Episode 11: A Serial Founder and Investor on the Importance of Asking for Help with Erik Halvorsen

Apr 18, 2023 | podcast | 0 comments

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You can find the full transcript for this episode at the bottom of this page

In this week’s episode I’m sitting down with an investor, who has been a founder or co-founder himself multiple times, for a candid conversation about the importance of not going it alone as a founder. We also dive into how he makes space for his mental health and family life despite his demanding job, the traits that he as an investor is often looking for in the founders of startups he’s considering investing in, and the personal story that fuels his passion for supporting innovations in healthcare. 

Surround yourself with other people. Board members, advisors, other people who can take off that load, other people who you can delegate to as quickly as possible. Don’t take it on all yourself, that’s a big help. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to find outlets for your stress. You’ve got to carve out time for yourself.

Erik Halvorsen, PhD, is a Partner at pH Partners healthcare investment bank leading up the therapeutics vertical. He has 20 years of experience in the Healthcare & Life Sciences sectors. With a background in neuropharmacology and regenerative medicine, he is passionate about translating cutting edge innovations into new companies & products that help people.

As an entrepreneur, Erik has founded or co-founded several companies including therapeutics, clinical genomics, robotics, diagnostics and AI focused digital health. He also launched and ran early-stage life science investment funds in Boston and Houston. Prior to pH Partners, Erik was the founding director of the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute. In four years, Erik grew the TMCx healthcare accelerator to national recognition and launched the TMC Venture Fund. In addition to his successful career, Erik enjoys traveling with his family.

This is a must listen for any founder, or aspiring founder. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I didi!

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • The touching story behind what drives Erik’s passion to invest in and support founders of health and life science startups
  • The characteristics he looks for in the founders he’s considering investing in (as well as the red flags)
  • Some of the mistakes that Erik sees founders making that can be a huge source of stress and anxiety
  • Why it’s essential for founders to surround themselves with other professionals who can help fill the gaps in their knowledge
  • How Erik strikes up a balance between work life and home/family life
  • Erik’s advice to aspiring founders on the importance of finding mentors

Find Erik Online:

Resources & Inspiration from the Show

  • List of resources to help you find a coach, therapist, or peer support If you’d like additional support for your mental and emotional well-being as a founder

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About Founders’ Fears & Failures and your host, Dr. Melissa Parks

Melissa is an entrepreneur, former therapist (PhD in Clinical & Health Psychology), and an executive coach for entrepreneurs with a special focus on startup founders. Her passion for supporting startup founders in particular began after witnessing firsthand the emotional rollercoaster her husband experienced as a startup co-founder.

She started the Founders’ Fears & Failures podcast with the mission of shining a light on the mental and emotional challenges that come with life as a startup founder. Having lived abroad for 10 years herself she realizes how much we can learn from hearing stories from around the globe which is why the show doesn’t focus on a country-specific startup ecosystem.

Melissa is also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapist Community, and a mom to a toddler who keeps her on her toes, and fuels her passion for helping to make the world a better place.

If you are interested in coming on the show, please get in touch. We would love to hear your story.

Want to connect further? Get in touch with Melissa on social media:

Want to work with Melissa?

Melissa is a former therapist who provides mindset coaching for ambitious professionals around the globe. Schedule your free discovery call HERE.

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Did you enjoy listening to this episode? Leave your review on Apple podcasts or Spotify.

Disclaimer: The Founders’ Fears & Failures is for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only. It is not meant to be used for personal health advice and should not be construed to constitute personal or professional consultation or guidance, or to replace medical or mental health treatment. The opinions expressed by this podcast, including the podcast guests, are not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of a medical or mental health provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your medical and/or mental health needs. If you are in crisis, please visit this website to find a list of suicide hotlines around the globe. 

Episode Transcript

Melissa 

All right. Hi, Erik, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Erik 

Thank you for having me.

Melissa 

Yeah, I was so excited when you reached out to me on LinkedIn and showed some interest in coming on the show. I know it’s taken us a few weeks to organize this, which I mentioned to you is part of the territory of having a podcast where I interview very busy people. So thanks so much for taking the time to be here today.

Erik 

No, of course, absolutely. I was really impressed with what you’re doing with your podcast. And some of the topics that you’re tackling that are not necessarily commonly talked about when you’re talking about investors and founders and kind of a layer or two beneath what people are looking for out of both.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you for saying that. You know, it isn’t it isn’t talked about enough. And I’m just so happy to have you on here to to share your experience as a former founder, and as an investor, because, you know, I think founders feel quite intense, even if they’re willing to share a bit about their, their struggles behind the scenes, I think they get a bit nervous when they think about the investor perspective. So I hope this show will also calm some nerves for people.

Erik 

Yeah. So hopefully, we’ll see it, we’ll see what I have to say about it.

