It’s been just over a year since Katelyn Bourgoin folded her company Vendeve, a skill-swapping platform for female entrepreneurs similar to LinkedIn. She sat down with Entrevestor to discuss her latest venture, founder burnout and why her company failed.

“I think my glasses were a bit rose-coloured about how easy it would be to raise those funds,” said the Halifax-based serial entrepreneur and growth marketer.

“That was a big lesson learned.”

Bourgoin fell into the pit many founders wind up in--building a product with no real market demand.

“There were too many best guesses rather than validating and talking to customers. Customer research often gets pushed to the side because it takes a lot of time. And for a lot of (founders), time is their most valuable resource,” Bourgoin said.

As a marketer, Bourgoin is obsessed with customer research. She now works for herself as a growth strategist and trains her clients in the importance of customer discovery, helping them avoid her past mistakes.

She said the questions founders ask their customers are often riddled with personal bias and false assumptions.

“I did 400 interviews before starting Vendeve,” she said. “I felt very confident that I checked all the boxes and asked all the questions but I realized, after the fact, I was unintentionally biasing those interviews.”

To help other founders avoid that bias, Bourgoin has teamed up with Colin Deacon to offer a series of workshops for early-stage companies on customer growth. Through Digital Nova Scotia, Deacon and Bourgoin are presenting a two-part series on leveraging customer data. One of the workshops has already occurred, the next is scheduled for May 15.

Bourgoin also spoke about the challenges of being an entrepreneur, specifically challenges with mental health and burnout. She said there are high expectations in startup culture.

“In a high growth company the expectation is that you’re going to grow extremely quickly and the only way you can sustain that growth is building the right product the first time, which rarely happens, or by being gifted in raising venture capital. It’s a ton of pressure.”

While she ran Vendeve, Bourgoin was working 100-hour weeks and rarely took a break.

“Even when you’re not working your brain is always trying to solve that problem, and that’s celebrated in startup culture and I don’t think it should be,” she said. “I think it makes people sick and for a while I thought I was the one that was failing because I wasn’t able to maintain that hustle but now I recognize it’s a problem.”

It’s been said that one in three entrepreneurs suffers from mental health issues. Bourgoin said that, even within the community where the stress is festering, she found a world of support.

“I wasn’t afraid to ask for help and say I was struggling and I think a lot of people are afraid to admit that, and they shouldn’t be. Every time that I would put it out there to advisors or stakeholders or just friends from the startup community, I was greeted with nothing but support.”