“It’s a new era for mental health in the workplace.”

As Harvard Business Review wrote in a pivotal article last year, “It’s a new era for mental health in the workplace.” The article suggests that while many employers began addressing mental health concerns among their teams in 2019, progress was hindered by stigmatization. However, one silver lining amid the disruption of the pandemic and political unrest in the last two years is the relative normalization of mental health concerns in the workplace. 

At Kiln, we’re taking shared responsibility for the wellbeing of our members. Recently, Kiln Park City member and serial entrepreneur, Frank Addante, shared his journey navigating mental health and work-life balance. 

Can you tell us a bit about your professional background? 

I’m a lifelong entrepreneur, and I’ve now started five different companies. I leveraged my engineering background to build location-based advertising technology, ad serving platforms, and email infrastructure software, and combined, my companies are worth $5B, surpassed $1B in sales, raised $300M in capital, and navigated 4 acquisitions and 2 IPOs. 

You’ve clearly had a fantastic and inspiring career. When did you start becoming vocal about your mental health? 

Well, it wasn’t until I quasi-retired, initially to spend more time with my family, that I found myself struggling with depression and dwindling motivation. My wife actually encouraged me to re-incorporate work, because she observed those changes. I was able to connect the challenges I was facing to my previous ADHD diagnosis. I learned that with ADHD, an idle-mind actually led to a decrease in my dopamine levels. It was during this time that I came up with the idea for TinkerBarn, my current company. 

We’re so glad to have TinkerBarn working out of Kiln Park City. Tell us more about your current work. 

TinkerBarn coaches and invests in companies that provide a social or environmental impact with three areas of focus: mental health, climate changes, and education. As an early-stage accelerator and venture fund, the idea is to work with 1-3 companies at a time, in a hands-on way. TinkerBarn helps founders through our intensive involvement – we are involved with the building process itself, customer discovery, and business development. We’re changing up the traditional funder/founder relationship, and at TinkerBarn we believe in whiteboarding together instead of just showing up to board meetings. I like to say that TinkerBarn is like the cofounder you get to fire when you don’t need us anymore!

“I believe that activating capitalism for good, in a for-profit setting, can actually generate returns that are more sustainable.”

We love how TinkerBarn is changing up the status-quo, and investing in sustainable, innovative areas. How did this become your mission?

Absolutely. While I’ve been involved in building some awesome companies in my former career, the pandemic made me realize that if I’m going to invest my time into something, it better be something with a long-lasting impact. While I played around with the idea of doing non-profit work, I believe that activating capitalism for good, in a for-profit setting, can actually generate returns that are more sustainable. 

That’s great to hear – it seems like the pandemic actually played a clarifying role in your professional life. Can you tell us more? 

Yes, I think this is true in my journey with TinkerBarn, like I mentioned, but also in learning about my ADHD and work-life balance. 

I’m at the point in my life where I’ve managed thousands of people across 28 countries. I learned that I don’t work well alone, but I don’t want to manage large teams anymore. I found that Kiln actually gives me the benefit of getting to socialize and work in a lively setting — the feeling of being on a team without having to manage one. 

In addition to working with an ADHD coach, I’ve found the meditation sessions, standing desks, caffeinated beverages, and variety in working settings at Kiln to be particularly helpful. 

We’re so happy to hear that you’re taking advantage of Kiln’s events. We’re lucky to have you as an advocate for mental health in the workplace. Thanks for taking the time to share your journey.