Melissa 

You will, we’ll see, at least it will give us you know, some more behind the scenes that sometimes people people don’t have. So before we dive into those questions, so I’d love for you to just share a little bit more about your kind of your career journey. And I know you have something to share, too, about why you’re so passionate about what you’re doing these days, too. So if you could just share a little bit more with us, that would be great.

Erik 

Yeah, so not necessarily go all the way back to the beginning. But I was definitely one of those kids who grew up and from as long as I can remember, wanted to be a doctor, right had the doctor’s kit and the little plastic glasses and plastic stethoscope and all of that and went through colleges, pre med biology, psychology, double major, took the MCAT and had all intentions of going to medical school and then came graduation didn’t actually apply to any of my parents, I remember that. You know, look, that’s fine if you don’t want to be a doctor, but you have to do something. And so I ended up going to a master’s program. And we used to call them tweener programs. And there, you’re essentially in the first year medical school classes, but you also do master’s research projects on the side. And I did that at Medical College of Virginia, after I graduated from UVA undergraduate, and I went through that program, and I said, you know, I’m still not sure if I want to be a doctor, doctor, like treating people, but I love science. I went back, UVA offered me a scholarship, I went to back to UVA, where I’d done my undergraduate, and I did a PhD in what was neuropharmacology, I did a joint program between neurology and pharmacology. And, and was fascinated again by the science and really identity. And I spent most of my time looking in models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in my research, and really looking at how, you know, how would we develop better drugs for these patients that don’t have any treatments. And sadly, I was in graduate school many, many years ago, and we still really don’t have good drugs for either of those conditions. And, and so that really got me thinking and learning, not just about the science that you do in a lab, but the translational aspect of that of like, how do how do I go from a discovery in in a lab to ultimately a final approved product, I knew nothing about that process when I was a graduate student who does. And so then that led me to really the next step in my career, which was I started as an internship within a tech transfer office.

Which for those people who don’t know, those are offices were within academic institutions and medical centers, that file intellectual property on the discoveries coming out of those universities and the federally funded research. So that was a whole new thing that I learned, you know, patenting things, and that that was something that really was required as part of a process of going from an initial discovery to the long process of getting a final product out there on the market, patenting, contracting and learned about how to do partnerships with, you know, larger strategics whether there’s partnerships or with venture capital to invest in startup companies, whether it’s with larger pharma companies who want to partner with smaller companies, other academic partnerships, so collaborations, contracts, codevelopment invest, I learned all of it and, you know, I don’t think you’ll find a lot of people to say contract law super, you know, exciting or super exciting. And they may or may not be but to me, this was like just it was just opening you know up the cover on how all these other things that have to happen, like we love that if you think about oh, this person discovered that, you know, made this great discovery, and it led to a publication or maybe even led to a Nobel Prize, right, like in the highest level of science. But even Nobel laureate, scientists like to translate from the their major shifting discovery, to new drugs that are on the market, or new devices, or whatever those are, it’s a massive black box that a lot of people don’t understand. And it’s a long road with a lot of failures and a lot of things that have to go right. And that part to me learning that was fascinating. And really, I’ve built the rest of my career off of that, I sort of found my thing, right, which, which was, you know, since since becoming a doctor and treating people wasn’t it, but also being in the lab and doing discovery, wasn’t it either. And it turned out what I was really good at was translating kind of the science to business people, and the business to science people. And that’s really, you know, in a nutshell, the rest of my career is in that intersection. And really helping translate good ideas, good discoveries, allowing them and or enabling them to become companies, creating pathways for investment into those companies, partnerships with larger companies, and then ultimately, the regulatory stuff and everything else you have to do to bring those to market. Turns out, I’m pretty good at it. And turns out, I like it, Turns out, I like it a lot. And it allows me to really work with a lot of founders that are out there trying to solve really big unmet needs in medicine.

Melissa 

Wow. Yeah. Well, thank you for summing up all of that in such a short amount of time, I know that we could probably dive in and just explore more of that past career. It’s fascinating. As somebody who was in the research field, I got my PhD in Clinical and health psychology. And so I kind of dabbled in that that field. And it’s just fascinating to me, I haven’t I don’t definitely not an expert like you are in how all of that gets translated. But it’s, I can just see the value in having somebody like you. So I’m so happy that not only do we need you, right, but you also found have found so much passion for this area, too.

Erik 

Yeah, thank you. Yeah, no, it’s it’s, it’s easy to be passionate. And one of the things is, the great joys of my job. And my career for the last 20 years is in working with founders, you know, of companies that again, their identity, whether they came up with the idea of themselves, or they’re working with another scientific or clinical founder, that have the passion to do all the very difficult things that come along with translating an idea to a product. And, you know, it’s easy to get motivated, it’s easy to spend the extra hours and go the extra mile when you’re working with people like that, who are in it for the right reasons and trying to get again, better drugs, better devices, better diagnostics, all out there to benefit patients.

