Matt Berriman, co-founder of the Melbourne startup Unlockd, which rewards smartphone users for watching ads and raised $30.8 million in series B funding last year, has announced he’s stepping down as CEO to deal with mental health issues.
The 33-year-old, who launched his business in October 2014, posted an open letter today saying that while he has been dealing with symptoms that he put down to “stress, lack of sleep and the start-up roller-coaster” for a long time, he’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
He is stepping down immediately as CEO and will move to a role as Executive Director, focusing on major shareholder relations, overall strategic direction and corporate development.
“This will allow me to continue influencing the growth and future of the business, whilst also giving me the required space to make my health a priority,” he said.
Unlockd’s Chief Operating Officer, Jane Martino, is the company’s new CEO.
“This is a role she has effectively been playing for some time now behind the scenes as I continued balancing my own personal health challenges with being the founder and CEO,” he said.
“The success of the business is significantly attributable to her operational control, and in addition to the qualities she exhibits as a person leave me in total confidence and faith of her succeeding me as CEO. I will work closely with her in my new role to continue to drive the business and its success well into the future.”
Berriman said that for the past 15 months he’d had continuous treatments but was struggling to return to optimum health.
It’s not the first time the former elite cricketer, has had to deal with serious health issues, having had a promising sporting career cut short when he was 16 because of a shoulder injured during a training session. Berriman subsequently sued Cricket Australia and reached a confidential settlement.
Unlockd is one of the rising stars of the Australian startup scene, enjoying the financial backing of some of the biggest names in Australian business, including Peter Gammell, Sam Mostyn, Radek Sali and Carsales.com.au founder Greg Roebuck.
Last year’s capital raise was one of the year’s biggest and was directed towards Asian expansion plans.
“From what started as a piece of paper and bold vision three years ago, Unlockd has grown into a global company with 55 staff in five countries, high profile brands and companies as our partners and record performances where we ended 2017 with an annual recurring revenue run rate of ~$20m. During this time we’ve also built immense shareholder value — all of which I’m extremely proud of,” Berriman said in his open letter.
He said it was an “agonising decision professionally and personally” to step down, and his new role will allow him to continue to influence the growth and future of the business, while making his health a priority.
Berriman speaks candidly about mental health and the issues surrounding it, saying:
I am sure my news will evoke various reactions, some of which I know will include further discussion and debate about mental health. Mental illness continues to be one of the most misunderstood and hidden epidemics of our generation.
Like others before me, the decision to make my journey public, is another important step forward in helping engender greater awareness of mental illness. Hopefully in some incremental way it helps the community better understand that mental illness — which affects one in five people — doesn’t discriminate, whether you are a professional sports person, high flying executive, small business owner, employee working 9–5 at the local butcher or a parent at home with the kids…. And nor does it debilitate someone’s ability to achieve their goals.
I want to publicly mirror my private appreciation and thank-you’s to my immediate family, close friends, Unlockd board and my medical team for their care, treatment, support, discretion and endless commitment to improving the state of my health. Something I’ll always be indebted for.
You can read his full letter here.