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Last week was the Techstars Boulder Startup Week Brain Crawl, where I was given the role of introducing the Brain Health Conversation with Jerry Colonna and Brad Feld.

This was also a huge moment for me as I unveiled Sigmend’s OPEN Labs to an audience full of the people who have helped me the most on my own journey.

Under different circumstances, it could have been a very nerve racking task, but after having part one of this series viewed by a few hundred thousand people thanks to Brad, Techstars and Mattermark, I had a different feeling as I took the stage.

So what’s changed? What allows me to stand on stage talking about my disorder with pride and excitement instead of nervousness?

Let’s rewind a few days… As prep for my introduction speech, I listened to the dozens of talks Brad and Jerry have given on brain health. Each time, they were impressively vulnerable and real with the audience. They addressed the hard stuff, gave compassionate answers and told authentic stories. I came into the conversation on Wednesday thinking that this talk would be impressive in a similar manner as their past talks, but it wasn’t.

There was something apparently different. The same shift that has happened in my personal experience is occurring in the community. As Brad and Jerry took questions from the crowd I heard something new.

I heard words like ‘compassion’, ‘cultural shifts’, and ‘viral spreading’ in place of words like ‘I’m coping’, ‘negative response’, and ‘ashamed of myself’.

It felt like a far cry from the mournful and serious voices I’ve heard in the past, which leads me to believe that we are beginning to discover that this topic is one of hope and excitement.

That’s why I was so excited. Brain health has traditionally been a pretty sad and somber topic, but there is a shift taking place. I no longer worry, “what if people don’t respond to my hopeful introduction?” or “what if the audience doesn’t believe that people living successfully with brain disorders aren’t a dime a dozen? What if they don’t know that people impacted by brain disorders can actually be close to 20 percent of the room, especially in tech?

People in that room (and I know outside of it too) believe in the hopeful future of brain disorders. I could hear it in their questions and saw it in their responses. 50 percent of the audience texted in asking to sign up for a spot to attend the OPEN Summit (the kickoff event for OPEN Labs) and another dozen wanted to get involved by dedicating to a loved one or sponsoring the Summit.

My point is this: thanks to the work of people like Jerry, Brad, and our other speakers Amy Reichlin, Faith Cohen, and Impact Founder, people are ready. The next step is to take this community’s latent energy and activate it. We can’t do this without a community, without a movement of people who can make that change happen.

I’ll say it again: there are a lot of confusing things about this disorder, but one thing that is absolutely true is that a supportive community is vital to recovery.

We have a supportive community beginning within the startup ecosystem, but now it’s time to harness that into something bigger. It’s time to join a movement to take this supportive community from talk into action.

So, to everyone who attended the crawl, joined the movement to change the conversation, and applied to the Summit (and helped me calm my nerves!), from the bottom of my heart, thank you. To everyone else, if you are living successfully and can share your experiences with your peers, have a loved one who has been impacted, or want to express your support to your employees, partners, and friends, attend, sponsor, or dedicate to the Summit.                       

We don’t have to wait until events like the Brain Crawl to have hopeful conversations. The OPEN Summit will bring thought leaders, experts and individuals who have been impacted anywhere on the spectrum of bipolar disorder to lay the foundation for OPEN Labs: A think tank and support group for brain disorders by those who know them best. OPEN Labs will ensure that these conversations, support, and real action continue to activate the latent energy of those who want to help.

Watch the Brain Crawl video here.

This was originally published on Medium.


Lance Powers Lance Powers
Lance Powers is a founder at Sigmend (Techstars Class 68). His experience as a worker in tech and suicide survivor living with Type I Bipolar disorder give him a unique perspective into the employee experience. Before Sigmend, Lance launched his career by building a $5 million dollar energy efficient lighting company in just a few years. He then transitioned into high-tech as the lead front end developer at Orderly, a Techstars Company working to reshape the way we manage our personal healthcare. Throughout these roles, his advocacy and openness about his brain disorder have made him a confidant to many tech employees and entrepreneurs.