Melissa 

Yeah, well, I have to say, it’s something I really admired when we had our kind of pre recording call before this. And because your passion for this really is contagious. I mean, I’m sure that many investors are out there to make the world a better place, but not everybody. And I could tell though, that you really have that passion for just bringing the this technology out into the world. So really make make changes in people’s lives.

Yeah, that’s definitely a goal. I mean, even at the firm that I work at now, and my partner, and I lead our therapeutics vertical, at our, at our firm pH partners. And one of the great things about about our firm is that, you know, we do what we do in the life sciences and, and healthcare space. And we could do investing in real estate, we could do investing in, you know, and working with companies that are in these other areas. And, and we really do kind of have that mantra of we can do well, by doing good, we can make money for us and other investors. And then we can do it in a way and with other clients and groups that we’re working with that are ultimately, you know, bringing products that can do good and improve, you know, human health. And that’s important. I mean, and that’s, it makes we all work very long hours and do very hard jobs. And those things take time away from our families and everything too. So, you know, it’s important for us to be passionate about what we’re doing when we commit as much time to it. So for me, it’s a little it’s pretty easy.

Melissa 

Yeah, well, I do see that in the most successful founders. It’s not just about the money. I mean, of course, there is the money component to but whether you’re, you know, I know you’re talking about your role as an investor, but I think founders do they need to have that big why behind what they’re doing to be able to keep going and be in this marathon

Erik 

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And in, you know, one of the things that you and I have talked about and I’m happy to, you know, kind of relay a personal story as well is, you know, when I got into this, are we Originally, I mean, I was out of graduate school. I mean, you know, this is before I got married before I had kids. And so for me, I had no life other than other than the work I was doing. And I was perfectly happy to do that. So I’ve been, I’ve certainly been in healthcare and doing what I’ve done prior to having a family doing all this, however, shortly after I was married, and we had our first child, and I was I was working in Boston, at the time I led innovation for Boston Children’s Hospital, which was, you know, still is the number one pediatric hospital in the US. Tons of great innovation up there, not just you know, the best pediatric clinical hospital in the world. But, you know, constantly you’re working with clinicians and researchers up there that are trying to find better drugs, better devices, to, you know, push the boundaries, and really help these kids that don’t have necessarily great solutions for some of the challenges that they’re facing in the medical space. And as I started there, and was leading innovation and moving them in a different direction is when my first child was born. And she was born and even diagnosed prenatally before she was born as she was likely to be having defects, cardiac defects, and others when she was born. And so we were prepared as much as you can prepare yourself for something like that. And then when she was born, she rapidly was moving into cardiac failure. She was born with what’s called ASD or atrial septal defect holes in her heart, ventricle, ventricular septal defect holes in the ventricles. And a host of other problems. She was having seizures, she had bleeds in her brain, there was a lot of things that were going on that were highly stressed, stressful, as you can imagine, and she was being treated at the place where I was there leading innovation, and she was at the cardiac ICU and was being treated by doctors that I knew and that I work with, you know, to help find better drugs and treatments for patients. And, you know, long story short, you know, there was a lot of things that we dealt with, you know, she was at one point, we didn’t know if she was going to live 48 hours and things like that, and she’s been through surgeries. And, you know, she spent the first you know, few months of her life living in the cardiac ICU at that hospital, and I slept there, and my wife slept there. And then I would leave there and then go down to work with the people who work for me at the hospital, and very surreal. But all of that said, and my daughter came through that and she’s now a 14 year old, you know, healthy young woman still with some challenges, but but mostly on the on the health side. Very good. And, you know, all credit to the doctors at Boston Children’s. But one of the things that that whole situation drove home for me and I’ve give lectures on this at schools and medical schools is that is that there are a number of devices in which she had open heart surgery, she had interventional cardiac procedures, she was on certain medicines that were able to reduce the blank brain bleeds and decrease the seizures that she was having different imaging agents and diagnostic tests, you had multiple spinal surgeries, you had implants, a stent in her aorta. I mean, I could go on and on and on. But there’s no shortage of you know, we know less than 10, let’s say, products, devices are drugs that if they were not invented, she would not be here today, any one of them. And, and so each one of those products had to be invented or thought of by somebody, they had to be patented. They had to be, you had to find partners, Investment Partners, commercial partners, device partners, therapeutics, partners, you had to go through the regulatory process, and the FDA, all of those things had to happen. And there was a million reasons why any of them could have failed. So they all had to happen. And people I don’t want to say like me, but people had to shepherd those things through and work with those founders to get those things over. And the end result is something like my daughter who is here today because of them. And that, you know, I have always sort of, you know, liked and been in this phase that put a real face to how important this whole process is ultimately.

