Oct 29th, 2018 ⋅ 4 min read

Matt's story

I met Matt over a friend and liked him immediately. His thick eyebrows above deep blue eyes caught my attention while he shook my hand firmly. He was happy to meet me and to tell me about his life.

His story started 30 years ago in Zagreb, Croatia. He grew up in a middle-class family with both parents working as public servants.

- I always had everything that I needed. My parents had 8 till 4 jobs so we spent a lot of time together as we would go for long walks with our dog. I was the only child in the family so I had all the attention. It was a really nice period of my life even tho the puberty hit me pretty hard. - he explained.

Losing his grandparents and switching schools was hard for him. At that point, partying and hanging out with his friends were more important than studying. But he noticed that he often had really bad mood swings which he connected to alcohol consumption. He ignored it and eventually finished high school. He enrolled in college and decided to engage in different projects. Working on projects made him feel good about himself as he was pretty successful in managing them. Organizing events, meeting new people and even studying semester abroad gave him a whole new perspective on life. He finished his bachelors in electronic engineering and started masters but still have one exam left.

- Only one exam? What happened? - I asked.

- I got accepted into the accelerator program! - he laughed.

The startup that he is a CEO of, he founded as one of the school projects. The University professor wanted Matt to engage in a project as a part of an assignment. He worked on it with his colleagues as one of them proposed to apply to the accelerator program. Matt accepted and that's how he ended his formal education.

- Accelerator program helped us a lot! We managed to organize our thoughts, decide on a business plan and took an approach to the costumers. I was very satisfied regarding our work progress but everything was so damn fast! Sometimes I hadn't had time to process all the information that I got. With Demo Day approaching, time pressure was enormous and I broke down.- he paused and exhaled.

I could see that he felt sad as he leaned his head on his arms.

- I didn't know what was going on with me. I was so tired and exhausted from everything. I felt so helpless because I knew that I love my job and that I made my choice to pursue this career... Still, something was wrong with me. During the nights I slept OK but when I would wake up in the morning... I just didn't want to get up. And this was not like "Oh, my bed is so warm and cozy that I can sleep more", more like "I can cry my eyeballs out till evening". Mornings were the hardest. Getting up and washing my face would bring me to tears. I was very frustrated when I had these feelings. I mean I still have them but now I can control them better. I was concerned because those feelings were pulling me down and I couldn't handle it as I felt responsible for my business, co-founders and their families. - he said.

Matt doesn't believe anybody knew what was going on with him. When arriving at the office, he would put on a fake smile and survive through the day. Even tho the business was progressing in a positive direction, he felt like he wasn't contributing. As days went by, he felt as he wasn't working productively nor contributing to product development. The feeling of sadness and emptiness were hard to get rid of.

- How are you feeling now? What changed?- I asked.

- Honesty, I stopped keeping those negative emotions to myself because I still wanted to continue working in my startup. I talked to my co-founder about it. We were pretty open to one another from the start and I had this feeling like I was lying to him when keeping everything from him.

I think I have never done anything that hard! It was hard to explain the situation and my emotions because I was scared to say the word depression. We talked for a few hours. We even argued!- he laughed.

He explained that during that talk, his co-founder suggested he takes some time off. Eventually, he accepted it because it was getting harder and harder to focus on different work tasks and roles.

- Even tho I wasn't ready to let it go, I figured out that it was the time. - he explained.

Majority strugles

More than 60% of founders deal with bipolar disorder, addiction, depression or anxiety and it's hard to find a proper help. Especially when it comes to trusting a stranger. Usually, that means the help is outside of the startup community where is hard to describe the working conditions or specific factors.

If you found yourself in Matts' story;

1. Talk to somebody whom you trust. Invest your time in describing the problem to those who don’t know much about it. That is one of the things that will help you be a step closer to figuring out the solution.

2. Eating healthy and regular physical activity are very important. You don’t have to hit the gym every day but choosing stairs instead of the elevator is a good way to start.

3. Focus on your breathing and how you control it. One source of negative emotions is the lack of oxygen in the brain.

4. Listen to your body. Observe how you react to changes and specific factors. If you see a pattern, think about what you did the last time that helped you. For example, if you feel stressed out— think about what you normally do to vent or blow the steam off. Some people relax when doing yoga and some feel better when hitting the punching bag. Everybody is different, whereas you will only benefit from investing the time in finding your unique way to recharge.

P.S. Even if you feel alone, you are not alone. There are people around you who love you and appreciate you. If you are not sure about that, I am here for you.

Do you think I can bring value to your company, organization or you?
I would be happy to talk with you!


My name is Marta. I aim to help employees, founders and CEOs by bringing their attention to the importance of well being, a good work-life balance and physical, mental health improvement.

I worked as an associate at the THINK Accelerate in Helsingborg, Sweden. My role was to support startups during the three-month program with their stress management and team management. The program ended with an #HBGTECH where I participated as an organizer.

I also held talks at Lund University, at THINK Open space and at #HBGTECH.

I volunteered at Techstars London DemoDay 2017 and 2018 where I helped with the organization of the Demo Day.

Do you think I can bring value to your company, organization or you?
I would be happy to have a talk with you!

Contact me!