Startup Life

U CAN’T HAZ SADZ: The Hushed Dangers of Startup Depression


EARLIER THIS MONTH, ON A SUNDAY MORNING, the startup world woke up to that rare stripe of news which quietly sends shockwaves reverberating throughout an entire culture of people: Ilya Zhitomirskiy, 22 years old, had passed away. The cause of death “appears to be a suicide,” noted a San Francisco police officer who spoke with CNN. A forthcoming coroner’s report will make a final determination. Mr. Zhitomirskiy was one of the four co-founders of Diaspora*, once breathlessly hyped in a May 2010 New York Times article as a “cry to arms” against Facebook, in a story that employed a classic tech narrative: four brilliant young men, on the verge of changing the world, subsisting on ramen and pizza.

Y Combinator’s Hacker News link to the item racked up pages of comments, many devoted to shouting down those who wanted to have a discussion about depression in the technology and startup community, noting it as an inappropriate moment for that topic. One user noted that a breaking news thread announcing Mr. Zhitomirskiy’s death was “a terrible place to have a discussion about ‘the stresses of life … related to tech.’”

Another disagreed: “We don’t talk about suicide in society very well let alone within the startup community. Founders find themselves in extremely stressful situations and living lifestyles that exacerbate the effects of this stress.”

This second comment read in contrast to the first, whose final suggestion on the matter was to “have that discussion inside your head” for the time being, and then go talk about it some other time. Read More

Start-up Svengali

Jerry Colonna Gives the Low Down on Coaching CEOs

Photo by Jackie Snow

Betabeat has written before about Jerry Colonna, also known as the Yoda of Silicon Alley, who is a business and life coach for a lot of big name start-up and tech CEOs. Mr Colonna is travelling out to Berlin soon to teach one his famous Disappearing Into the Fire sessions, and gave an interview to Tech Berlin over Skype.

He explains that he became a coach after Flatiron Partners folded and he worked a brief, unhappy stint with JP Morgan. “What I wanted to do was to really help other people who are in the exact same place I was in. Kind of the existential question, how do I make sense of this life I have created, especially as it relates to work and the definition of myself.” Read More