Melissa 

Yeah. Oh, I can imagine, right? I can’t imagine. I can imagine. But I can’t imagine. I have a two year old son myself, and I just, it makes me shudder. And it like, brought some like tears of joy to the corner of my eyes to hear that story from you again. I mean, you had told me it but you hadn’t told me in that detail. So yeah, thank you so much for sharing that Eric because, and I’m glad you lecture about it too, because it’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day right and by sharing that story of your daughter, I think it just helps people to see the big picture, right? And stay in this for the long run.

Erik 

Yeah, yeah. And I’ve given that lecture to first year med students and that are, you know, going into med school and I say, you know, I would love for you all, to be the best doctor, you can be in whatever profession within medicine, you can. But I also challenged them in a way to say don’t accept the, you know, what today is the best device or the best diagnostic or the best, whatever, really push the boundaries, go, spend that extra time to design or think about a better one, or one that doesn’t exist at all. And that’s how these things move forward, is not accepting that what we have today is good enough and that we can’t do better. And that’s a lot to ask for people who are already spending as much time as they are getting as good as doctors or researchers they are. But that’s how that’s how these whole fields move forward. And the end result is very tangible. I experienced it with my daughter. I saw it every day in places like Boston Children’s and other places.

Melissa 

Yeah, no, I love that. That I mean, yeah, really putting that challenge. And because yeah, I mean, every field needs innovation, right. And I mean, medicine, especially. So the founders who are listening to this show, might be struggling with some things, like some mental health, mental well being kinds of things. We’re all human, right? It’s normal for them to be struggling. But you know, one of the biggest stressors in when you’re a founder is getting money, right? And so I one thing we wanted, I wanted to make sure we talked about is just, if you can shed some light for people listening, what kinds of things are you looking out for when you’re talking with founders, if you’re considering possibly investing in their companies? Are the kind of personality traits you’re looking for? Are there red flags you’re on the lookout for?

Erik 

Yeah, all of those, right? All of those things, you’re looking for certain qualities that attract you to that person and give you confidence that they’re going to be successful, and that they’re going to be able to navigate and withstand, you know, what is a very hard process. And I gave you some of the aspects, right contracts and all the other things that kind of go into that process. And I have yet and I’ve been doing this for a while I have yet to speak to a successful entrepreneur who said, you know, that was pretty easy. Right? Like, like, right, where they, they sold their company, they launched their products in their life. I mean, that was, that was right. Nobody’s ever said no said no founder or entrepreneur ever. And that’s in there’s a reason it’s not easy, it’s super hard. And there’s a ton of reasons that can sort of sidetrack you or, you know, waylay the company or whatever. And most will fail when you you know, the whole, from an investor standpoint, you’ll see a lot of them say, hey, look, if we’re, you know, at a 10 investments, we need one that’s going to be, you know, you know, a blockbuster we need to to be, you know, pretty good. And then the other set, right? So you’re looking at like a three and 10, or something like that is a good average, like they’re anticipating that five, six of their 10 investments are going to fail. And in, that’s still going to be a pretty good fund return on those. Right. So that tells you kind of, you know, what founders and what early stage companies are up again. So I think first and foremost, for me, I look for founders that obviously have that passion for what they’re doing. Right. And that passion has to go beyond making money and other things. They’re passionate about the product, the service, the unmet need, that they’re solving for. Obviously, you’re looking for them to be highly knowledgeable, not just scientifically but about the business, right? That they all CEOs and early stage founders, they have to be kind of part, the CFO, part, the CEO, part sales part business developer, they have to be able to wear a lot of hats. That’s super important. I’m not, I’m not turned off by first time founders, like other people will constantly like, oh, I want the sixth time, you know, guy who’s, you know, he’s on his seventh company. You know, maybe there’s something to that for sure. I’m not scared about a first time founder. In fact, I’m attracted to them, like if they because they should be hungry, they should have the enthusiasm, the other skills that I’m looking for on there. And the key thing for them is that they’re not going to go in knowing everything. There’s no way possibly they could that’s sort of the definition of a first time founder. So you want to see that, that they’re not pretending like they know everything. They know what they know. They know what they don’t and they’re actively trying to Still, the gaps in their knowledge and their experience. And that can happen in a bunch of different ways. One, they bring in investors who are confident in them and aligned with them, and know what that founder doesn’t have. And they’re going to provide whether you’re, they’re gonna leverage their network to compliment them on what they need or where their gaps are. The other part is the advisors board member, that they’re surrounded by go put other smart people experienced people around you who can who can make that whole thing easier. I see a lot of early stage companies who don’t have boards of directors at all. And because they don’t want to lose control, they don’t want to be diluted, or whatever their reason is, right. And, and the point is, are there say, Oh, well wait to my series a way to my series de, there is, there is no time too soon in the process, to surround yourself with smart people who are connected and who are as passionate about what you’re doing as you are, and that they’re willing to give up their time and of their network and have their knowledge to do that. And so it’s both a red flag when I see people who don’t do that, who haven’t done that, or are not willing to, and it is something that certainly is on the other side of that, even first time were young entrepreneurs who had recognized that and they are actively trying to fill their gaps and surround themselves, that is a super positive thing that ultimately is going to make their life easier, not easy, easier, and, and increase their chances of success.

