Keeping your mental wellbeing in check is no easy feat, but these founders have some tips

Three South Florida entrepreneurs share their perspectives on achieving mental health without sacrificing your startup’s growth

By Riley Kaminer

You’re taking meetings from dusk till dawn. You’re never more than an arm’s reach away from your phone. And let’s not even talk about your neverending flood of Slack notifications. You’re a productive machine. 

Or are you, actually? 

Multitasking? It’s a myth. Burnout? As many as 77% of workers feel it, and it can ultimately cost businesses $1.8 trillion in lost productivity alone.

The good news is that the tech industry has been perking up to wellness, according to Boca Raton-based Gabe Greenberg. He runs G2i, a platform that connects companies with top tech talent on demand.

G2i puts developer health at the core of its services. The thesis is that workers who prioritize work-life balance and keep their wellness in check will ultimately be more effective.

For Greenberg though, wellbeing is personal. While scaling G2i, Greenberg adopted ‘workaholic’ tendencies. “I was burned out multiple times, and I had been chronically ill since pretty much the day that I started the business,” he told Refresh Miami.

“In 2018, I realized that I loved work more than my family. That’s when I sought help.” 

Gabe Greenberg, founder and CEO of G2i.

What does it mean to be a workaholic?

Greenberg underscored that workaholism is not just about working a certain amount of hours a week. Much to the contrary, different people can healthily work a different amount of hours per week – just like some people can healthily drink more or less alcohol than others.

Rather, the core of workaholism is a process of overdoing. “That leads to a dependence on adrenaline, and that’s the addictive part.”

Workaholism can also come from pressure, whether it’s external or internal. “There’s a lot of natural drive in a founder like myself,” noted Greenberg. The key is harnessing that drive in a healthily productive way.

At G2i, Greenberg and team (including Michelle Bakels, their Program Director for Developer Health) have assembled a suite of resources to guide companies and workers towards a healthier working environment. This includes prioritizing asynchronous communications, flexible schedules, and work that you actually look forward to. Their $22,000, donor-backed Developer Health Fund provides various support mechanisms such as paid time between freelance projects and counseling.

How can founders prioritize their mental wellbeing?

Nicoletta Tessler, CEO of Miami-based digital behavioral health company BeMe Health, thinks about this question a lot both through her work at the startup as well as her career as a psychiatrist, which included a stint running the Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital.

“The quality and depth of your relationship with your co-founder makes all the difference,” she said. In the case of BeMe, Tessler chose a co-founder who was her total opposite. “Right off the bat, it felt like a point of difference and even a competitive advantage to have two worlds collide – mental health missionary crashes into engagement brainiac.” Ultimately though, their deep mutual respect and understanding has propelled the relationship and the company forward.

Tessler also suggests that founders assemble their own personal board of directors. “You may be on this rollercoaster ride, but they instead serve like observing egos providing support, guidance, and – yes – telling you what you don’t want to hear.” Participants can include executive coaches, business colleagues, therapists, and friends. “The key is being able to reveal where you are struggling and how to manage the discomfort inherent in a startup.”

Finally, Tessler reminds founders not to underestimate the power of outlets. “Outlets can be anything you want them to be that work for you. It can be as simple as having funny friends who make you laugh and laugh out loud.” For Tessler, exercise is a major outlet, including everything from pickleball to yoga to quick ping pong games.

“Outlets are individualized and personalized, and once you string a few together, you are set!  Just make sure you find the outlets right for you.”

Nicoletta Tessler, co-founder and CEO of BeMe Health

Do founders need to sacrifice business growth for mental health?

In short: no, asserts Humantelligence founder Juan Luis Betancourt. The seasoned recruiter and former HR executive urges us to relieve ourselves from the guilt surrounding work.

“When you work all weekend, you burn out,” he said. “You think you can power through it, but you won’t.”

For Betancourt, the first step is to get out of the office – especially if that office also happens to be your house. “Go have fun in an intentional way.” For instance, stopping by a tech happy hour might not just be a nice time – but it could also be an opportunity to meet your next client or investor. 

Betancourt also suggests making time for at least one purely social event, like a dinner with friends. “Maintain the social life you had before you were a founder – make sure that one day a week you’re still doing it.” 

Seeking spirituality in whatever forms interest you can also help “calm the vibrations so you’re back in alignment,” Betancourt shared.

His time as an HR leader and executive taught him just how important it is for managers to meet regularly with their direct reports. “What’s your mood meter?” is a question Betancourt often asks employees, expecting a quick 0 to 10 response. “It’s amazing – if you don’t take a second to talk about that, somebody might not bring up that their brother just died. It’s the most simple, most powerful thing that people can do.”

Perhaps most importantly: take vacations. “We think we don’t have time, but you need to let go and take a vacation,” said Betancourt. As a benchmark, he suggests taking a week off every quarter. “When you come back refreshed, you’ll get more done in the following two weeks than if you had kept working.”

Humantelligence founder and CEO Juan Luis Betancourt


Riley Kaminer