How to Fight Startup Burnout

startups burnout

If you only have a second, scroll to the bottom. I’ve aggregated 7 articles on fighting burnout and 5 travel startups that can help.

In this post I explore the cause of burnout at startups, the importance of taking vacations, interesting travel startups, and how we battle burnout at Mattermark.

What Causes Startup Burnout?

Do you work for (or with) an early stage startup?

If you do, you’ll appreciate what I’m about to say.

You’re responsible for the jobs of at least 2 people. If you’re a designer, you’re designing and building product. If you’re a demand generation marketer, you’re writing press releases in addition to generating leads. If you’re a mobile developer, you’re building new app interfaces and creating API endpoints.

Every day there are an infinite number of things to work on that would have a big impact. But, there simply isn’t enough time in the day to finish (let alone start) every task.

You start coming to work an hour earlier, and leaving an hour later. Then your 50 hour work week turns into 65, then 75, then 85 hours.

“Those that try to extend… will quickly learn that their brains cannot handle the overload, and they start to feel sluggish, stressed, and depressed.”- Rohith Pottabathni

This exhausting reality often results in burnout for both founders and startup employees.

How to Reduce Burnout

Burnout may be inescapable at startups.

It takes a team working closely together to keep it under control. At Mattermark, we encourage fighting burnout through four major tactics.

I’ll mention 3 now, then talk about the fourth in a bit.

We Cuddle With Puppies: You can find an endless supply of puppies running around our office. It’s normal to see someone sprawled out on the floor, getting her face slobbered on by a dog at least once a day. When we hit walls, we step away from our computers and play with our furry friends.


We Smash Gongs: Every time a member of the Sales Team closes a deal, he/she gets up, and takes a wild swing at our gong. After recovering from the deafening sound, the office usually erupts in applause. It’s an easy way to cut tension.

Founder Burnout

We Walk Outside Daily: In our post about fitness startups I mentioned that we get outside the office for our 1:1s. This isn’t just exercise for the sake of exercise; it’s about changing scenery to keep your eyes from glazing over and your head from aching.

These 3 methods can reduce burnout, but nothing can replace our 4th burnout fighting tactic: taking vacation and going completely off the grid.

burnout at startups

When someone on our team goes on vacation, they are forbidden from responding to email or Slack messages.

Are we crazy, or are other people doing this too?

How the Professionals Take Vacation

Off-the-grid vacations are hard.

No matter how burnt out you feel heading into vacation, everything in your body will tell you to check your email, slack channel, or get some small piece of work done.

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures says it best:

“The idea of a ‘get away from it all’ vacation is a romantic notion that I cannot seem to achieve as much as the Gotham Gal and my kids would like me to…the reality of venture capital is that its a relationship intensive business. You can’t just disengage from a complicated negotiation and say ‘my partner is taking over for me for the next week’. We all wish it was so, but its not.”

Unfortunately, you may never fully recover from burnout if you’re unable to peel your eyes away from the screen.

Brad Feld of Foundry Group seems to have mastered unplugging better than most through his ‘Spend Time Away’ vacations:

“This is a complete disconnect for at least a week. I have been doing this four times a year since 2000 and view this as a key part of my existence on this planet. It gives me a week to catch my breath, rest, spend time with Amy, explore new things, and clear my brain. I’ve felt completely invigorated every time I’ve returned from spending time away.”

It may be difficult to pull yourself away from work at first, but you will only be doing your team a disservice if you continue to push once you’ve burnt out. Instead, take time off, recharge, and come back reinvigorated. Your increased productivity when you return will make up for any time you take off.

If you’re feeling burn out, there are a few travel startups we’ve found to help you escape the office and recharge your batteries.

5 Travel Startups and Hospitality Tools That Can Help Reduce Burnout

Whether your vision of relaxation is staying with strangers, finding uninterrupted peace and quiet, camping, flying to a new destination, or taking a quick trip to a new city, these startups have got you covered.

  1. Airbnb— enables users to rent unique accommodations from local hosts in 190+ countries. (Growth Score: 1159)
  2. Breather— is a network of beautiful city spaces that you can unlock at any time. Try it for free using the code: MATTERMARK (Growth Score: 827)
  3. Hipcamp —search by location, dates and activities to discover your perfect campsite. Get realtime reservations information, campground maps, and book your site. (Growth Score: 790)
  4. FlightCar— provides the most affordable car rentals and free airport parking. Check out all of our convenient locations to rent and park. (Growth Score: 648)
  5. Wanderu— cheap bus tickets to Boston, New York, NY, Washington DC, Philadelphia & train schedules. (Growth Score: 503)

Find 5,801+ Travel Startups

To find more innovative ways to help your startup blow off steam and see a full list of the 5,801+Travel startups in our database, sign up for a free 14-day trial of Mattermark Professional.

