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Bonobos’ Andy Dunn explains how bipolar disorder affected him as CEO




  • Andy Dunn is the co-founder and former CEO of menswear brand Bonobos.
  • In his new book “Burn Rate”, he reflects on how his bipolar disorder affected him while running the business.
  • He says it could interfere with his decision-making at times, but also help him be his “best entrepreneur” at other times.

Bonobos co-founder and former CEO Andy Dunn explains how his bipolar disorder affected him when he ran the men’s fashion brand years ago.

In his new book “Burn Rate: Launching a Startup and Losing My Mind,” which came out Tuesday, Dunn discusses how being bipolar has both helped and hurt him as an entrepreneur.

At one point, he remembers telling Chris Travers, then general counsel and internal therapist for the Bonobos, that he would double his equity when he was in a manic state. Dunn’s promise later got him in trouble with the board and forced him to give up some of his own equity to pay for it.

“I let Chris know that I spoke about the equity grant too soon and that I would do my best to ask him for a board refresh,” Dunn wrote. “At our next board meeting, I was able to get him a little more equity, but nothing close to the double that I had offered over email during my manic state. To try to bridge the ditch, in a very unusual step, I said that I’d like to give him some of my capital. No one on the board liked that idea, but they let me go all the way. .

In another anecdote, Dunn recalls having his “CEO Investment Review” in 2016 the day after he was released from a hospital and prison following a manic episode in which he hit his wife, Manuela Zoninsein, and her mother.

“It happened that day that I would be exposed in front of a huge group of people for the most pressured thing I’ve done in the business,” he wrote. “In a retail business, the biggest investment you make is in inventory, and that was the meeting where tens of millions of dollars of investment was being finalized.”

“I put on an Oscar-worthy performance,” Dunn continued. “I managed to hide everything that had happened, including some hidden but still present irrational thoughts, and, as if nothing had happened, chatted about how many olive chinos we should buy. and on whether to expand into new fits, into tailored garments.”

The next day, Dunn spoke to council about his

bipolar disorder

and was relieved to be greeted with understanding and acceptance from the members.

“We have this idea in our heads that you just can’t talk about something that’s stigmatized,” he wrote. “It’s indescribable. Prior to this phone call, I couldn’t imagine that even in a thousand universes I would ever disclose to the board of directors that I had mental health issues.”

While that sometimes created obstacles for Dunn at Bonobos, his bipolar disorder could also help him as a business leader, he says.

“For me, controlled hypomania is when I am at my best as an entrepreneur: able to work long days, with high levels of endurance; generating positive kinetic energy to recruit, fundraise and motivate the team; and have frequent sparks of ideas, maybe even moments of vision,” he said. “Everything clicks, everything makes sense, life has a purpose. Colors seem more vivid, gratitude flows. This is the area where creativity and productivity flourish.”

Closing out “Burn Rate”, Dunn calls on people to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“Let’s not celebrate madness nor stigmatize it,” he wrote. “Let’s just deal with mental illness openly, transparently, medically, chemically, in the mirror and in living rooms and boardrooms, meeting rooms and family rooms and bedrooms and, yes, bedrooms with therapists and trained psychiatrists and stop, for everyone’s sake, pretending that it’s not here, that we’re not here.




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