Harald Lepisk's interview with Rein Lemberpuu
Harald Lepisk invited Rein Lemberpuu, the founder of .Cocoon to join him in his podcast – inspiratsioon.ee. They talked about startup world, founder psychology and how crisis moments are the ones that develop a person the most. Rein also talked about the new .Cocoon program. This article focuses on part where they talked about the .Cocoon program.
.Cocoon is a program that focuses on startup founders psychology. This program is not built on technical advice on how to get the thing done rather deals with their inner world.
How long has this program been going on and what are the results you have seen so far?
We started the first pilot project in the last June. This program consists of two parts: the first part is the .Cocoon event where we meet 3 times a year and the second part is mentoring that takes place in-between the events
Is the mentoring part in online? Because I understand that all the teams around the world can join this program?
Yes, we have startups and also mentors from all over the world. There are no limits for the country of origin in this program. We meet three times a year in Tartu but the rest takes place through video calls.
What have you promised to the participants? How is .Cocoon different than any other accelerator or mentoring program?
We are showing participants the link between their business problem and their personal problem. If you are having difficulties in any area of business - for example, you can’t achieve growth in sales or you can’t find the best business model for your idea or you are not doing so well in hiring new talent or whatever is the problem you are dealing with this program will show you how it is linked to you as a person and your actions are behind not finding the solution. An entrepreneur is always solving different problems but some difficulties seem impossible to solve. Maybe you have been working on the solution for the last month or even more. But why you can’t find a solution to this specific problem?
Are you trying to help founders deal with problems that they have been avoiding?
No, not necessarily that. Maybe the founder has not been avoiding this problem but still hasn’t found the solution. Maybe the founder has tried different methods to solve the problem but it comes down to how a person senses the world – The method the founder sees the problem and the method this person thinks will help to solve the problem – these just will not work. The founder needs to adjust his/her senses and methods
And for adjusting the founder's perception they need the mentors, right? When you’ve said that the best teachers in life are the crisis and we think about mentoring which is more based on reflecting and discussion then how can you give as valuable lessons through mentoring rather than when you completely fail with something in your life? As they say „you learn it the hard way“.
Well, you can combine these two. In the startup world, if you don’t solve a problem it might become a huge fail that might go as far as a closing of the startup! This is always a potential solution but the difference is that you don’t get the lesson after you have already failed but we rather help you to solve the problem while it is happening and make the founders understand what they can do differently so that it wouldn’t become to closing the startup.
Yes, closing the startup is one of the options but if it ends up ruining a person's mental health then it's even worse. You have said that burnout of a startup founder is a rather common problem in the startup world. What do you think why is it such a large problem? What mis tekitab läbipõlemist.
I think the word „burnout“ already gives us an answer. You have a certain amount of resources but when you burn out all your resources then you don’t have any more energy to solve the problem.
So when you have tried all kinds of different actions but haven’t found a method that gives you a solution and then you have used up all your energy – this is the point where burnout happens?
Basically, you lose the belief that you could solve this problem. And without belief, you cannot do anything.
Can you get more belief by talking with someone, for example, a mentor? Or does it need a more radical solution to regain this belief?
Talking – words and thought coming out from a person's mouth – even this can be very radical. But rather focus on what you want to say with these words – you want to change a person sense (taju).
But when we think about those conversations that change a person’s sense, then what could be those keywords you would use to describe a conversation where you actually can change a person’s sense?
I think the connection is very important. When we talk about anything and our senses are connected and both parties have the interest to see where it takes us then we can start changing either one of the conversations participants sense.
So the first thing is basically a contact with another person. What else?
For me, this connection moment is very important. You can’t connect with the facade. We all have a lot of facades and masks we wear. You cannot connect with something that is artificial. So the first question is how we can take those masks away? How can I be as genuine at this moment as I could be? This gives the feeling that we are connected at a deeper level.
Do we use this facade to protect ourselves? Because we are afraid that this genuine me is not enough? Are we afraid to show the real me?
I think yes.
So the good mentoring conversation is this where you understand that you don’t need to play a role or give a show to this other person? You can be as burnout and failed and honest in this conversation because you don’t need to be something that you are afraid you are not.
It also depends on how well the person knows himself/herself. Often people are not even aware of their facades. If somebody tells you „take off this facade“ then you would probably ask „what do you mean? I am like this“. It’s a separate journey to find out who you are, what are the facades you wear and why are you wearing these and how you got them? Then we can start talking about removing these facades. It isn’t very easy. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have any connection with a person who has a facade because something will come through anyway.
We can talk about some things and it might pull a trigger inside me and I don’t show it out but after we have met I rethink something then we might have talked with our facades on but through these the message still came through. Are you doing something in your life differently to remove these facades?
I think you need to think about why should I want to influence someone? I think a good mentor doesn’t feel the need to make you change. Nobody is smarter than the other person. Without this pressure to change another person point of view, these things might happen even more naturally. It is not a mentors job to change the world. Each of us has their own path and all of us have a right to make our own decisions.
The people who join .Cocoon program have accepted that they might experience removing their facade but if you talk with a person on a street then the goal is probably not the help the person to remove his/her facades.
One thing is facade but there are many another aspect more. Cocoon is not just from my point of view. We have over 15 mentors from all over the world and I have searched for them with this mindset that they need to be different from each other. They don’t share their point of views. Maybe someone says that you need to remove your facade but another mentor sais that this is not important at all. We don’t know exactly what a person needs at this moment or who is another person that will inspire him/her to change.
If we think about mentor role and we put ourselves in this role. How can I as a mentor understand that this what I am doing with another person in this conversation is actually helping him/her? How do I know that I’m doing the right thing or when I’m maybe not using the right approach?
It is individual. Each person who you have this kind of relationship is different. None of us has a full understanding of what is happening around us. You will never know if this is the right method. I might think later that this topic was unnecessary but in 2 months a person comes back and says that something has changed. And it might have happened because of the few sentences I said in between. I don’t need to worry about if I can do something here or is it right or wrong. Rather trust the process and life around us that will find what you need to find.
What kind of mindset is important for a startup founder to have in order to let the change happen? What can they do by themselves?
I think it’s easy – you need to have beliefe that if you change yourself it will affect the company. Not every person believes it. A lot of people think only about concrete actions they can take in the company to make the change happen.
Can you also take it to the extreme where you feel like you are responsible for everything that is happening? Like if the sales manager didn’t achieve his/her goals then I am responsible?
All kinds of extremes make you not move forward. In each relationship, both parties have their own responsibility in that.
You can listen to rest of the podcast in Estonian from here!