• 3rd "Fitness, Fulfilment and Foresight" survey from KPMG reveals how pandemic has affected Founder wellbeing
  • Majority of Founders remain optimistic in the short-term about their start-u
  • But many are still struggling with their physical fitness and mental wellness 


The report, based on quantitative and qualitative research, surveyed 128 founders. It reveals that most founders remain optimistic in the short term and overall future of their startup, and average satisfaction with work-life balance has also improved.

Business uncertainty (60 percent), finances (48 percent) and workload (45 percent) are the main sources of stress among founders, with just over half feeling their stress has increased compared to this time last year. This was slightly lower than the increase in stress reported from 2018 to 2019.

Founders still struggle with physical fitness

Founders are still struggling with physical fitness, which remains the lowest area of satisfaction and tops the wish-list if they had an additional hour in their day. However, founder satisfaction with their amount of physical exercise has increased significantly since 2019 (28 percent vs 19 percent in 2019).

Founders want more "alone time"

Notably, there has been a surge in founders wanting to spend more time alone. When asked how they would use an additional hour in the day, 18 percent answered "spending time alone", up from 7 percent in 2019. In the same vein, fewer founders would use the extra hour for "spending time with family and friends" (17 percent vs 26 percent in 2019). This may be due to the pressures of lockdown, where household members have been required to work and study from home.

COVID had varied impact on founders

COVID has had a varied impact on founders. Most (52 percent) have experienced an increase in working hours per week, while spending the same or less time on their physical fitness. COVID is top of mind for approximately 1 in 10 (11 percent) founders when identifying their biggest source of concern, and around 1 in 5 (21 percent) spontaneously mentioned COVID as having an impact on increasing their stress in the past year.

The resilience seen reflects both the fact that technology businesses have tended to fare well during the pandemic, and that venture capital continues to flow into Australian startups. It also points to the high levels of stress that founders face on a day-to-day basis. It is already a high stakes role to rapidly build and grow a business, so startup founders were uniquely positioned to deal with the turbulence of 2020.

Amanda Price, Head of KPMG High Growth Ventures says: "Given the events of the past year, it would not have been surprising to see negative sentiment around startup performance and a massive drop in founder confidence. However, this has not been the case. Founder confidence is up, and stress levels have not increased dramatically. This is the third founder survey we’ve carried out, and it’s encouraging that the results were much stronger than expected.

"However, it’s clear that still more needs to be done to support Australia’s startup founders when it comes to mental and physical wellbeing. Founders are clearly still suffering from stress, even if they believe they are managing it, and there is acknowledgement that it impacts their startups, from decision-making to leadership and communications."

Other key findings:
  • 80 percent of Founders are early birds
  • 31 percent work over 61 hours per week
  • 27 percent haven’t taken any leave in the past 12 months
  • 70 percent haven’t taken any sick leave in the past year
  • 45 percent use a health tracking device
  • 15 percent never leave the office to get some fresh air

For further information

Ash Pritchard
+61 411 020 680