Sharmin Ali Fights Stigma: Mental Health Support for Startups

Sharmin Ali Fights Stigma Mental Health Support for Startups
Photo Courtesy: Sharmin Ali

By: Maria Williams

Amidst the relentless pursuit of entrepreneurial success, there exists a silent struggle often overlooked: mental health. Sharmin Ali, a visionary Indian-American serial tech entrepreneur, has not only experienced the highs and lows of this entrepreneurial roller coaster but has emerged as a symbol of hope for those navigating similar challenges.

As the founder of the newly established Sharmin Ali Foundation for Entrepreneurs (SAFE), Ali’s mission is as ambitious as it is essential: to provide vital mental health support and resources for fellow entrepreneurs worldwide, using her own personal values of resilience, empathy, determination, diversity, and inclusion, as her compass, and the solutions she has found to counter her tribulations as a blueprint to help others navigate similar challenges.

Ali’s own journey is one marked by remarkable triumphs and deeply personal trials. From spearheading the successful eight-figure exit of her first startup to raising an impressive $20 million for her second venture, she has left an indelible mark on the tech and media sectors. However, behind the scenes, Ali has grappled with the profound toll that entrepreneurship can take on one’s mental well-being.

“I’ve seen countless highs and lows in the last 10 years of this journey,” reflects Ali. “There have been times when I haven’t slept for days, thinking that I might not survive the month.”

Her entrepreneurial odyssey has not been devoid of personal sacrifice. Ali recounts the harrowing experiences of mortgaging her house, pawning her jewelry, and borrowing money from friends to keep her startups afloat. “I distinctly remember surviving on only lentil soup for days because I didn’t have the money to buy bread as I had invested it all into my startup,” she explains. “My migraines were at their peak. Little did I know that I so desperately needed to seek help and talk to someone.”

At her second startup, she did fundraising. She describes having more employees this go-around, but new challenges: meeting expectations of stakeholders. Like any startup founder with big ambitions, she put in her everything. But the universe had other plans: Welcome, COVID-19!

Although they managed to survive the pandemic, the global recession was fraught with bigger challenges. Ali was working 17 hour days, even on weekends, and her cortisol levels were exorbitantly high. She did not sleep at all. She would sometimes not eat at all, or binge eat.

It was during this battle with severe clinical depression and a stress-induced cardiac arrest that Ali experienced a profound awakening.

She explains, “These experiences have deeply reinforced my belief in the critical importance of prioritizing mental well-being in the entrepreneurial journey. I’ve come to understand that neglecting mental health not only jeopardizes personal well-being, but can also hinder professional success.”

In her own life, she has implemented practices, she says, like yoga, mindfulness, and setting boundaries to ensure time for rest and rejuvenation. She also has prioritized seeking support from mentors and her therapist, recognizing that asking for help is a sign of strength, rather than weakness. “By looking after ourselves, we can better navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship and lead more fulfilling lives.”

Ali’s struggles served as the catalyst for her latest venture, SAFE, which aims to bridge the critical gap in mental health support within the entrepreneurial community.

“Every entrepreneur needs access to a full-time therapist for their peace of mind,” emphasizes Ali. “I want to help at least 10,000 entrepreneurs in the next 3 years by being their mental healthcare provider.”

With SAFE, Ali envisions creating a safe haven where entrepreneurs can access comprehensive resources and support systems tailored specifically to their needs. From counseling and peer support groups to wellness workshops and educational resources, SAFE is poised to revolutionize mental health support for founders and innovators worldwideAli’s vision extends beyond individual support; she envisions a future where mental health awareness is ingrained within the fabric of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Through strategic partnerships with industry leaders, organizations, and policymakers, SAFE aims to drive systemic change and promote a healthier, more inclusive environment for entrepreneurs to thrive.

“As we embark on this journey with SAFE, we recognize the importance of collective action,” affirms Ali. “By fostering collaboration and dialogue, we can create lasting impact and pave the way for a future where every entrepreneur feels supported and empowered to succeed.”

For Ali, SAFE is more than just a philanthropic endeavor; it’s a legacy of empowerment and advocacy. Through her dedication to mental health awareness and support, Ali is reshaping the narrative surrounding entrepreneurship and paving the way for a more compassionate and resilient future.

“I am not building a church. I’m building a religion for mental health called SAFE!” she declares. “I want my fellow entrepreneurs to trust and accept the process that SAFE is going to help them with. It’s our responsibility to help our community for all posterity.”

In the pursuit of entrepreneurial success, Ali reminds us that the true measure of triumph lies not in external accolades but in the lives we touch and the communities we uplift.

To learn more or get involved with SAFE, visit

Published by: Holy Minoza


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