Silicon Valley start-up that has hired Prince Harry
What is BetterUp?
BetterUp describes itself as company that ‘combines coaching with dynamic and personalized digital experiences to accelerate members’ long-term professional development and drive personal growth’.
In practice, they sell executive coaching and therapy services to individuals and large companies.
It employs clinical therapists and ‘executive coaches’ on contract to provide those services.
One blue chip company that recently employed their services was charged $2,000 for six months of unlimited coaching for each employee.
Those who sign up for their app can receive one-to-one video therapy or coaching through the app.
Who was it founded by?
It was founded by two USC graduates Alexi Robichaux and Eduardo Medina. Robinchaux grew up in Dallas, Texas, and has described growing up with his father a biblical linguist who translates from Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. His mother is an immigrant from Greece who was an executive assistant at Texas Instruments. In high school he started a non-profit called Youth Leadership for America.
Medina is also a USC graduate who worked at management consultant companies Altamont Capital Partners and Bain & Company before starting BetterUp.
How big is BetterUp?
BetterUp says it has raised a total of $300m in venture capital, and claims to be valued at $1.7bn. It has not reported any corporate results or profits.
Last year, Robinchaux told Inc that the company had 200 employees and more than a thousand therapists and executive coaches on contract.
Its investors include snowboarder Sean White, NBA player Pau Gasol and a series of venture capital companies including frims called ICONIQ Growth, Lightspeed Venture and Mubadala Capital.
Prince Harry has got his first job in business as an executive at a Silicon Valley start-up that claims to be worth $1.7billion – where he will promote an app used by corporate giants including Hilton, Facebook and oil firm Chevron to improve the mental health of their staff.
The Duke of Sussex was today unveiled as the ‘chief impact officer’ at BetterUp, whose chief executive Alexi Robichaux has declined to say how much the royal will be paid, although similar roles at other California firms would command six or seven-figure salaries.
Mr Robichaux has compared the app to a life coaching Tinder for millennials to keep them happy at work and said the firm came to him as an epiphany while doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain.
Harry, who has served in the British Army but has no corporate experience, will not manage any employees but will be expected to appear at special company events and spend time at the firm’s San Francisco offices for meetings once Covid restrictions are lifted.
The Duke, 36, revealed he has been using BetterUp’s services including talking to one of its ‘truly awesome’ coaches for a couple of months who gave him ‘sound advice and a fresh perspective’ and was introduced to Mr Robichaux through an unnamed mutual friend.
He wrote in a blog post how he will focus on ‘driving advocacy and awareness for mental fitness’, helping to guide the firm’s ‘social mission and impact’, ‘influencing the vision of BetterUp’s platform, community and member experience’ and expand its ‘global community of thought leadership, coaches, customers, and members through outreach and strategic planning’.
It is not yet known whether Harry is investing in the firm, but he said everyone working on the Sussexes’ team at Archewell will get access to its services.
Explaining why he took the job, Harry told the Wall Street Journal in a suitably corporate response: ‘I intend to help create impact in people’s lives. Proactive coaching provides endless possibilities for personal development, increased awareness, and an all-round better life’.
He added: ‘This is about acknowledging that it isn’t so much what is wrong with us, but more about what has happened to us over the course of life. Often because of societal barriers, financial difficulty, or stigma, too many people aren’t able to focus on their mental health until they’re forced to. I want us to move away from the idea that you have to feel broken before reaching out for help’.
The prince, who says he has been using BetterUp’s app since January, began talks with them about a role last autumn after being introduced to USC graduate Mr Robichaux ‘through a mutual friend’.
BetterUp employs therapists and executive coaches on contracts, who are paired with clients to provide mental health coaching by video link through the app. Most of its clients are in the United States, but it does have executive coaches employed in the UK.
The tech firm that works with corporate giants including Facebook, Google, Snap Inc, NASA, Hilton and Warner Brothers. There will be some raised eyebrows because Harry has spoken widely on the need to protect the environment, but BetterUp has also worked with oil giant Chevron.
A bizarre list of values on BetterUp’s website including: ‘courage, playfulness, empathy, craftspersonship, grit and zest.’
The Duke of Sussex was unveiled on Tuesday morning as the chief impact officer at BetterUp with this corporate black and white photograph of Harry released at the same time.
