Why founders need to be fit for success

- November 8, 2019 3 MIN READ


What is it that makes it possible for certain founders to build global companies like Atlassian, Canva and Airwallex, when so many fail?

It’s the multi-billion dollar question facing every startup sector across the world.

It’s not just about having a viable idea, because many evolve considerably from their conception to when they go live to market.

For example, Australian and now global success story GO1.com started out as a web development company before finding its niche to become the world’s largest compliance, professional development and general training platform.

In fact it is a founder’s personal performance that can often be the determining factor for the success of their business. Leadership is always important, but even more so in the high intensity, high risk arena of high growth ventures.

If we want to supercharge Australia’s startup ecosystem, we need to deeply understand the challenges founders face across the various stages of growth.

The journey to Series B is intense. It’s intense on you and tough on your team. This is the chance to tackle the two biggest issues in startups – Talent and Capital – and apply the science of human performance to get the tools successful Founders wished they had at the start. 

We have teamed up with Dr Andy Walsh, the former director of High Performance at Red Bull and the Liminal Collective to launch a series of events for founders to help them unlock their full human potential and learn the principles of high performance, ‘Hacking Founder Potential’.

Learn the skills that let US Special Operations, Red Bull Space Skydivers, and elite Nike athletes perform at their peak. 

Our recent research, reveals that founders seem to accept that compromising their health and wellbeing is a part of the startup journey. Most prioritise their startup before their own wellbeing. 

One striking finding was that a lack of physical activity was the biggest cause of dissatisfaction for founders, with more than half (56%) reporting that this was the main reason for feeling overwhelmed. Most (56%) reported doing less than two hours of physical activity per week with close to a third (29%) doing less than an hour. And despite the low satisfaction with stress and mental wellness reported by founders, in the past year only 30% reported spending any money on their mental health, and only one in five reported seeing a councillor or therapist.

And it is not just an issue in Australia, but one that’s getting global attention. According to Dr Kari Sulenes, Founder & Executive Director of US VC firm Project Atlas, “the research coming out of Silicon Valley is showing that interest in founder mental health is number one. Founders are asking their [investors] for support with their mental health which is showing that [a] shift has already happened.”

Improved mental wellbeing is the equivalent to an athlete being in peak fitness for peak performance. It means better decision making skills and ability, higher emotional intelligence and an ability to be more empathetic, all which help greatly in business.

As performance coach Dr Andy Walshe of Liminal Collective puts it, “If a professional sportsperson behaved this way, eschewing the professional support they need to achieve peak performance, you’d likely be seeing them falling through the rankings and out of contention.”

So what can we actually do to help? Who is responsible for supporting the wellbeing of founders? Should VCs or sponsors play more of a role? What can ecosystem advocates do to improve founder wellbeing? Are founders aware when they need help, and are they willing to accept it? What methods do they use to deal with the pressures of founding and running a company, and how confident are they about their own ability to deal with pressure?

By creating experiences that help founders understand self-awareness/self-regulation and deep dive into human performance – we aim to help build the capabilities needed to manage high-pressure scenarios, and increase know-how when it comes to improving team outcomes through this event series, ‘Hacking Founder Potential’.

You’ll learn directly from Dr. Andy Walshe and the Liminal Collective team and discover the techniques used by hundreds of elite athletes, sports scientists, biomechanics experts, and sport psychologists. Plus gain access to real success stories who have just come through the Series A to Series B experience.

By bringing cutting edge knowledge in human performance from the experts to Australia’s startup elite, will no doubt be just one piece of the puzzle as we create the world’s best platform to achieve sustained high-performance and support Australian entrepreneurs to grow their businesses into global powerhouses.

  • Amanda Price is Head of High Growth Ventures, KPMG’s high performance advisory practice for founders.


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