Brad Feld, the co-founder of Techstars and tech investment firm Foundry Group, is no stranger to the mental health struggles that often plague entrepreneurs. In fact, he's been open about those struggles--and how they've been primed him to be a catalyst for change in the tech industry. On this episode of The Human Factor, Feld spoke with Mansueto Ventures CEO Eric Schurenberg about how business leaders can be more empathetic and compassionate.
First, says Feld, be honest and transparent. Honesty leads to success, because the best founders and CEOs are those that can take a hard, honest look at themselves and others. "For a founder to fundamentally believe that they're exempt from their own introspection is a blind spot," he says.
By taking a look at his own experience of being an entrepreneur going through the early-stage investment process, Feld realized the large and often unfair advantage investors have over entrepreneurs. In an attempt to level the playing field, he began to write about his experiences as an entrepreneur, pulling back the curtain on the investment world.
Feld says his quest for transparency had a personal effect as well: He was able to be honest with himself about his struggles with depression. And by sharing his story with others, he was able to overcome the shame he felt surrounding those issues. People responded to his vulnerability, and Feld discovered that mental health issues are common in the industry--they just aren't discussed openly. "It's important to be OK with being uncomfortable, and being willing to take risks in conversation--knowing that you're going to make mistakes, and being willing to learn from and own your mistakes," he says.
This principle extends far beyond just mental health--Feld says he's seen these difficult conversations help to address the gender and racial inequalities he sees in entrepreneurship and tech. Which leads to his final piece of advice: Be active. Feld is prioritizing such conversations, and attempting to center those who have been marginalized. "My job is to help, to help eliminate it, to be an accomplice, to be engaged and to learn."