7 Must-Reads on Vacation, Startups and Burnout

  1. What’s A Vacation? by Brad Feld of Foundry Group
  2. Working On Vacation by Fred Wilson of USV
  3. Why Startup Founders Should Take 3-Month Vacations by Neil Patel of Crazy Egg
  4. Relax! You’ll Be More Productive by Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project
  5. Feel Guilty About Taking A Vacation In Your Startup? Here’s Why We Don’t. by Alex Turnbull of Groove
  6. Taking Time Off by Leo Polovets of Susa Ventures
  7. Preventing Burnout: A Cautionary Tale by Tim Ferriss

Photo Credits: Unsplash, TechCrunch

This post on travel startups and startup burnout originally appeared on the Mattermark Blog. 

What Kind of Shape is the On-Demand Economy In?

On-Demand Economy

In this post I explore the current state of the On-Demand economy, Homejoy’s recent shutdown and what the future holds for the fastest growing startups in the space. Scroll to the bottom for further reading, as I have aggregated 7+ articles on the subject and 3+ of the fastest growing On-Demand startups. 

Gig Economy. Sharing Economy. On-Demand Economy. Collaborative Economy.

Call it what you want.

Some of the fastest growing companies in the world fulfill consumer demand via the immediate provisioning of goods and services.

On-Demand Startups

And as of late, none of them have been able to escape negative headlines:

Now that the On-Demand economy has secured its place in the conversation surrounding the U.S. Presidential Election, we thought the time was right to take a deeper dive into one of the most visible sectors of the startup economy.

Why has the On-Demand Economy been under fire lately?

Today’s On-Demand Economy

Gig economy

When Uber, Airbnb, and Instacart first arrived on the scene, much of the discussion revolved around the innovation they unlocked. The sudden ability to be transported anywhere immediately, find a place to sleep cheaply, and have groceries delivered quickly was amazing.

It still is.

But, now that the On-Demand Economy has transformed much of the modern workforce, today’s conversation has shifted away from its technological innovations to the classifications of its workers.

“Should they be classified as employees or contractors? Do on-demand workers have sufficient work-place protections? Aren’t businesses more efficient? Are freelancers able to build toward a fruitful career? Don’t they have more flexibility? Do they have reasonable job security? Are they indentured servants? Are they paid enough?”

These are just a few of the arguments swirling around On-Demand startups. An argument that was recently re-ignited with the collapse of Homejoy.

What Happened to Homejoy?

Homejoy shutdown

On June 6th, 2013, Paul Graham tweeted out this picture of Homejoy’s staggering growth.

At the time, it was “the fastest growing company of those [Y Combinator] funded.”

2 short years later, Adora Cheung penned a blog post announcing that her startup would be closing its doors on July 31st 2015.

From one of the earliest entrants into the On-Demand Economy to a dead unicorn in just a couple of years.

Homejoy, what happened?

Over the past 6 months, Mattermark observed a steady decline in Homejoy’s Growth Score, but we were as surprised as anyone when they announced they would be halting operations.

Now that the dust has settled, what was responsible for Homejoy’s demise?


It’s been reported that a number of negative factors contributed to the failure of Homejoy:

  • Difficult customer acquisition/retention
  • Slowed revenue growth
  • Strained fundraising (caused by a recent employee classification ruling).
  • Increasing customer dissatisfaction (in response to pricing increases and service issues).
On-Demand Startups

Each of these issues, in isolation, can be enough to topple a startup. In Homejoy’s case, they faced all at once. On top of that, they were unable to raise enough funding at a price that made sense for the founders or the company.

If a startup on the growth trajectory Homejoy was once on can fail so quickly, it begs to question: What startups can keep pushing the On-Demand Economy forward?

4 Fast Growing On-Demand Startups

As long as On-Demand startups are mired in lawsuits for classifying their workers as contractors rather employees (many are racing to reclassify their couriers as employees) they will face an increasingly bleak fundraising environment. Long runways will shrink, robbing them of the time they needed to outgrow issues similar to the ones Homejoy faced.

Here are four On-Demand startups that appear to be safe from a sudden shutdown, as they’ve experience considerable growth in their Mattermark Growth Score over the past 6 months:

  1. Eaze — Revolutionizing medical marijuana delivery. (Growth Score last 6 Mo: +100%)
  2. LuxeValet — operates a valet parking service which allows users to demand valets and have their cars parked in secured lots. (Growth Score last 6 Mo: +64%)
  3. Doormint — is a mobile platform for on-demand home based consumer utility services. (Growth Score last 6 Mo: +52%)
  4. DoorDash — is an on-demand delivery service that connects customers with local businesses. The marketplace allows people to purchase meals and other goods from local merchants and have them delivered in less than 45 minutes. (Growth Score last 6 Mo: +43%)

Find More On-Demand Startups

To see all the On-Demand startups in our database or build your own searches and alerts, sign up for a free 14-day trial of Mattermark Professional.