A statement on the company’s website said: ‘Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex is a humanitarian, military veteran, mental wellness advocate, and environmentalist’
Harry was introduced to CEO Alexi Robichaux (top left) through a mutual friend. He has refused to say how much Harry (top right) will be paid. Harry is listed on the company website with Mr Robichaux’s co-founder, Eduardo Medina (top centre)
Harry, who has served in the British Army but has no corporate experience, will not manage any employees but will be expected to appear at special company events and spend time at the company’s San Francisco for meetings once Covid restrictions are lifted (pictured)
Harry’s told Oprah that he has been forced to seek corporate work after his father Prince Charles ‘cut him off’ financially after they emigrated to Canada and then on to LA
Better up: The $1.73bn ‘playful’ Silicon Valley start-up with Tinder-style app for users to swipe through 2,000 life coaches – set up by CEO who wants to ‘enable professionals to live with greater clarity, purpose and passion’
Prince Harry was introduced to CEO Alexi Robichaux (right) through a mutual friend
Prince Harry is joining a Silicon Valley start-up firm that claims to be worth $1.73bn and sells leadership coaching and therapy services.
It was founded in 2013 by two USC graduates and its clients include big tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Airbnb and LinkedIn as well as corporate giants including Hilton, NASA, Chevron and Mars.
The company has secured $300m in investment from venture capital firms and claims its services are ‘pioneering growth for the whole person’. The San Francisco-based company provides mobile-based coaching, counseling and mentorship programs for employees of large businesses.
The Duke of Sussex joins a ‘Chief Impact Officer’ and his colleagues will include more than 200 employees and 2,000 contract coaches globally, which the company claims is the ‘world’s largest coaching network’. A list of values on BetterUp’s website including: ‘courage, playfulness, empathy, craftspersonship, grit and zest.
Below each subheading respectively is: ‘Dare often and greatly, great ideas come from health and happiness, innovation starts with understanding, find meaning in what we do through crafting excellence, perseverance driven by determination and passion and what sets you apart makes us unique.’
BetterUp announced its latest investment round in February had raised $125million, which it says was based on a valuation of $1.73billion.
The investment round was led by ICONIQ Growth, along with existing investor Lightspeed Venture Partners among others, and new investors including Salesforce Ventures and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Capital.
It said its customer base grew by 80 per cent and annual recurring revenue more than doubled last year. Workers meet with BetterUp staff – licensed therapists and executive coaches – virtually to work on their employee skills. They are also told they can shout about being tired, relationship issues, bad managers and other problems they have on their mind.
CEO Alexi Robichaux told Business Insider in 2017: ‘It’s about moving the needle in their personal life and their work life.’ He co-founded the firm in 2013 and has built it up so they can exclusively work with large firms with more than 10,000 workers. He said the idea to create the firm came to him as an epiphany while doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain.
He said he realised it was pointless separating his work life in software from his personal life helping people.
BetterUp promises its clients including chief executives, managers and general employees confidentiality and the company’s idea is to coach ‘the whole person’ while the firm they work for pays for it. It is seen as a modern version of the ‘life coach’.
Robichaux said: ‘Most of working America thinks that the only coaching is life-coaching, which is like some dude in Alabama on Skype and you have no idea if he’s wearing pants.’
He said he gives his staff five paid ‘Inner Work Days’ a year in addition to their usual holiday time. The startup cofounder was born in Dallas, Texas, but grew up in California, selling lemonade and knick-knacks off a stand.
But by 15 in between playing soccer and student body president – he learnt how to program and created a web development business with his brother. He said he also enjoyed philosophy at school and would read ‘The Prince’ by Machiavelli, Rousseau’s ‘Social Contract’ and Plato’s ‘Republic’ at the weekends.
The Duke of Sussex was unveiled on Tuesday morning as the chief impact officer at BetterUp with this corporate black and white photograph of Harry released at the same time. He was introduced to CEO Alexi Robichaux (right) through a mutual friend. He has refused to say how much Harry will be paid
He has revealed in previous interviews his father was a ‘biblical linguist who works with ancient texts’, while his mother is a Greek immigrant who was forced to go back to work to raise her family. He studied political science at the University of Southern California and graduated summa cum laude in 2007.