Melissa 

I’m so happy that you said that. Because I do think that there’s still this message that people feel like that founders feel like they have to do that whole fake it till you make it thing. And I hear you saying that do not do that.

Erik 

Don’t do it? Yeah, don’t do it. I mean, it’s it’s, I mean, seasoned investors and people who’ve been around can sniff that out in a second. Like, there’s just nobody benefits from that. Now you’re not, you know, I think I think their concern is that they’re showing weakness, or they’re showing a lack of knowledge. But that’s not the right thing. I mean, you need to, you need to be, like I said, knowledgeable about a range of things, but you need to know where your limit is. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. And this is a big part of it. I think we talked about mental health challenges and stress and anxiety, a lot of that, and I have no data to support this. But I mean, I think a lot of that is is exactly that them, stretching them pretending to do something or not pretending to know something that they don’t they fake it till you make it or trying to solve for all these things themselves. Rather than going to people who know more, or can give them just a different give them an opinion or a different perspective that they can use in making these decisions.

Melissa 

Yeah, I love that I I always think that like it takes a village right to have a successful company. And you’re saying that right? You’re giving all the the tips they need for all the people that they need to get on board to make. Yeah, keep keep the business afloat, keep it moving forward.

Erik 

What is the great nine, it’s a great sign, like I just got off a call literally 30 minutes ago with a CEO that I work with. And you know, he’s on his, this is literally his sixth company been very successful along the way. And when I first met him, I was I was concerned that I was like, Well, maybe you know, he’s on his sixth company, he’s going to have an attitude of I know everything and, and don’t need any help. And in fact, he’s, you know, extremely humble. He’d be the first person to tell you what he doesn’t know, and where he needs help. And even for a sixth time CEO who’s been super successful, he’s the people he’s surrounded himself with. And it’s not just window dressing, you know, he’s got some of the leading clinicians in you know, it turns out this company is doing things in chronic pain management and a non opioid pain management opioid use huge problem in there and he’s trying to solve that problem by a non opioid pain reduction. He’s like so he went and got some of the the leading pain Docs in the US to surround it. And then from a, from a commercial standpoint, some of the leading insurance company executives, some of the leading providers out there in terms of on just surrounded himself with a bevy of people that can help navigate this and at the end of the day, it’s about gates, running himself to smart people, increasing the chance of success of that company, getting the product out there to the patients that need it. That can have a massive impact on our public health situation, you know, in terms of reducing opioids and the opioid problem.

Melissa 

Wow. I’m impressed. Yeah, a huge problem that definitely needs people like that to be solving it and people who are relying on other experts to help fill in their gaps in their knowledge. Wow. Well, I do have a question that’s coming up for me, though. So one thing I hear from founders a lot is that I think good founders, they do understand, like, there needs to be a balance between the confidence and the humility. But I think a lot of them struggle when it comes to how do they show that to their teams? Is there anything like you’ve observed that that has been helpful for people with with kind of maintaining that balance as a leader?

Erik 

Yeah, I think it’s a really good question. And I think it is probably something that a lot of founders struggle with. And I think the best kind of leaders of these companies that I’ve seen, is people who work for you, people who are invested in you, and people who sit around your board, it doesn’t really matter what role is, they have to be they have to connect to you, and they have to connect to you, you’re not your your message, what do you know, what is the company doing? Like? What are we what problem are we solving, they gotta connect to the message, but they gotta connect to you personally. And the only way that they can do that is if you let them in a little bit, and they get to see who you are, personally. And if you’re putting up a fake facade of this person you think they want to see as the CEO or as the founder, but it’s not really you, and they can’t really connect, or if you’re, if you’re pushing people or keeping them away, they can’t really connect, if they’re not connected to you, they’re not going to go the extra mile for you, right, that you that you need them to do on there, too. So that connection is important. And for me, I mean, I’ve tried to always, you know, it’s kind of an over, you know, I’ve tried to be my authentic self with kind of, you know, like it or not, this is, and, and to share some of the personal stuff, I man told the story about my daughter. And I think those are important things that it allows people to recognize that you’re human and, and you have emotions and other things that you’re in. And I think that’s I do think that that’s really important. The asking for help the, you know, now the part that is challenging, right, you’ve also got to have the confidence that they if you’re not confident, how is your team going to be confident, if you look like are putting out the vibe that you’re stressed or you know, things you don’t know what’s going on, that can trickle down. So there’s an aspect of like, things you have to keep as CEO and founder, you can’t share everything with your team, are you happy, because it can have a ripple effect, you have to be cognizant. So that’s where again, but the CEOs and the founders, they need somebody that they can talk to, right, and it may not be some of their team members, because you need to insulate them from some of the things that are risky, are stressing you out. So that means you know, do you have that the board member or two, you have external advisors that you can talk to? Sometimes it’s your investors, right? And I’d be like, Well, wait a minute, you can’t tell investors, you’re scared about something or whatever? Well, it depends on the investor depends on your relationship with them, it depends on your trust level, their trust level, and you at the end of the day, whoever that person or persons are going to be that CEO and the founder, they need somebody to vent to they need a safe person that they can talk to about the things that are stressing them out the things that are concerning them the questions, they have the you know, when they can’t go to their team with those things, right. And they come from different. They come from different places, there’s not, but they you have to have that and when you don’t have It’s a lonely place. And it just exacerbates, I think the stress level, and some of the mental health stuff that we’ve talked about, I think more for those founders, when they don’t have those outlets and people they can talk to.

