Sweden’s David Brudö’s Rep As Startup Success Defies His Battle With Depression

Remente is the goal-setting, productivity-boosting and mood-tracking personal development app for people with a lot on their to-do list. It offers ‘tools to enhance your life’, and founder David Brudö channeled the lessons from his own battle against depression into features designed to build mental strength, while also including some startup secrets of success…

RISING What opportunity did you spot with the changing way we are looking at our health and wellness these days?

DAVID BRUDÖThe typical male stereotype, almost douchey way, is always abs, six-pack on the front cover kind of thing. That maybe doesn’t resonate with everyone today.’

RISING Remente offers self-development tools, but why do you think you need an app to be productive in the first place?

DB ‘If you look at the information society we live in today, we’re constantly distracted by a lot of things that are designed to really tease and trigger our brain into adopting certain behaviours, like texting, Instagramming, Facebooking. It’s so difficult with all the distractions going on around us and that’s what’s ultimately causing stress, and anxiety even. We end up in a negative loop very easily, because our brain was not designed for this. I’ve heard it said that during one week now, a standard, normal person’s brain is subject to as many kind of impressions, distractions, as it took a person a lifetime to get 100 years ago. That’s why we see that the number one cause of sick leave today is mental health conditions. We don’t have the tools, we don’t have the systems to help or the brain to cope with the society we’re living in today.’

RISING So, how is yet another app going to help us with this?  

DB ‘I believe we need to have products and assistance that support us in actually balancing life and maintaining focus; being productive. For myself, that was part of my personal experience; that I was basically burning out and ended up in a situation where I saw that all efforts when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing today are focused on healthcare, which is when things have gone too far. I would really have needed a system that helped me stay on track, stay focused, productive; a managed and balanced life, so that I didn’t end up in the place where I ended up.’

RISING Did you end up burnt out because you were striving too hard for a goal?

DB ‘My ambition, my goal was to become a successful entrepreneur. The interesting thing is that that kind of term to me was not really defined. I was striving for something that was not really clear. Many of us, when we define what makes someone successful, it’s attributed to materialistic things. But it doesn’t matter if you have one, 10 or $100 million in your bank account, that’s not what will make you happy and if you think that it is, you definitely won't become happy. When it comes to our mental health and wellbeing, it’s not discriminatory. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, how much money you have; it happens regardless, basically, if you don’t have the tools and ways to take care of or manage yourself.’

‘Now, you’re supposed to talk about your feelings, but you still should be male and badass’

RISING Technology isn’t the only thing changing fast – do you think the shifting role of men is creating challenges?

DB ‘The traditional, stereotypical male role, is that you should suck it up, be quiet and just be badass – don’t talk about feelings. Now, you’re supposed to be more sensitive and open minded and talk about your feelings, but you still should be male and badass. I think that short-circuits a lot of men. Here in Sweden, one of the most equal societies in the world, the sick leave numbers, when it comes to mental health conditions are rising among men the most and typically men in their 30s, who’ve got their first children. You share on your paternal/maternal leave, and men now do, in most cases, as much at home as the women used to do, and what’s the consequence? That more men burn out in Sweden, basically. The male role is really challenged, which I think is a good thing, but it also makes us confused.’

RISING What’s the effect of this confusion?

DB ‘When it comes to our mental health and wellbeing, it’s okay to talk about things, to be emotional and sensitive, but at the same time, if you feel like shit and address that to someone else, many people still see that as a kind of weakness: “Ha, ha you can’t cope with your career, or your life at home.” In my case, I live in Sweden so I should be grateful; I'm in the top percentage of people who are very, very privileged and still you feel like shit! “What’s wrong with you?” That’s the stigma part.’

RISING The world of startups is quite macho and projects the image of ‘crushing it’. Is that pressure on self-improvement a help or hinderance to mental health?

DB ‘You go to where we see all these successful accounts, you’ve just got to crush it then, you’ve got to improve, you’ve got to level up, be an entrepreneur and fuck all the haters. That is something that men very much resonate with. We want to take that kind of approach [with Remente] to self-improvement, performing, but what that means at the end of the day, is that we’ll still be giving tools how to manage stress, understand yourself better and lead a balanced life; to be more emotional, even.’