After university – aged 23 – he worked for the Walt Disney Company in business insight and improvement, before leaving after a year and five months when a senior started their own company and asked him to join. He moved to a management consulting firm advising leading companies in private equity, venture capital, entertainment and technology industries, where he was a partner and CFO.
From here, the businessman moved to Socialcast, which was bought out by VMware, and he become the director of product management. Robichaux stayed there for just over a year before he broke away and set up BetterUp.
His LinkedIn page, which says his firm is hiring, adds: ‘BetterUp is on a mission to help people everywhere pursue their lives with greater purpose, passion, and clarity. As the creator and leader of AI-enabled video coaching and positive behavior-based platforms, BetterUp has delivered personalized coaching and care across organizations big and small, resulting in improved performance and transformation at all levels.
‘Simply put, people, teams, and companies are more resilient, more productive, and less stressed with BetterUp (even in times like these). And we’re just getting started.’
Asked who he most admires, he told Medium: ‘I admire so many people, but I have to say I would put St. Paul up there. Along with Jesus. Religion aside, these men are some of the most influential leaders, objectively speaking, in world history — if not the most.’
He says his favourite quote is: ‘From the Bible: ”Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” I think it’s incredibly relevant and valuable in Silicon Valley right now.’
Robichaux’s company uses a app-based system for workers to swipe through coaches to find the one they want – in a similar format to Tinder.
There are therapists and psychologists for customers to chose from depending on their needs. Employees can then video call them or speak over text on a weekly or monthly basis depending on the contract.
In some cases the staff will proscribe external sites for customers to use, such as the Headspace meditation app. Once every three months the firm sends out a questionnaire to customers, to get them to track their focus, problem solving, influence, ‘mental agility’ and ‘presence’.
It claims to have a 95 per cent satisfaction rate, but this could not be verified. The CEO wants his app to move on from being a perk to more of a health package like medical insurance at companies.
He said: ‘Millennials are the first generation to unashamedly come to the conclusion, ”If work is taking more of my time, then it should be contributing more to my human fulfillment. It’s only fair, right?’
MailOnline understands that Google offered leadership coaching to staff through Better Up in 2020. Access to the app, including virtual classes, costs $3,600 per person for 12 months membership.
The company’s boss Alexi Robichaux says that Harry is an ideal fit for this latest ‘meaty role’.
The business, founded in 2013, sells its app and services to big businesses with more than 10,000 employees, who can tap into a network of 2,000-plus life coaches whose aim is to help improve their happiness at work and at home, the company says.
Facebook and LinkedIn are paying for expensive on-the-clock ‘coaching’, where their workers can hold virtual meets with therapists to help them cope better with stress and set goals to achieve in their jobs.
BetterUp claimed in February it raised $125million, taking its valuation to $1.73 billion.
The investment round was led by ICONIQ Growth, along with existing investor Lightspeed Venture Partners among others, and new investors including Salesforce Ventures and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Capital.
They have reportedly raised $300million in total from venture capitalists, but are yet to report any results,
A statement on the company’s website said: ‘Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex is a humanitarian, military veteran, mental wellness advocate, and environmentalist.
‘As co-founder of Archewell, he is focused on driving systemic change across all communities through non-profit work as well as creative activations.
‘The mission across Archewell—which currently includes Archewell Foundation, Archewell Productions, and Archewell Audio—is united behind the deeply held belief that compassion is the defining cultural force of the 21st century.
‘Prince Harry has dedicated his life’s work to advancing causes that he is passionate about.
‘He is the Founder of The Invictus Games, a platform for wounded, injured and sick service personnel to use sport as part of their rehabilitation, as well as Travalyst, a non-profit entity comprised of several of the largest online travel agencies in the world.
‘Additionally, he co-founded Sentebale with his dear friend Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, in memory of their mothers’ charitable work in combating the HIV crisis, and serves as President of African Parks, a non-governmental organization focused on protecting Africa’s ecosystems in partnership with local communities and governments.’
The role will see the Duke weigh in on product strategy, charitable contributions and speak about mental health.
He will not be in charge of other workers or handle reports directly, but will go to San Francisco to work when Covid is over.
His latest title is rare, with few corporate companies having such positions. It is more often used at nonprofit firms.
