July 7, 2023

The reckoning of the startup founder — Startup Europe, The Sifted Podcast

On the podcast this week, we talked to Tomas Malovec about why being a founder is the worst job he’s ever had

Steph Bailey

2 min read

Late night Slack messages, rushing from meeting to meeting, an addiction to fancy flat whites. Depending on how you look at it, the life of a startup founder can be either exhilarating or completely exhausting. 

For Tomas Malovec, founder and CEO of AI startup Born Digital, it's the worst job he's ever had.

“In a corporate, if you fail, or if something changes, you just go to management,” he shared on Startup Europe, The Sifted Podcast. “But in a startup, if something goes wrong, you have no one to go to and explain ok these are the conditions that changed. No one helps you and this is something you have to live with for every second, every minute of your life.” 

Among hyped tales of successful entrepreneurs, Malovec is one of a few founders who are speaking more openly about the reality of burnout as an entrepreneur.


VC firm Balderton also spoke to the Financial Times this week about its plans to launch wellness packages to address founders in its portfolio suffering with stress. Aiming to treat founders like elite athletes, the six month personalised programme will span from nutrition and fitness to sleep and mental health.  

Why now?

One reason could be the increasing stressor that is the economic downturn. Another could be the negative impact of stress on productivity. Malovec attributes the quietness surrounding the subject to two things — cultural expectations and the media — but implores more founders to be candid.  

“You need to attract investors, you need to attract your customers, you need to attract future employees. Everyone expects you to be successful, you to be positive, you to have patience,” he said. “That’s the reason founders always act in this manner, and no one cares about how they feel. 

“The media usually writes about super successful founders, super motivated founders, they do not care about their lives,” he continued. “I do not think that if I, for example, knew what a reliable founder was, or any other founders knew at the beginning, that it would change our decision to become a founder, we just would be maybe more prepared.” 

This week on the podcast, we also discussed:

Steph Bailey

Steph Bailey is head of content at Sifted. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn