71% of startup founders sacrifice private lives for work

ULTRA VC, an impact-focused EU startup accelerator and early-stage investor, has surveyed startup founders aged 18 to 60+ on how they maintain work-life balance enroute to success.

Recent studies highlight the increased stress and anxiety among tech entrepreneurs. The ULTRA.VC survey examines the personal sacrifices founders make for success, the most popular activities that help them stay resilient in stressful environments, and how much time founders dedicate weekly to changing the world.

Work-life balance

Despite reports of stress and burnout among tech entrepreneurs, the industry shows a positive trend: 70.8% of founders acknowledge that their work-life balance either improved or remained consistent over the year. However, responses vary depending on the startup stage. While only 37.5% of pre-seed/seed stage founders see their personal-professional harmony improve, early-stage and later-stage startups show more positive statistics, with 54% and 61% of founders, respectively, succeeding in balancing work and personal lives.


In contrast to the improved work-life balance, 71% of respondents name work a higher or the highest priority in their lives, often requiring them to sacrifice their ‘off-work’ time. Plenty of entrepreneurs see it as a necessary trade-off for potential success. Interestingly, Gen Z founders are more inclined to extremes, with 31.8% ready to sacrifice their personal lives for work, compared to 14.9% of Millennials and 12.5% of Gen X respondents.

To gain more insights into a startup founder’s priorities in life, ULTRA.VC inquired about the primary things that are sacrificed. Personal interests such as hobbies (18.8%), leisure time (15.5%), and physical activity (14.7%) appeared to be the easiest to abandon.

On the contrary, socialising with friends appeared to be a vital determinant of the founders’ resilience, reducing feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety. The survey reveals that for 45% of respondents who experienced a decline in their ability to spend time with friends over the past year, it led to increased stress (41.7%), burnout (15.3%), and anxiety (13.9%).

While spending time with family and friends gives founders support and inner strength in stressful environments, distressing activities become equally important during pressing times. Subconsciously seeking sources of endorphins, the natural mood lifters, 45.5% of respondents choose sport and physical activity, followed by 23.8% who cite romance as the first aid in coping with stress.

Working hours

While Elon Musk is renowned for his ability to work 80 to 100 hours per week, 80% of respondents believe in changing the world within fewer than 60 hours per week. However, there’s still much room for improvement, as working over 55 hours per week increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Survey respondents also shared tips on maintaining harmony between personal and professional life. Most entrepreneurs who have successfully reached the expansion stage are more frequent users of time management and screen-monitoring apps than pre-seed founders. They advise remembering the power of basic things, such as knowing when to stop and have ‘off’ time, the utmost importance of good sleep, healthy food, and exercise, and always keeping in mind who and what it is all done for.