BetterUp CEO Alexi Robichaux, who met Harry through a friend last year, said: ‘It’s a meaningful and meaty role.’
Since it was founded seven years ago, it has built a network of 2,000 coaches and has 270 other employees. The company says it is worth $1.7billion because of it has 100,000 corporate members.
It says that that need for more executive coaching, and virtual sessions because of lockdown, has further improved its position in the market.
The businessman would not be drawn on how much the Duke will earn and did not reveal details of his employment.
The new job came just over a fortnight after the Sussexes’ bombshell interview with Oprah, where Harry said he was persuaded to sign multi-million dollar deals with Netflix and Spotify when he was ‘literally cut off financially’ from the Royal Family.
The Duke of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey that shortly after he and the duchess announced their wish to step back as senior members of the Royal family and spend time overseas, he stopped receiving income from palace.
Harry added that, had it not been for money left for him by his late mother, Princess Diana, he would have been unable to pay for security to protect his family.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex raised eyebrows when they announced in September a deal worth an estimated £75million to make programmes for streaming giant Netflix, despite citing a lack of privacy as one reason for quitting the Royal Family.
In December, the couple announced a second high-profile partnership – this time a multi-year deal with global audio streaming behemoth Spotify.
The deal, which experts estimated could be worth around £18million, will see Harry and Meghan make and host a number of podcasts for Spotify’s 320million monthly active users on a variety of subjects to help listeners ‘connect to one another without distraction.’
Asked about the lucrative partnerships during the interview, Harry told Miss Winfrey that they were ‘never part of the plan’ but instead were suggested by a ‘friend’ when they feared financial issues.
‘My family literally cut me off financially, and I had to afford, afford security, for us,’ he said. ‘But I’ve got what my mum left me, and, without that, we would not have been able to do this.’
He added of the issues he has faced in recent years: ‘I think she saw it coming.’
Prior to stepping back from royal duties in December 2019, Prince Harry received the vast majority of his income from the Duchy of Cornwall, a portfolio of property and financial investments managed by his father, Prince Charles. For the financial year 2018/19 this was more than £5million. It is believed Prince Charles, who initially continued to fund the couple, withdrew financial support from the Duchy last year when it became clear their move to the US was permanent.
About 5 per cent of the couple’s income came from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant.
However after their decision became public, Buckingham Palace announced the couple would no longer receive public money.
The Home Office also funded the couple’s Metropolitan Police security detail, however this was withdrawn when they permanently relocated, leaving the couple to foot the bill for their own security at an estimated £4million-a-year.
Last year, the couple paid back the £2.4million cost of refurbishing Frogmore Cottage after it was initially covered by the taxpayer, as well as taking on a £7.5million mortgage on their California home.
Harry was left about £6.5million when his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in 1997. It is thought to have matured to around £10million by the time of his 30th birthday.
Asked by Miss Winfrey about the perception that the couple could be seen as ‘money-grabbing royals,’ Harry said: ‘We’re certainly not complaining. Our life is great now.’
He added that ‘all I needed was enough money to be able to pay for security to keep my family safe.’
The couple have set up their own company, Archewell, which encompasses a not-for-profit enterprise as well as their production companies for audio and video content.
It aims to drive ‘systemic cultural change across all communities, one act of compassion at a time.’
Last year, the duchess took on one of her first major media engagements since stepping back as a senior royal, narrating a Disney nature documentary about elephants.
Prince Harry’s statement about why he’s joining BetterUp
First of all, I am really excited to be joining the BetterUp team and community! Thanks for having me.
I firmly believe that focusing on and prioritising our mental fitness unlocks potential and opportunity that we never knew we had inside of us. As the Royal Marine Commandos say, ‘It’s a state of mind.’ We all have it in us.
Being attuned with your mind, and having a support structure around you, are critical to finding your own version of peak performance.
What I’ve learned in my own life is the power of transforming pain into purpose.
Who are the investors in BetterUp?
- Lightspeed Venture Partners
- Threshold Ventures
- Plus Capital
- Salesforce Ventures
- Sapphire Ventures
- Mubadala Capital
- Freestyle Capital
- Crosslink Capital
- Tenaya Capital
- NBA All-Star Pau Gasol
- Olympic snowboarder Shaun White
During my decade in the military, I learned that we don’t just need to build physical resilience, but also mental resilience. And in the years since, my understanding of what resilience means — and how we can build it — has been shaped by the thousands of people and experts I’ve been fortunate to meet and learn from.