RISING At RISING we’re like most men, we love tech – did you tap into that when designing Remente as a way to help us look at our mental health?

DB ‘The cool thing here is that men, to a higher extent, would like to use apps or digital products where they could do that on their own, without facing any kind of stigmas. They’ve done trials where they’ve seen, in some cases, psychological treatment works better through digital solutions than sitting face-to-face because not everyone’s comfortable with that. If it’s framed as saying this is how you could level up in life; this is how you could perform and achieve, and be more productive, then you don’t have the stigma part of it.’

RISING What’s the first step to being more productive?

DB ‘If you want to be more productive, start by managing your day; understand what's your daily focus. Set a goal plan and then you can dig down deeper into what really motivates you. What’s your belief system? Why do you behave the way you do? It’s about opening up this step by step.’

RISING Can stress be a symptom of losing control of your own life?

DB ‘When we haven't a structure or a method on how to manage our lives, we don't know where to start, where to end and that makes us stressed because we're lacking this direction and the perceived sense of control. A good way to manage your day is simply by planning it, to have a focus on what’s most important today and that’s also what we did with our app.’

RISING How does Remente connect success with taking back control of your day?

DB ‘We have basically tried to combine any long-term goals and plans you might have and connect them with what’s most important for you today. There is a principle called MIT, which stands for Most Important Thing and that’s what you should do first. Often, it could be the most boring thing as well – you start procrastinating because the brain is associating that task with more pain than pleasure. It’s like when you’ve been procrastinating for weeks and it's been there in the background all the time. Then when you do it, it takes you 10 or 15 minutes.’

RISING How can we structure this kind of distracting procrastination out of our days?

DB ‘I try to vary fun and boring tasks. The brain’s ability to focus on one certain thing is probably limited to 20-30 minutes, so after 20 minutes, take a little break: stand up, move around and then continue. Another thing is that you shouldn’t multitask. The brain cannot do parallel processing. It’s not designed that way.’

Your greatest asset is actually the 1.3kg of grey matter between your ears – it’s your USP’

RISING So we should narrow our focus to get things done?

DB ‘We can only focus on one thing at once and if that focus is being broken then it takes time to get back to it. So when you plan your day and say “this is a really important thing”, then when you do that, shut off your phone or do whatever necessary to sit in a place where you cannot be distracted. It’s better to do that for five minutes and focus, than to do a task for one hour and get distractions.’

RISING Every morning you run meditation sessions with your team – why is that?

DB ‘The good thing with meditation is it really breaks patterns of a normal distractive day in the information society. The kind of meditation we do is simple breathing meditation, use your breath as an anchor – that’s so contrary to all the distractions we are getting that are craving our attention. That’s why it’s so powerful; because it helps us cool down. The pulse lowers and it helps us to reflect throughout the day, to manage stress and the things that are coming; the distractions that will be thrown at us during the rest of the day.’

RISING What advice would you have for someone thinking about their own startup?

DB ‘I think, in general, you need to dare to do things. You should be fearless. You should also be humble and don’t be too hard on yourself; and talk to a lot of people about your experiences. We’re expected to perform with 110% every day in every aspect of life. If you look at a professional athlete, they’re not maxing out. They’re not performing at their top capacity every day because their body doesn’t support that. It’s not physically possible, but we mentally are supposed to do that every day. My greatest asset is actually this 1.3kg grey matter thing between my ears. That’s really my USP here. If I don’t take care of that, what will happen then? We need to treat our brain as a muscle – it behaves just the same way. You can strengthen it, but it also needs the rest, and it needs the proper tools to function in the best way possible.’

WHAT NEXT? If you only have ten minutes you can still download the Remente app for iOS and Android, for free, and get some value from it. Use the goal-setting features to form a long-term goal. ‘Let it help you to set an action plan to go from where you are now to where you would like to be,’ advises Brudö. ‘Then also plan your day with that in mind.’