Events Jun 13, 2019

How a founder’s chaotic mind can lead to chaos in their startup?

During a recent edition of Partech Shaker and Learn, Alexis Eve, Founder of the entrepreneur coaching service Yaniro, shared some valuable advice and psychological insights on how Founders can keep their cool in a new startup environment. Psychologist by training with extensive startup experience, Alexis offers almost a form of therapy in coaching to combat the inevitable natural doubts and uncertainties in the bumpy world of founding a startup.

=> Neurosis - a bad word?

When it comes to neurosis, nerves and worries, it is all a question of rationality. Rationality is a constant internal process, we rationalize everything big and small, naturally and behind-the-scenes. It is also worth bearing in mind the influence of emotion on rationality.

99% of people are not rationally stable, we are all slightly irrational. This is why it is important to see rationality as a continuum, ranging from the rational to the irrational.

The difference between neurosis (nevrose) and being rationally stable (ok) is closer than we think. We are all somewhere close to the middle of the rational / irrational medium, which explains why nerves are so prevalent yet so normal. Neurosis only becomes psychosis (psychose) on the extreme end of irrationality.

“Irrationalities caused by unconscious mechanisms of which the person remains (more or less) conscious” (Trans.) - Jean Thullier

“Exterior reflection of the inner theatre” (Trans.) - Kets De Vries


=> Workshop

Having the opportunity to speak with other entrepreneurs is such a useful tool but so rarely done. That’s why Alexis proposed three questions to be discussed in small groups amongst the audience.

1. What do you view as irrational in your startup? - i.e. What concerns you / what do you worry about?

2. What are people commonly irrational about? - i.e What do people worry about on a day-to-day basis?

3. What are the links between the two?


These were the things that the founders were most irrational about:

- Intuition - notably whether to trust in your intuition or not

- Advice - taking advice, to use it or not

- Trusting your gut

- Fear

- Sensitivity - dealing with stress and emotion

- Lack of sensitivity - ignoring emotion


=> How and why does irrationality appear?

- Contagion

Neuroses are transferred easily and quickly through a startup and its team

- The enormous impact a founder has on a small company

Initial impact of a founder is understandably enormous, when a company scales up it ultimately becomes easier

- Team dilemma

Team needs, feeling good, happy etc. vs. goals and objectives

  -> All about finding a balance

  -> Banalization or even sacralization

  -> Neuroses or exotic management – it’s all a question of management style


=> Using film to underline the way in which a founder can influence a startup 

=> American Psycho Compulsive Founder = Compulsive Startup

Notable founder traits - Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale):

- Perfectionism

- Concern for insignificant details

- Lack of spontaneity

- Dogmatism

- Stubbornness

- Willingness to bend others to their will

- Incapable of relaxing                                                                                                                                                                                    

Advantages for the startup:

- Quality of delivery

- Very powerful execution capability


Problems for the startup:

- Too rigid in the process - sclerosis

- Lack of strategy and global vision

- Difficulty at getting partners on board

- Not the best at pivoting


=> Wolf of Wall Street Narcissistic Founder = Narcissistic Startup

Notable founder traits - Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio):

- Drama king / queen

- Hyper-emotivity, emotional sensitivity

- Attention seeking

- Idealization and belittling of other

- Tyrical tendencies, exploitation and abuse of others

- Difficulty in concentrating

- Control freak


Advantages for the startup:

- Exceptional charisma

- Galvanizing for teams

- Very good at taking risks


Problems for the startup:

- Strategy is incoherent and inconsistent

- Risk factor is elevated

- Waste of resources

- Political problems within the team, revolts etc.


=> Scarface Paranoid Founder = Paranoid Startup

Notable founder traits - Tony Montana (Al Pacino):

- Omnipresent feeling of risk and danger

- Useless precautions for tackling risk / threats

- Suspicion and defiance towards others

- Hypersensitive and hypervigilant

- Retaliation to threats

- Search for hidden motives and special meanings

- Affirmation of rationality and objectivity, a reasoner / thinker

- Cold and gives little confidence


 Advantages for the startup:

- Good knowledge of dangers and opportunities

- Risk reduction through diversification

- Excellent competitive intelligence


 Problems for the startup:

- Absence of a defined strategy, overreactive

- Very strong insecurity amongst the team and turnover

- Atmosphere of suspicion, noticeable from the outside


=> Wizard of Oz Robotic Founder = Robotic Startup

Notable founder traits - Tin Man (Jack Haley):

- Doesn’t understand/feel emotions

- Cannot feel emotions but can deduce them

- Neutral language

- Difficulty in day to day communication

- Overadapted and overrational

- Emotional handicap

- Lack of interest in the future, very connected to the present


 Advantages for the startup:

- Very adapted to business, less so in managing

- Good soldier

- Open to compromise and consultation

- Indirectly very rational


 Problems for the startup:

- Can kill a company by reluctance to change

- Managerial breakdown

- Not very inspiring


These three rigid and vastly different examples underline the kind of influence that a founder can have on the health and success of a startup.



=> So, how can a founder keep their cool?

- Welcome responsibility

Beyond neuroses, your health and your skills play an enormous role in the life of company

- Be aware of irrationality and don’t lie to yourself

Be on the lookout, don’t ignore or fight your neuroses. Rather observe their symptoms and repetitions

- Don’t minimize the impact neuroses can have

Take note of the impact that these “irrationalities” have on the trajectory of your startup, target where.

- Surround yourself

The more that power is concentrated, the greater impact neuroses can have. Think board and associates.


It’s not simple but you can get around it. The thing about startups is that they are new for everyone, it is normal to get lost. You just need to accept it, there is no magic wand. Hiding fear and vulnerability is a normal thing but it’s not serious, if anything emotions are the best indicators of rationality. It is important that you overcome fear and just see it simply as a lack of communication.



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