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After Jody Sherman death, tech community seeks dialogue on suicide

February 01, 2013|By Andrea Chang
  • Jody Sherman co-founded Ecomom.
Jody Sherman co-founded Ecomom. (Ecomom )

Silicon Beach is mourning the death of entrepreneur and Ecomom co-founder Jody Sherman this week. Sherman, 47, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.

Since his death Monday, several L.A. tech bloggers, friends and venture capitalists have taken to Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs to share memories of Sherman, who co-founded Ecomom in Santa Monica in 2009. The company, which sells eco-friendly and healthful products for children, mothers and the home, moved to Las Vegas about a year ago.

The messages also emphasized the need for a more open dialogue about the pressures of creating a start-up and running a business, with entrepreneurs and others calling on the tech community to open up and offer support to colleagues who may be suffering from depression.

In a blog post titled "When it's not all good, ask for help," Sean Percival, chief executive and co-founder of kids clothing club Wittlebee, recalled seeing Sherman last month at his office; the two shared stories and outlined some plans to work together in the future.

"Even though Jody was a fairly candid person, I unfortunately didn't see just how much help he really needed," Percival wrote. "I know I can't change the past, but this tragedy has truly consumed me. I hope that now (and with your support) we can begin an open dialogue about suicide and the pressures founders face. It's time."

Percival noted the uncontrollable nature of starting a company and said, "we are always on the brink of making it big or losing everything." But entrepreneurs should know that they're not alone and that everyone is going through the same challenges, he added.

"So please, founders, I beg of you. When it feels as though there’s no hope left, please ask for help," he said. "Ask for it directly and without shame. Talk to your family, investors, lawyers, mentors, friends or even enemies. Just talk to someone."

Venture capitalist Mark Suster said in his own blog post that the death of his friend showed "we need to have empathy for those with depression."

"We need to de-stigmatize depression, treat it and be aware of our colleagues and family who may be experiencing it," he wrote.

Entrepreneur Jason Calacanis echoed those sentiments in his own post, which also mentioned the recent suicide of Reddit founder Aaron Swartz and the 2011 suicide of Diaspora co-founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy. All three, he said, were "under massive pressure."

"Perhaps we owe it to these three amazing humans to examine if the pressures of being a founder, the pressure of our community's relentless pursuit of greatness, in some way contributed to their deaths?" Calacanis said. "I've always believed that being a founder is an unhealthy pursuit at times, and few have disagreed -- certainly not those who have done it.... Start-ups are a full-contact sport. This is a good time for all of us to pause and think about why we're doing this."

The team at Ecomom shared their favorite memories of Sherman in a post here.

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