News and events

Callaghan Innovation announces free guidance and counselling to support founder wellbeing

open this image in new window: Founder Wellbeing Banner

This article was published on 1 August 2023

Callaghan Innovation has today announced plans for new initiatives to support founder wellbeing, including covering the cost of free guidance and counselling for founders.

Speaking from the sold out Electrify Aotearoa Conference for Women Founders in Auckland today, Callaghan Innovation Chief Executive Stefan Korn said the organisation has identified a number of gaps in startup founder support and is taking steps towards addressing these.

Studies have shown founders to be at risk of mental health issues related to the significant pressures and stresses experienced in the early stages of establishing a new venture.

This year new global research published by founder advisory Startup Snapshot revealed 72 percent of founders felt running a startup takes a major toll on their mental health. 36 percent experienced burnout and 13 percent had suffered depression.

We want Kiwi founders to know we have their backs in light of the unique challenges they face, particularly when it comes to finances and getting access to the resources they need.

“That’s why today we’re announcing that Callaghan Innovation will cover the cost of one-to-one guidance for any startup founder who has experienced inappropriate behaviour within the startup ecosystem, whether or not they are a customer. 

“The independent and confidential service will be provided by specialist external coaches who can help founders who have experienced inappropriate behaviour to talk about their experience, receive advice, and decide on next steps. This can follow a tikanga approach if requested by the founder,” Korn said. 

If further support is required, Callaghan Innovation will also cover the cost of accessing an informal resolution service run by the same provider. This service is available now.

Over time, anonymised data from the provider will be used to look at any trends in the types of inappropriate behaviour being experienced in the ecosystem. 

An open source Code of Conduct, co-created by Callaghan Innovation and innovation ecosystem partners, has also been made available online to anyone.

“We are aware that uneven power dynamics in the startup ecosystem can leave founders feeling vulnerable to behaviour that is not acceptable. A Code of Conduct can help set up founder partners for success by clearly outlining acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. 

“We encourage anyone working with founders to put a Code of Conduct in place to support healthy founder relationships. We also recently made having a Code of Conduct a requirement for Callaghan Innovation’s Founder and Startup Support Programme partners.”

We are also planning to run a trial programme providing free general counselling and advice for startup founders struggling with the intense everyday pressures of startup life. This service will be delivered by specialists who have experience working with founders.

The new support will complement existing wellbeing measures, including support for Abroad, a three-month founder wellbeing programme brought to New Zealand by Angel Association New Zealand.

“We are committed to supporting the development of a dynamic, inclusive and diverse startup ecosystem. We look forward to continuing to support founders in their startup journey, and exploring new opportunities to support Kiwi founder success,” said Stefan Korn.




For more information visit

Callaghan Innovation media team:

027 291 9604

Notes to editors

  • Founders are known to be at high risk of mental health issues related to the significant pressures and stresses experienced in the early stages of establishing a new venture.
  • Since 2020, founders have also had to deal with huge challenges related to the pandemic. Mental health and wellbeing dropped by 12 per cent globally during the pandemic, according to a recent King’s College of London’s Global Study of Entrepreneurs' Resilience and Well-being.
  • While we have plenty of anecdotal evidence that being a founder can be challenging as well as access to global trends, there is currently not much local quantitative data available on founder wellbeing in Aotearoa. Callaghan Innovation is planning to do some work to get more research and information to gather quantitative information and trends specific to New Zealand.
  • The counselling service for reporting inappropriate behaviour is for startup founders. Callaghan Innovation defines a startup as a company that seeks to develop an innovative and scalable business.