“It’s one thing to be grinding for a big tech company that you believe in, but once you start questioning that company’s motivations, that can make the eight hours a day that you work not feel as fulfilling,” said Michael Seibel, the chief executive of Y Combinator, the start-up investment fund and adviser.
Others feel anxiety or even despair about the environment, democracy, or just the everyday crucibles of work and status-mongering.
“In Silicon Valley,” Mr. Seibel added, “we did not talk this much about mental health even three years ago.” He estimates that more than 50 related start-ups are coming onto the scene. His firm just funded three: Stoic; Quirk, an app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to treat people with anxiety and depression; and Mindset Health, which creates hypnotherapy apps that it says can treat anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
Mindset Health was founded by two brothers, Alex and Chris Naoumidis, who previously created a peer-to-peer dress-sharing app for women. When that app failed, the brothers felt overcome with anxiety.
“We fell into this period of mental health problems,” said Alex Naoumidis, 24.
The brothers tried some of the existing wellness apps — meditation products, mindfulness tools — but remained unmoored. Their father suggested in-person hypnotherapy. It gave them the idea for Mindset.
I downloaded their app ($64 for an annual membership), clicked into the Calm Down section and started a session called Change as a Process. As a first step, the app suggested that I text a friend or tweet to the public the quote “He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior.” For the next 19 minutes, a soft male voice told me that my mind can slow down. It can convert concerns to decisions. The process can even become second nature. And if it does, I can be a person of action. A person of action.
I did another module, Increase Productivity, which is voiced by a peppy younger man — a start-up bro right in my ear asking me to repeat after him: “I give myself permission to know what I want to be and what I want to do and do it efficiently.”