“Every single hand in the room went up except two,” Fishkin recalled.
During his struggles, Fishkin visited “CEO coach” Jerry Colonna, who helped him understand that he wasn’t just having a bad day — he was clinically depressed. Colonna, a former investor who has also struggled with depression, has gained notoriety in the tech community for his ability to cut through a culture that focuses on “crushing it.”
“There’s this dirty little secret in our industry, which is we don’t take care of those people,” says Colonna. “And we’re taking advantage of them, and not treating them.”
He described the startup environment as a perfect storm for people who may struggle with mental health issues.
“Imagine having that personality type, that propensity to drive yourself, and then having investors say, ‘You better be hungry, otherwise I’m not going to fund you,’” he says. “You take away sleep, and you’ve got a prescription for depression.”
Colonna says the issue isn’t unique to Silicon Valley.
“It would be a mistake to think, ‘Oh, these poor little rich kids,’” he says. “It’s that the tech industry — and the startup community specifically — brings to the surface forces that are at play in every aspect of our society.”
Meanwhile, five years after her husband’s death, Ackley breaks down when discussing the worst day of her life.
“All of a sudden, my body went cold and I just knew, I knew in every inch of my body that something had gone absolutely wrong,” she says, choking up. “[Eventually], police officers sat next to me and held me down and said, ‘We have some news to tell you.’ And they told me that Eric had died.”
For years after that day, Ackley would walk into her husband’s closet, where his clothes still hung. She would hug them because they smelled like him. Now she holds a quilt made from her husband’s Silicon Valley uniform — the pastel shirts and khaki pants fashioned into a patchwork of little squares.
Over dinner, Salvatierra’s daughters remember their father’s sense of humor and his corny jokes (“Can you do me a quick flavor?”). They describe him as camera-in-hand, always ready to record the special moments. There were many of those.