Dave Morin of Slow Ventures: Lessons From 250+ Investments, Promoting Mental Health, and Combating the Internet’s True Tax of Depression – Angel, Hosted by Jason Calacanis

Check out the Angel Episode Page

Key Takeaways

  • Social media networks are created with good intentions, but their use, without a doubt, leads to higher amounts of anxiety and depression 
  • Pretty much EVERY entrepreneur has experienced a period of anxiety/depression
    • Realize – You are NOT alone
  • “I think founders need to take it a lot more seriously that their health is the number one priority”
    • “Startups will consume all your available time. So design your life first for your health and then let your startup consume the rest of your time.”
  • How can entrepreneurs better deal with depression and anxiety?
    • Treat yourself like an Olympic athlete and get a coach (or a therapist)
    • Have a network of investors and friends you can lean on
    • Eat less sugar
    • Drink less alcohol
    • Include more plants in your diet
    • Do more yoga and meditation
  • Psychedelics have certainly proven valuable for treating a variety of mental health conditions, but you HAVE to do them in the presence of a therapist who knows what they’re doing

Books Mentioned

  • When writing his book, Angel, Jason removed all the social media apps from his phone
  • To learn more about psychedelics and how they can be used to improve mental health, check out How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
  • Jason has the Calm book on a shelf in his recording studio

Intro

  • Dave Morin is the co-founder of the social network Path and former manager at Facebook
    • He also founded the venture capital firm, Slow Ventures, and has invested in a handful of companies you might recognize – Allbirds, Twitter, Venmo, Nest, Robinhood, Pinterest, Postmates, Stripe, Airtable, Blue Bottle Coffee, Wealthfront, and Casper – WOW

The Early Days of Facebook and Working With Mark Zuckerbeg

  • David was part of the core team that built Facebook, having worked there from 2006-2010
    • He’s not actually sure of his employee number, but estimates it to be ~#29
  • “Facebook is a difficult company and it’s a difficult brand and the reason why is that it’s human. Facebook is this map of all of humanity and all of its connections and all of the interactions between all of those humans.” 
  • A little bit about working for a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerbeg:
    • “Mark has always been one of the smartest people I’ve met in my entire life”
    • Where did his genius come from?
      • A combination of being book smart, well-studied and read, and having an incredible forward thinking ability
      • “Mark was always playing multi-dimensional chess in the way that he was 3-4 steps ahead of everyone… It was like he could see the whole board and think through the different options… He had an ability to see the whole game in a way most people don’t.”
    • David also describes Mark as enormously determined – “His determination and competitive will is arguably the best in the world”
      • “He’s almost like a world-class athlete in a way. He just has such huge drive and competitive energy.” 
    • “Mark was one of those people who you would go to for feedback or to do a product review and sometimes the meetings were difficult, but more often than not you would spend a really long time debating things and you would leave that conversation having thought through every single possible way to think about something.”
    • Related – check out Mark’s new podcast

The Dark Side of Social Media

  • Since selling Path, Dave’s primary project has been Sunrise (it’s a non-profit initiative  focused on trying to find cures for depression)
  • “The studies have shown that social media can make people anxious. In fact, anxiety and depression are correlated, so it can also make people depressed.” – Jason
    • Social networks are created with good intentions, but there is without a doubt a high cost
  • Dave has done the following to limit the negative effects technology has on his life:
    • Turned off all notifications (except for his phone/messaging app)
      • This makes it so you’re always on offense, not defense (if you let the phone get your attention rather than you controlling your own attention, then you’re always on defense)
    • Removed all the social apps from the first page of his phone (they’re in a folder on the second page)
  • When writing his book, Angel, Jason removed all the social media apps from his phone
  • But here’s a few more perspectives:
    • “Social media gets almost too much of the burden of hate”
      • What about Wi-Fi and the internet?
    • Think of all the benefits tech/social media/the internet is bringing us:
      • Meditation apps were the most most popular category in the Apple App Store last year
      • “LGBTQ rights have moved forward faster than they would have ever moved forward in the mass media age”

Anxiety and Depression in Entrepreneurship

  • Pretty much EVERY entrepreneur has experienced a period of anxiety/depression or at the worst – being suicidal
    • “It seems to over index in founders” – Jason
    • Realize – You are NOT alone
    • But the good news – the stigma surrounding depression/anxiety is disappearing (largely thanks to messages spread via social media – another benefit of it)

How can entrepreneurs better deal with depression and anxiety?

  • If you’re a founder, treat yourself like an Olympic athlete and get a coach (or a therapist)
    • Think of it like preventative medicine for mental health problems
  • “I think founders need to take it a lot more seriously that their health is the number one priority”
  • Ideally, if things get really hard, there are people either on your board or angel investors (like Jason or Dave) you can call for help
  • Eat less sugar
    • “Sugar is one of the things that people do not realize has an enormous impact on depression and anxiety”
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Include more plants in your diet
  • “The number one thing I tell people is do more yoga and meditation”
  • BUT THE BIG TAKEAWAY
    • “Startups will consume all your available time. So design your life first for your health and then let the your startup consume the rest of your time.”
    • And to add – prioritize your relationships and make sure you have a social life

What about psychedelics for improving mental health?

  • They’re certainly valuable but you HAVE to do them in the presence of a therapist who knows what they’re doing
    • Do NOT take a handful of mushrooms and go to Burning Man expecting it to fix all your problems
    • “Think of it like brain surgery”
  • To learn more about psychedelics and how they can be used to improve mental health, check out How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
  • Ketamine is proving to be pretty promising for improving symptoms of depression (there are trials going on right now at Stanford investigating the drug)
    • If you choose to go this route, make sure you’re working with a therapist who’s administering ketamine in the right format – “Don’t go to these infusion centers that are administering ketamine like dialyses. Find a real psychiatrist that’s doing ketamine assisted psychotherapy.”
  • Psychedelics AREN’T the silver bullet cure for depression/anxiety
    • They really just make you aware your past traumas/issues which might be causing your mental health problems
      • “Psychedelics, silent meditation retreats, or any of these altered state experiences that you can do might show you your trauma, but in order to actually change things and improve your condition, you actually have to set to training. It’s no different than running a marathon… Before running a marathon, you have to literally change the structure of your muscles during training. The brain’s no different.”

Additional Notes

  • “It’s kind of amazing that you or I could pick up a phone right now, post a tweet, and who knows? It could end up in every country in the world… That’s kind of amazing.”
  • Facebook is testing removing likes from Instagram in Canada 
  • Jason has the Calm book on the shelf in his recording studio
  • “I always tell people, when you’re starting a company you better be ready to spend 10 years and 10,000 lunches and dinners talking about the same thing. It’s going to be a really long journey.”
  • Dave JUST MISSED investing in Uber extremely early on
    • He was with the founders when they came up with the idea, but was broke at the time so he passed on any sort of investment
  • Dave is an investor in Brightside 
    • They do digital diagnostics – so you log on, take a test, and they figure out your level of depression/anxiety, and can (if needed) prescribed you some sort of medication as well as text-based and video therapy
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