One in three startup founders suffers from daily stress

Start-up Well-being Barometer 2021

Antwerp, 17 August 2021 - Roughly one in three startup founders (39%) experience stress almost every day, and one in four (26%) find that stress dominates their lives at least several times a week. That is nearly twice as high as last year, according to the annual Startup Well-being Barometer from accelerator Start it @KBC and its partner Mensura, the external occupational health and safety service. The good news is that, in line with last year's findings, entrepreneurs are satisfied with their jobs.

For the second year in a row, Start it @KBC and Mensura organise the Startup Well-being Barometer. More than 75% of the founders surveyed in Belgium's largest startup community answered questions about their stress levels, energy levels, physical and emotional well-being, mood and involvement at work. Looking at the results, it is immediately apparent that the coronavirus pandemic and the instability of the business landscape have left their mark. 

In addition to the number of founders experiencing stress at least once a day each week roughly doubling, one in four (26%) reports having no energy left at least several times a week. Almost half (44%) feel that they are running behind at least several times a week, while a quarter (25%) of founders find themselves losing their patience and easily becoming irritated almost every day.

But there is also good news. Like last year, the startup founders remain very satisfied with their job, with 81% liking it almost all the time and 77% often feeling excited by their work.

Blurring personal and work boundaries

Two out of three founders (60%) indicate that their emotional and physical complaints are clearly related to their startup business. For 83%, work and time pressure is the main culprit, ​ while just over half (53%) struggle to find a good work-life balance. Last year this figure was 22%. 

Julie Daenen, Health & Safety Expert at Mensura: "Startup founders are passionate and motivated people who do everything they can to bring innovative solutions to market. That goes hand in hand with risks, uncertainty and stress. The pandemic severely limited opportunities to relax and disconnect, blurring the line between work and home. In addition, the crisis created additional economic challenges. This helps explain the higher stress figures this year', says . Chronic stress wreaks havoc on mental and physical health in the long run. Self-care is therefore incredibly important."
Julie Daenen, Health & Safety Expert at Mensura
Julie Daenen, Health & Safety Expert at Mensura

Workshops and yoga sessions

Together with its partner MensuraStart it @KBC has been offering this type of self-care at the Well-being Academy since August 2020. They focus on improving the mental and physical well-being of startup founders by offering a number of services, including workshops on the human side of leadership, management, dealing with stress and personal productivity. Founders can also attend yoga sessions or arrange one-on-one meetings. These sessions have been greatly appreciated, as reflected in an average rating of 4.2 out of 5.

Lode Uytterschaut, CEO of Start it @KBC: "It’s great to see that startup founders are so passionate about their job, but this is also where 'the danger' lies. Because this drive, together with a lot of stress, can cause the founders to go beyond their limits and end up in burnout. We try to support them as much as possible with numerous workshops and personal conversations. In the coming year, together with Mensura experts, we will focus even more on the founders’ mental well-being.”
Lode Uytterschaut - founder & CEO Start it @KBC
Lode Uytterschaut - founder & CEO Start it @KBC

The new pitch wave at Start it @KBC is starting soon. Startup founders can submit projects until 20 September at

Infographic Start-up Wellbeing Barometer 2021 - Start it @KBC & Mensura
Infographic Start-up Wellbeing Barometer 2021 - Start it @KBC & Mensura

Tips and tricks for improved mental well-being by Start it @KBC & Mensura 


  • Try to tackle no more than three major tasks a day and focus on single-tasking rather than multitasking
  • Turn off e-mail and social media notifications
  • Plan regular breaks and actually take them
  • Don't compare yourself to others and try to take a step back every now and then


  • Make relaxation a top priority
  • Make sure you're doing enough to eat healthy, exercise and relax 
  • Set aside time for your relationships with family and friends
  • Create a good sleep routine and allow your day to 'end' before you go to bed (e.g., by taking a bath) and make your bedroom ‘sleep-ready’ (so no mess and no smartphone)
saar dietvorst

saar dietvorst

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manley is a boutique agency for strategic PR and content creation with a diverse client portfolio  comprising international impact-driven innovators in sectors such as energy, health, biotech, proptech, legal, mobility, logistics and food. manley's approach combines the low overheads of a boutique agency with the clout of a global media network, delivering tailor-made services via local PR experts in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. manley was founded by Saar Dietvorst in 2014 and is headquartered in Antwerp (Belgium).


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