Further Reading on the On-Demand Economy

  1. The Gig Economy by Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures
  2. Hillary Clinton Transcript: Building the ‘Growth and Fairness Economy’
  3. What The On-Demand Worker Debate Really Means by Mahesh Vellanki of Redpoint Ventures
  4. The Demons of On-Demand by Sarah Perez of TechCrunch
  5. 10 Things I Learned At the On-Demand Conference by Martin Mignot of Index Ventures
  6. The On-Demand Stack by Semil Shah of Bullpen Capital
  7. Homejoy Shuts Down After Battling Worker Classification Lawsuits by Carmel DeAmicis of re/code
  8. Homejoy says goodbye, and thank you by Adora Cheung of Homejoy
  9. Shyp to Is The Latest On-Demand Company To Reclassify Workers as Employees

Photo Credits: Silicon Valley Business Journal, Unsplash, Twitter, Mattermark

The Key to Fitness for Startups: Advice, Best Practices, & Tools

fitness startups

Exercise is one of the most important, least utilized, tools in every founder’s toolkit.

Think about it. You already know how important it is for your happiness and overall health. But, some of the biggest benefits are ones that can help you and your team to level up at work.

Regular exercise is attributed with improving concentration, sharpening memory, speeding up learning, enhancing creativity, and lowering stress.

Paul Graham, of Y Combinator, probably understands this more than most. He makes a point to all founders entering YC that exercise is as key to a startup’s success as building product and talking to users.

“If you’re ever unsure if you should be doing what you’re doing during YC, ask yourself this question: ‘Am I building our product? Am I talking to users? Am I exercising?’. If you’re not doing one of these things, you’re doing the wrong thing.” — Paul Graham

Forget regular exercise.

Many of us who work at startups don’t even make an effort to get up from our chairs more than a handful of times throughout the day. Fortunately, it was reported that walking for just 2 minutes for every hour of sitting can reduce the risk of premature death by up to 33%.

If that’s all it takes, let’s investigate a few habits and startups/tools your team can use to keep their hearts humming and brains firing during the workday.

Fitness Startups to Investigate

  1. Fitbit — offers compact, wireless, wearable sensors that track a person’s daily activities in order to promote a healthy lifestyle (Growth Score: 2089).
  2. ClassPass — is an alternative to a gym membership that lets you go to the best boutique fitness studios in your city (Growth Score: 2266).
  3. Strava — is the online network connecting the global community of athletes (Growth Score: 657).
  4. Greatist — is the next-gen health media company for healthy-minded millennials (Growth Score: 410).

At Mattermark, Fitbit has completely transformed our lifestyles at work (more on that in a minute). ClassPass is a great option for active people on the team who grew bored of their old routine and want to mix things up with other people in the office.

Do you have any runners or bikers in your office? Strava is for those who want to record their running/biking routes and compete with c0-workers. Rounding out the group is Greatist. It won’t get people out of their seats, but it will inspire them to think of cleaner ways to eat and fun ways to get their blood pumping.


If you don’t want to make an investment in wearables or ClassPass memberships, share some quick, but important, fitness tips in one of your Slack channels:

  1. Walk, don’t sit for all 1:1s and stand-ups.
  2. Drink lots of water (so you have no choice but to stand and walk to the bathroom often).
  3. Walk to lunch, don’t order it.
  4. Use a standing desk if possible.
  5. Find a blow-off-steam buddy to walk with when you need a break.

We mentioned before that Fitbit has transformed our lifestyle at Mattermark.

Fitness at Mattermark

The Mattermark team isn’t much different from all the other teams shipping product in SF.

We’re encouraged to relax and enjoy ourselves on weekends, but we’re all hands on deck, sitting for hours at our computers during the week.

That changed a few months ago when we introduced Fitbits into our office.


Now, on every employee’s first day, she is greeted with a Fitbit sitting atop her desk. Not so surprisingly, introductions of fitness trackers to the office led to an uptick in competition.

startup wellness

This July, we’re competing on steps. Every day you’ll see people offering to get coffee for the team, walking outside for 1:1 meetings, and taking mid-afternoon breaks to catch a second wind.

How do you stay healthy and sharp during the week?

We’d love to hear what you and your team do to keep moving on work days. Ping us on Twitter @Mattermark so we can chat!

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