Melissa 

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, in my experience of just working with humans in general, right, like, any, it’s normal to have hard times it’s normal to feel any kinds of emotions. But if we try to say like, something’s wrong with me for feeling like this and keep it bottled up inside, it’s just it’s gonna it’s gonna explode at some point.

Erik 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. The thing I would say is interesting, and I’ve seen this more and more these days, which is, you know, with the boom of social media stuff, you know, whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, I name a number of other social media things that I probably have no idea even exists. And you’ve got now you’ve gotten now, these modern day founders, you know, you’ve got founders and CEOs that are in their 20s, right, you know, for a number of these things. And, you know, so they grew up with social media and they grew up as that was a way to show people your, you know, connect with people. Show them your life, let people in that you know, like, do all these things. That is not always the best medium to deal with these things. And you You know, and I’ve seen some founders who will go out there onto social media, and they’ll just let lay it out there, oh, I had this terrible meeting with these investors and they don’t get it or, you know, whatever it might be. And they feel like, Hey, I’m helping other founders by sharing evidence out there. Yeah. But but they’ve not taking into account how the rest of the audience and the other people are out there, how they can view that person now, or that situation. And so I understand why they’re doing it, right, because they probably got this bottled up stuff, and they’re looking for an outlet, that is not the right outlet for that. And that ultimately, can come back and hurt them for the next group that goes to look to invest in them. And then they pull up a little social media stuff. And they’re like, wait a minute, well, this founder has been ranting about stuff for like, Is that who we want to invest in? Somebody who’s throwing all this stuff out there? So that’s a great cautionary tale. That I mean, we’re seeing a lot of that. I know where it’s coming from, right? Because they’re, they’re stressed, and they’re trying to, and they’re trying to share and help other entrepreneurs. But that’s not the right, that can that can come back on them. And I think, a caution these days.

Melissa 

Well, I know like, as someone trained as a mental health professional, what I’ve always been told is that if you’re going through something like in the moment, don’t share about it on social media. But once you go through it, you maybe talk to your own therapist, or coach or whoever, and you process it, then you can share it maybe as a, as a lesson learned or something. Do you think that’s true for founders, too, that maybe there’s something there that they could share in the future?

Erik 

Yeah, I do. I think so I think you want to get, I think to your point, you want to get far enough away from the event itself, right, where you’ve had time to process it and think about it, and think about it logically and, and emotionally, to kind of put it in the context of something that is productive for you. And whoever else is, is looking at that, rather than it being an emotional outlet are venting, which can, you know, be used to paint that person is again, irrational, or, you know, something that is seen as a risk potentially for investors, right, on something like that. You want to get far enough away from it to be able to do that. Now, what does that mean? Does it mean, you’re not even when you’re at the next company? Is it a year? Is it a month is it a I mean, I think there’s different timelines there, you can also share stories by you know, changing the names and changing the city, you know, you can get around the same point you’re trying to make, and make it a little bit less, you know, kind of, you know, which group or that it’s even you on there to try to make the point, if you’re really trying to do that. The other thing I’ve seen is, and again, you know, less social media less out there for everybody to see, I’ve attended certain events, and I’ve been happy to share stories of situations I wish I had over again, you know, or decisions that over again, to put it nicely, either for companies that I founded, or co founded or, or whatever it might have been. And they have these things where, you know, where there’s basically founders, and it’s a safe space, it’s usually like at a bar, and they have a beer, and they’re talking about and I can’t say the name, because it’s sort of, you know, you bleep it out. But it’s basically, you know, things you messed up. And the whole session is going around, and people are like, well, here’s, you know, you think that was bad, I did this and screwed it off. And that stirred it up. And it’s in that kind of stuff is healthy, but that situation, it’s like you’re talking to other people, you’re all in the same room, rather than putting it out there in a way that it’s there. And it can’t go away and can be held against you in a way that, you know, is probably unfair anyway, you know?

Melissa 

Yeah, no, I think it’s such I mean, really, even if you’re not a founder or investor, like, you know, you could be listening to this and benefiting from this conversation, because I think it’s a big challenge right now. Especially. Yeah, just seeing the way the next generation is navigating. It is interesting. And yeah, I think we both have similar opinions about it.

Erik 

So I’ve got a 14year old and 11 year old going to be going to college when this is a thing. It didn’t exist when I was there. I’ve got to train them.

Melissa 

Yes, I’m not there yet. But I think about it all the time. I’m nervous about that the teenage years. I would love if you could just let us know a little bit more. Well, first of all, do you think work life balance is even possible. But I do know that you do some things to take care of your health. So if you could also share with us, you know, what, what are some of your tips that have worked for you?

Erik 

Sure. Yeah, so I’ve been on the founder and co-founding side of the table for six different companies, and then certainly an investor in investment banking, working with founders, and startup companies as well. So yeah, work life balance is work life balance is one of those things where everybody has a different definition of it. And it’s a little bit of a sliding scale. And, and, you know, some people’s idea of work life balance might mean, you know, working 20 hours a week, and that’s work life balance. I mean, that would be awesome. I mean, I wish other people’s might be that they see their family once every two weeks. And that’s fine for them. Right? Like, there’s different ends of the spectrum. So each individual has to kind of define that for themselves. I mean, I do think it’s certainly possible. But make no mistake about it. I mean, as a founder as as an early stage, and I was a founder operator, there’s passive founder to like, hey, it’s my idea. You guys run with it, and I’m gonna go do something else. There’s those founders. And then there’s kind of the founder, operator, Founder, CEO, like the people running the companies, and it’s their idea, like, make no mistakes, the early days of that, like, there’s, you struggle to find balance, for sure. Yeah, cuz you’re wearing so many hats, you don’t have enough capital to hire all the positions you want. That’s the reality. And if then if it’s not something you want to do, or you’re cut out for, then go do something else. As far as that those early days that just that’s just what it is. Now you as quickly as possible. Again, what my point of surrounding yourself with other people, board members, advisors are the people who can take off that load other people who can, you can delegate to as quickly as possible, don’t take it on all yourself. That’s a big help. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to find ways to for outlets for your stress. You’ve got to carve out time for yourself. And it could be whether it’s you know, kind of some people love to like work out super early or go for a run or whatever that might be for me. I’m a golf guy. I don’t have a ton of time to do that. But like twice a week, I go to the driving range. I put on my headphones, I listen to music. Occasionally I get a work call. But usually after hours, I go to the range. I hit golf balls for an hour and I listen to music and that’s the equivalent of meditation for me, right like that. And then on Sunday mornings, I go golfing with a couple of friends early morning, I come back I’m done my golf. I’m back here by noon. My kids are probably still in their PJs having breakfast, so I don’t miss any time with them either. I carve out, I mean, I am the little league coach for my son’s baseball team and he plays basketball and even though I’m not the coach there, I attend all of his games and those appear on my schedule, just as if they were work meeting they’re on there. They’re blocked out and they they are protected. But you know, but that being said, I’m also I can be up till midnight, I can take calls at two in the morning like, yeah, you know, I’m able to get a balance, I’m able to protect my time with my family, I’m able to get some me time on the driving range or whatever it is. But you know, it’s long hours and getting stuff done. And like I said, everybody has to find their find their thing. And way to do that, again, also important to have people you can talk to right and people that I can reach out to, and talk to people that understand my job and what I’m doing. And then there’s a safe space, you know, to kind of be able to be vulnerable, or to be able to be just honest about the things that are bothering you, or the things that are stressing you out the things that you feel like you’re like, Man, I just, I don’t know, you know, what’s going on here. So that’s important for everybody to have. And I know there’s a lot of, especially, you know, they always say it’s lonely at the top and a lot of CEO feel that CEOs of major organizations, major Fortune 500 pharma companies, where you can’t really go to your board, because you’re like, you know, like that, can you show that weakness? Or you’re slow people gotta you gotta have some people around you that you can you can have those conversations with. So,

Melissa 

yeah. Oh, you said so many great things there. I mean, I’m, that’s what I tell my clients all the time, right is, is it has to be what works for you, like balance, I think sometimes we think balance is like perfection, right? Like, it’s like a perfectly balanced scale or something. And it’s not, it’s what works for you. And you can do really micro things throughout your day to try to infuse a little bit of self care if it’s not possible, right to for some of these things that you that you’ve built into your life now. Because yeah, at the beginning, that might not be possible to take a Sunday and go golfing.

