • Accepting advice from the wrong people
  • An absence of appropriate and experienced mentorship
  • Lack of general and domain-specific business knowledge such as finance, operations, and marketing
  • Raising too much money too soon without a well thought through plan in place

In “How to Kill a Unicorn”, Payne (2014) sets out to explain in detail, with colorful case studies, why some new ideas take off like rockets while others fizzle.

“Innovation is the one area in product design where you can guarantee that everyone will at some point get it wrong. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

—Mark Payne

Mark Payne views innovation as “one of the most dazzling manifestations of forward-leaning human imagination”, while simultaneously being “one of the most broken practices in modern business. … It took years of struggle and our own failures to get there, but we did. Sharing the insights and methods that emerge from that work is just the natural next thing.”


  • Payne, M. (2014). How to Kill a Unicorn: How the World's Hottest Innovation Factory Builds Bold Ideas That Make It to Market Hardcover. Crown Business. New York, NY: Random House.
  • Hoque, F. (2014). Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability. New York: NY, McGraw-Hill.
  • Ghosh, S. (2011). Why Companies Fail—and How Their Founders Can Bounce Back. Research & Ideas, Boston, MA: Harvard School of Business. Retrieved from: hbswk.hbs.edu
  • Tolhurst, G., O'Conner. A. (2018). How they did it: 100 Stories of Growth. Intelligent Partnership: Richmond, United Kingdom.