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June 28, 2021

QED Investors launches mental health wellness initiative to tackle addiction and substance use disorder

QED Investors today rolled out a mental health initiative aimed at tackling addiction and eliminating the stigma of talking about substance abuse.

The program is being offered in partnership withOperation Lighthouse, a non-profit organization established by the family ofGreg Mazanec, a QED Investors partner who was sadly lost after suffering from substance use disorder in 2019.

The Just Five program delivers – in just five minutes per lesson – the most important concepts and facts regarding addiction. QED Investors is providing the educational programing free of charge to all of its U.S.-based portfolio companies after piloting the curriculum with three selected companies earlier this year.

Greg’s death put a lot of things in perspective. He was the definition of an amazing human being – an orthogonal thinker, tenacious, brilliant, quirky. Today, we carry him around on our shoulders and always look to build on the legacy he left.

“Many people underestimate the power of stigma and the perceived shame associated with addiction, said QED Investors Co-Founder and Managing Partner Nigel Morris. "I say all the time that if I have a sore arm, I'll come into work and I'll whinge about it. But ifI took too many sleeping pills or drank too much wine, I won't talk about it.I'll say that I'm going to my doctor to get my shoulder fixed, but I won't say that I'm going to talk to my therapist. This is the first step in how we can help tackle this debilitating stigma.”

The program will reach up to 16,000 people at startups across the U.S. It will be provided to QED Investors’ international portfolio companies this summer, and a Spanish-language version will be offered to companies in Latin America.

Operation Lighthouse offers startup leaders and employees a pathway to personal and corporate health by providing education about the prevention, recognition and management of substance use disorder and other mental health issues.

Beyond education, OperationLighthouse provides access to the tools for employees to confidentially evaluate their risk and need for help with guidance to evidence-based treatment.

Ultimately, QED Investors hopes to partner with other VC firms to share the program with their own portfolio companies to ensure everyone in the startup and entrepreneur ecosystem knows where to turn for help and support.

Ending the mental health stigma in the tech community. Read Nigel Morris' op-ed piece in TechCrunch.

“Operation Lighthouse was founded in memory of my brother Greg to help the startup community he loved overcome the disease that took him from us far too soon,” said Dan Mazanec. “Through education and candid conversation, Operation Lighthouse aims to de-stigmatize substance use disorder and guide those affected by it towards sound information and treatment.  

“QED has been our steadfast partner from day one.  I am deeply grateful for the courage and leadership QED has shown by investing in the health and well-being of startup founders and employees.  QED’s example will undoubtedly inspire other venture firms to join us in this worthy cause.”

The Just Five curriculum is provided by national nonprofit Shatterproof, an organization that aims to reverse the addiction crisis in the United States through three pillars of work:revolutionizing the addiction treatment system, breaking down addiction-related stigmas and supporting and empowering our communities.

This curriculum is split into six lessons, rolled out over the course of two months.

Each lesson has a specific theme. The first two lessons touch on the science of addiction and how certain factors such as age of first use, genetics and environment can explain why some people become addicted and others do not.

The middle lessons explain the dangers of opioids and the signs, symptoms and treatment options for substance abuse, while the final topics touch on ways you can help.

“The road of entrepreneurship requires a tremendous amount of hustle and sacrifice,” said Morris, “but at what point does that sacrifice come at the expense of your mental health? Founders are three times more likely to suffer from substance abuse and twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts. While it’s exciting to chase a dream, the weight of responsibility – to your employees, your investors and your customers – can feel overwhelming.

"Driving mental health discussions out of the shadows can massively change the trajectory of outcomes. Our world of venture is replete with people who are going through these kinds of difficulties. I swore to myself and to Greg’s family that I would talk about him wherever I had the chance.”

For more information, visit Operation Lighthouse and Shatterproof.