Erik 

Yeah, and recognizing right, being self aware enough that we recognizing that it is out of balance. And in one way or the other, and, and course correcting and recognizing like, man, I’ve got some stuff that’s pressing for work, but you know what, I’m feeling a little a little bit burned out, like I’m getting to where I need to go take some time now. And that’s more important than this other work thing. That’s, that’s pending right now. So being self aware, and you know, helping yourself out is important. And again, having people around you that can help you out as well.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Again, like is it takes a village. So, Eric, I would love to know, if you, we could go back in time to the very beginning of your, let’s say, your career as a founder when you’re first starting off? Or? Yeah, right around there, whatever, whatever. Is that sounds right. What words of advice and wisdom would you give yourself back then?

Erik 

Oh, my gosh. So many of all the lessons learn. Well, so you know, I was, I think I was super fortunate. Just by dumb luck. I think a lot, I was surrounded by really good mentors. Throughout my career, I was really, really lucky. I was at Harvard for years, I had really good mentors, when I was at Harvard, you know, people who were so much more experienced and seen and done a lot. And I just, I guess I was smart enough, or just whatever I was, like, I’m gonna suck up everything I can learn from this person. And I spent time with him, I went out to lunch with him, like grab beers with them, I just anything I could do to be around those people and learn from them. I did, and it was so I mean, it made the rest of my career because of that. So somebody who is I was lucky enough to be in the same area vicinity job with those people, part of it is recognition. And part of it was, you know, not hesitating to ask and not ask for help ask how they would do this, ask them to show me something, ask them to just go grab lunch, so I could pick their brain and just, you know, get that experience. And I had great mentors, like so many, I can’t even begin to mention them all, because I’ll leave somebody out. But again, as a as advice to a founder, especially young founders, we talked about surrounding yourself with people who can help you stuff like that. But, you know, as a young person or a young founder, go find the gray haired people like that have been there and done that. Because the thing is that a lot of them, they want to pass on that knowledge they’d love to, they’d love to, you know, they’re not going to, they’ve decided, hey, I’m happy to sit on boards, I’m happy to advise, like, I’m retired, I’ve done whatever, but they want to be helpful. And they’ve got so much to give, like, just go ask them and go spend the time to go get it. And they don’t always have to be old or whatever they but the people who know more people who are willing, and there’s so many people out there that are willing to be that in mentors may be a strong word, but like just to be willing to share their experience and their network and their advice. And again, it gets to that point where I think a lot of people are they don’t want to ask or that help? Or to do that, or that or there’s some sort of badge of honor of going it alone, you know what I mean? And that’s, there’s, there is no, there’s no reward for the

Melissa 

Lots of consequences.

Erik 

Yeah, there’s a lot of consequences. And, you know, like, nobody’s ever like, you know, that I know of sort of, you know, IPO their company or sold their company, and they’re like, you know, what, I never asked anybody, I never know. And the people who did offer me their opinion, I listened to any of it. I’ve never heard that maybe in the history has happened. You know, and you didn’t sell their company for more, and they didn’t get an award or badge or trophy for not asking. Or, or that. So. Yeah, no, that would be the biggest thing I would, I would suggest and tell. Tell the founders, find some find some mentors, find some people to surround yourself with.

Melissa 

Great, Erik. Well, we’re gonna have to wrap up. But if listeners if they want to reach out to you and connect, is there any place where that would be best for them to connect with you?

Erik 

Sure. Yeah. I’m uh, I’m at pH partners. My email is Erik at pH partners.com. We are healthcare life sciences investment bank. We’re out of Austin, Texas. And a partner in the firm lead the therapeutics, vertical, they can email me you can find me on LinkedIn, reach out, connect to me on LinkedIn, message me on LinkedIn. And we’d love to chat with any founders, either about a company that they’re working on, or if they just want to live there. I’m not saying I’m looking for a mentor, but I’m happy to have a conversation. They can vent to me or talk to me about some of the things that some of the challenges that they’re facing, and I’d love to love to meet him and love to talk to them.

Melissa 

Awesome, Erik. Yeah. Well, I hope we don’t flood your inbox with this show. But I appreciate you. Yeah, I’m sure there are people out there who would just love to Yeah, have a have a great down to earth conversation with you. And I really appreciate you coming on here and having them with me. So thank you so much. Yeah, absolutely.

Erik 

Thank you, Melissa.

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HI I’M MELISSA

I'm a therapist-turned-coach who loves working with clients around the world! I work with the globally mobile community to support them through transitions as well as entrepreneurs who need support navigating the rollercoaster of entrepreneur life.

I'm also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapists (LIT) Community, a mom, a self-compassion advocate, and an aspiring author.

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