This Indian entrepreneur started going to therapy and recommends it to startup founders to survive the ‘near death’ moments in business

Piyush Kumar, co-founder, RooterRooter
  • Piyush Kumar, co-founder and CEO of sports tech startup Rooter, started going to therapy in May 2020.
  • Near death moments are basically those times in a startup journey when because of any reason – the situation, product or funding you fear that you are nearing the end of your startup.
  • Here’s why Kumar recommends therapy to many other struggling founders out there.
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When Cafe Coffee Day founder V. G. Siddhartha took the extreme step and died by suicide, the Indian startup ecosystem sat up and took notice of the pressures of building a business.

One year since that incident, and mental health is still a hush-hush topic and going to therapy continues to be perceived as an option for only when you are ‘sick’. During the coronavirus lockdown, the need for therapy has only gone up with people stuck inside their homes feeling more anxious and uncertain about their future.

But this entrepreneur doesn’t want to take mental health as a joke. Piyush Kumar, co-founder and CEO of sports tech startup Rooter, started going to therapy in May 2020, and his advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to start taking mental health seriously.

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Handling the near death moments

When Piyush Kumar was starting up his sports tech startup Rooter, he read a quote by one of India’s startup leaders – every startup goes through three-four near death moments, and the startup that survives all of it, eventually goes on to be successful.

While Kumar didn’t understand it then, in 2018 and 2019, he went through similar crisis situations. “Near death moments are basically those times in a startup journey when because of any reason – the situation, product or funding you fear that you are nearing the end of your startup,” Kumar told Business Insider.

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In 2018, Kumar went through a tough period for six-seven months where his startup wasn’t able to raise money and the product was not going in the right direction. “A good friend’s wife who is a psychologist recommended therapy. But I told her that I play a lot of sports – five days a week and spend a lot of time with my four-year old son, that should help me. But she told me then, that there will be a time when you’ll need more than this,” he said.

How therapy helped

When the coronavirus pandemic began, Rooter was just about to sign its funding term sheet with Paytm and the sports startup was left in a situation where sports had stopped. What followed was six weeks of stress, where Kumar was working for 18-20 hours a day – working on the product, ensuring a smooth transition to work from home for his team and concluding the investment discussion.

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While Kumar and his team managed to do it all and raised $1.7 million from Paytm, leAD Sports, Rockstud Capital and Founder Bank Capital, the startup founder realised therapy was important. “I started going for therapy when things were good, when we had successfully launched a new product and raised funding. I started because just like I concentrate on physical exercise, I wanted to pay attention to mental health as well,” he said.

While in the West, entrepreneurs have been more open to therapy, that has not been the case in India. In the West, there are even startups that help other founders reach out for emotional well-being.

Kumar, who had not been diagnosed with depression or sleep disorders, turned to therapy to handle the pressure of his job. “A lot of people think that if you have great friends or a great partner, they will be able to handle your mental pressure but most of the time that is not the case because anybody who knows you will have a certain bias. Therapy has helped me prepare for the future because as a startup founder, you know there will be those times in the future again,” he said.

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