Startup accelerators and other founder programs provide entrepreneurs with a variety of services and funding. Now some include mental health help.
To take Google for startups‘ Fund for Black Founders And Latino Founders Fund. Both one-year programs offer founder therapy, focused on addressing the unique challenges faced by colored-faced entrepreneurs. (They also offer $150,000 in cash and $100,000 in Google cloud credits, plus business coaching).
“Giving founders the hard skills is great, but it’s not enough,” said Chantel Cohen, head of the Atlanta-based CWC Coaching & Therapy and provides mental health services to founders of the Black Founders Fund. “They also need the softer skills — and they need mental health support.”
It started in 2020, when Google for Startups asked Cohen to provide mental health care to the founders of the Black Founders Fund. She has worked with three cohorts to date. Founders meet free one-on-one for 50 minutes with a therapist for six months.
At Latino Founders Fund, therapy services are provided by Sanarai, which has a mental health support platform for Spanish speakers. The startup was also a member of the first cohort held last year. According to founder Luis Suarez, before it began, the program’s organizers asked if his company could provide free services to his cohort for six months. Now he will be offering his platform to members of the next cohort this summer.
Sanarai’s platform contains profiles of participating therapists. People book online 50 minute sessions with them. There is also a repository of research of interest to startup founders.
According to Cohen, there are a few issues that make counseling entrepreneurs of color difficult. First, she cites a mistrust of medical professionals among African Americans. Moreover, according to Cohen, only 5% of therapists are black. But “it’s important to be able to hold a conversation with someone who is similar to them and has had the same cultural experiences,” she says. As an entrepreneur, Cohen also feels she can provide an extremely useful perspective.
At the same time, entrepreneurs of color face unique challenges, such as more difficulty finding financing. “There are a lot of issues around burnout, stress, depression,” says Cohen. “But a big part has to do with the lack of access to capital.” Then there’s the issue of frequent micro-aggressions, such as walking into a meeting where the white member of a startup team is assumed to be the CEO. “It starts to get into your head,” says Cohen.
The use of the services is high for both groups. It was about 77% for the Black Founders in the first year; it is now 50%, as is usage among members of the Latino Founders Fund.
Suarez started his business in 2020, after moving from his native Mexico City to attend business school and then joining a demanding management consulting firm with a 24/7 schedule. Feeling extremely stressed, he sought mental health care, but struggled to find professionals who spoke Spanish. Then he got the idea for his company.