When I first met Alexi, we instantly recognised a shared passion for helping others realise their full potential. As our conversations continued, it became even more clear that we hold a similar philosophy on mental health: that we must proactively take care of our minds.
In addition to this shared philosophy, what caught my attention about BetterUp was that the company’s mission to unlock the potential in people everywhere necessitates innovation, impact, and integrity. Their team has been delivering on that work for years. I was also impressed by the scale and opportunity for impact – the ability to change millions of people’s lives for the better, through a combination of human connection, leading technology, and behavioural science.
I’ve personally found working with a BetterUp coach to be invaluable. I was matched with a truly awesome coach who has given me sound advice and a fresh perspective. And because we believe in strengthening our own mental fitness, our entire Archewell team also has access to BetterUp coaching.
As BetterUp’s first Chief Impact Officer, my goal is to lift up critical dialogues around mental health, build supportive and compassionate communities, and foster an environment for honest and vulnerable conversations. And my hope is to help people develop their inner strength, resilience, and confidence.
In this new role, I’ll be focused on four key areas:
- Driving advocacy and awareness for mental fitness. We can and will elevate the global conversation around our mental health. What we’re doing is about equipping people to thrive. Whether you’re performing at the highest level, or want to get to the next level, or just want to get started, it’s all about having the specialised resources, preparation, and human connection to back you up — whatever the challenge.
- Guiding BetterUp’s social mission and impact to bring the science of peak performance and human potential into the hands of people worldwide.
- Influencing the vision of BetterUp’s platform, community, and member experience. I’m excited to help shape their already extensive library with content and resources on mental fitness and to share new stories and voices. To start, I’ve invited BetterUp to work with ‘Peak State: Mental Fitness’, a platform I helped establish which provides practical online tools to enhance our mental fitness.
- Expanding BetterUp’s global community of thought leadership, coaches, customers, and members through outreach and strategic planning.
Self-optimisation is not about fixing something that’s broken. It’s about becoming the best version of ourselves, with whatever life throws at us — someone who is ready for the next challenge and can meet setbacks with courage, confidence, and self-awareness.
This is what BetterUp is making possible, and I look forward to being on this journey with you.
Join the community to get access to insights, advice, and tools on reaching your true potential, and be the first to learn about new content and programmes on mental fitness and resilience that I’ll be developing.
How Harry photographer Matt Sayles also took picture of Sussexes for Time100 series last year
LA photographer Matt Sayles has also photographed Beyonce
The picture of Prince Harry accompanying the announcement about him joining BetterUp was part of a set taken last year by photographer Matt Sayles.
Los Angeles-based Mr Sayles is believed to have taken the picture at the Sussexes’ £11million home in Montecito, California, last October.
Another frame also featuring Meghan Markle was first released that month to mark the couple’s special edition of TIME100 Talks.
And after Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey on March 7, Mr Sayles posted a picture of her an Instagram, writing: ‘Thank you Meghan. Thank you for your class, strength, and vulnerability. I was in awe watching last night and I stand with you like I know so many do. #internationalwomensday #istandwithmeghan’
Mr Sayles is a father to two boys – and describes himself on Instagram as a ‘black photographer and director’.
He started his professional photography career in college at Stanford after working at the Stanford Daily.
Mr Sayles then covered sports and news for the Associated Press where he initially freelanced before becoming a national entertainment photographer.
Among the celebrities he has photographed in recent years are Beyonce, Kanye West, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Ricky Gervais, Hilary Clinton and Kit Harington.
He has also specialised in photographing plus-sized models, with a recent series on the subject called Body Art which he described as his ‘most important project’.
Asked in an interview at the same time in July 2019 about how he captures the perfect image, Mr Sayles said: ‘I don’t worry about capturing the perfect image but rather capturing the perfect emotion or feeling. The image doesn’t have to perfect but as long as it carries the message that I am trying to convey.’
The photo of Harry for BetterUp is from the same set as this one also taken by Matt Sayles of the Sussexes for Time100 last year