Micah Baldwin is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Graphicly which was acquired by Blurb in 2014. We are very fortunate to have him share his experience recovering from addiction and battling mental illness as a child and throughout his adult life. He has a lot of wisdom and experience living in the recovery community and helping others do the same.
Micah grew up in Silicon Valley and started his first company at the age of 9. After selling Graphicly, he spent time at Amazon where he led a team dedicated to helping startups grow their businesses by connecting with large enterprises and business units. Currently, Micah is the founder and Executive Director of Create33 in Seattle which he describes as a labor of love, providing resources to founders such as advice, fundraising access and other resources he would have loved to have when he was starting out as a founder.
He is also an experienced startup investor, and a trusted advisor to many startups as well. He’s a mentor and advisor at 500 Startups, Techstars, CrunchFund and others where he helps early-stage companies with fundraising, business development, product development, marketing and growth
You can connect with Micah on twitter @micah. You can read more about his background and find a link to all of his socials on his profile at about.me/micahb.
2:15 – Micah tells me about his entrepreneurial journey. He talks about growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley and how his father worked at Stanford and was asked to be the 4th employee at Cisco. Micah grew up around entrepreneurship.
4:45 – What comes to mind when you think of mental health? Micah talks about how stability comes to mind first and goes on to explain his lifelong struggle battling mental health issues. He discusses his mental health diagnoses which include bipolar 2, anxiety and bipolar depression, all of which are medicated, and he is currently in a stable state. He talks about how when he was growing up, nobody really knew what mental health was and that people just viewed him as “the crazy kid” who was sad all the time, or the little “genius kid” that was like a little energizer bunny all the time.
9:20 – Micah discusses talking with his mom about his mental health as an adult. Often her response is that she says she wished she knew this was going on. Which is a very valid point. Mental health was not talked about when we were kids. It was something you kept quiet. He gives an example about how if he had gotten in a car wreck and become a paraplegic there would have been a conversation about how to deal with it, but mental health just wasn’t talked about.
10:48 – Micha talks about how hope and fear are paired together as opposites. He lived much of his life in fear until he became stable, and now his life is full of hope.
11:38 – We talked about how addiction interacted with his mental illnesses throughout his life. Micah talks about having an addictive personality, and how moderation has been something he struggled with. His very first drug was food. He became a big kid and he talks about how he used his role as the “funny fat kid” as a defense mechanism. Later in life that translated into drug and alcohol addiction. He talks a lot about how he bottomed out and when he decided to get sober, as well as his process to gain sobriety and maintain sobriety.
14:10 – I asked him to talk about the difference between “white-knuckling” it with regards to addiction versus going through a program like AA. He talks about how he first attended AA after being court mandated after a DUI in the early 2000s. When he went he expected it to be full of fake people pretending to work a program but, he realized how nice everyone was, how different everyone was, and how every single one of these very different people were full of pure love for one another. The sense of belonging was the biggest wake-up call for him.
17:55 – We talk in-depth about the spiritual component of AA (or 12-step programs). He talks about how at one point he was turned off by the mentions of “higher power” in AA. He talks about how he would listen to all these people turning their lives over to a higher power and that it didn’t’ make any sense to him. He talks about how for him higher power has evolved into the broader AA group and how each friend he has made in the program represents a piece of this higher power.
20:50 – I asked how stigma has impacted his journey with his mental health and addiction. He talks about how there is always this image of “perfect” in certain fields, like venture, or startups with respect to how you look, or who you are. He doesn’t fit the mold in many ways, and his fear of adding his mental health issues to his reasons why he doesn’t’ fit the mold kept him from wanting to get help or talk about it. Eventually, he made the shift from worrying what other people think to not caring if someone judges him because he’s not like everyone else or because of what he’s done in his past.
24:40 – We talk about how we can address the problem of stigma. Micah outlines three things that need to happen:
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