Research Outline

Bipolar Disorder/Neurodiversity and Entrepreneurship


To inform a larger advocacy effort around neurodiversity by identifying background information starting from the provided articles/reports on the intersection between bipolor disorder/neurodiversity and entrepreneurship, including how leaders accommodate such conditions in the workplace, the types of businesses that are most often founded by such individuals, examples of entrepreneurs who are bipolar or nuerodiverse and examples of companies in the disability advocacy space that have bipolar/neurodiverse founders.

Early Findings

Relevant Insights: It doesn't have to hurt; Stress, mental health and entrepreneurship (5 pages)

  • University of California at San Francisco Professor Michael Freeman found that 72% of entrepreneurs struggle with mental health issues, and that an even greater percentage report having family members with a "high rate of mental health problems."
  • Bluteau DeVenney President Michael DeVenney (who suffers from clinical depression, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, ADHD) asserts that such neurodiversity makes him and others with mental health challenges the "perfect entrepreneur," citing a theory that the personality and strengths of entrepreneurs make them "more susceptible to mental illness."
  • Notably, Mr. DeVenney states that a leader with depression or other mental health issues doesn't need to be "fixed or cured" to be "creative, productive and an achiever."
  • However, Mr. DeVenney notes that qualities such as "persistence, creativity, divergent thinking" and a "need to be in charge and in control," which are required to be successful as an entrepreneur, may also "jeopardize our mental health."
  • In conjunction, Canadian Bacon Cookhouse founder Michael Kennedy (who has been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder) suggests that the "vastly underreported rates" of mental health issues across entrepreneurs is the "biggest unacknowledged business risk of this century."
  • Mr. Kennedy adds that the closure of his business venture "pushed me over the edge," given that he became unable to manage his mental illness alongside the public failure.
  • Meanwhile, Junkery owner Ginny Sterling-Boddie comments that managing mental health as an entrepreneur is particularly important, given that the founder is often the "product" that startups sell, and must be in balance to "bring the best" to customers.
  • According to former Red Balloon partner Collette O'Hara, the solution to managing mental health and entrepreneurship lies in "developing leaders who value balance and good mental and physical health."
  • In parallel, Canadian professor and researcher Dr. Arla Day suggests that all leaders can combat mental health challenges by "sharing the responsibility, even if it's hard to give up control."

Assessment of Other Provided Research Material

  • During the initial hour of research, the research team identified and summarized relevant insights from one of the thirteen provided articles.
  • Specifically, the article "It doesn't have to hurt; Stress, mental health and entrepreneurship" contained a significant number of examples of bipolar/neurodiverse entrepreneurs and related statistics/information despite its relatively short length of 5 pages.
  • Notably, the remaining 12 provided articles vary significantly in content and length:
    • Strategies for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities to Sustain a Successful Small Business (145 pages)
    • Backlash Against the ADA: Reinterpreting Disability Rights - The ADA and the Meaning of Disability (26 pages)
    • ADHD-like behavior and entrepreneurial intentions (18 pages)
    • Entrepreneurship and psychological disorders: How ADHD can be productively harnessed (7 pages)
    • There is a mental health crisis in entrepreneurship. Here's how to tackle it (5 pages)
    • ADHD-Related Neurodiversity and the Entrepreneurial Mindset (27 pages)
    • The Influence of Hypomania Symptoms on Income in Self-Employment (29 pages)
    • Creativity is linked to ambition across the bipolar spectrum (5 pages)
    • Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business (4 pages)
    • The association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) symptoms and self-employment (10 pages)
    • Leading Out of the Darkness into the Light: My Story of Building a Business as a Leader with Bipolar Disorder (222 pages)
  • Given that it is difficult to predict the volume of relevant content contained within each piece, we recommend reviewing these additional articles in groups to maximize efficiency and minimize costs.