BetterUp

Prince Harry joins $1bn Silicon Valley startup as senior executive

Duke of Sussex’s first formal role since ending royal duties involves ‘meaty role’ as chief impact officer at BetterUp

The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry says he wants us to banish the idea that ‘you have to feel broken before reaching out for help’

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Prince Harry has been given a job by a $1bn (£730m) Silicon Valley startup which provides professional coaching, mental health advice and “immersive learning” as its chief impact officer. The Duke of Sussex said he hoped to be able to use his own experiences using the “the power of transforming pain into purpose” to help BetterUp’s clients with “proactive coaching” for personal development, as well as achieve “an all-round better life”.

It is the Duke’s first formal position at a private company since he stepped down from being a working member of the royal family a year ago.

Harry and his wife, Meghan, have also signed multimillion-dollar deals to provide content for Spotify and Netflix.

As chief impact officer at BetterUp Prince Harry will help with driving awareness of the need to improve mental health provision, work on product strategy, and advise on charitable collaborations. Harry has already worked closely with mental health charities.

He founded the Invictus Games, an event for injured or sick armed service personnel to use sport as part of their psychological and physical rehabilitation, and launched Sentebale, a charity that supports the mental health and wellbeing of young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana.

“I firmly believe that focusing on and prioritizing 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,” the Duke said in a press release announcing his appointment. “What I’ve learned in my own life is the power of transforming pain into purpose.

“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.

“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.”

Alexi Robichaux, the chief executive of BetterUp, said: “It’s a meaningful and meaty role.”

The pair met through a mutual friend and have been discussing the collaboration since last autumn, and Harry signed up to BetterUp’s life coaching. “I was matched with a truly awesome coach who has given me sound advice and a fresh perspective,” he said.

Robichaux did not reveal how much Harry would be paid or whether he has been handed shares in the business.

“He’s synonymous with this approach of mental fitness and really investing in yourself,” Robichaux said. “It was not a hard internal sale.”

BetterUp, which was founded in 2013, recently raised $125m from an array of international investors to fund expansion. That new funding valued BetterUp at $1.7bn, making it a so-called “unicorn” – a new company valued at more than $1bn. It claims to employ 2,000 coaches and to have 300 business clients including Hilton, Nasa, Chevron and Mars.

The firm, based in San Francisco, says it is focused on “changing the world by bringing the power of transformation to each and every person”. Its employees, it says, “are empowered to go above and beyond to reach their best self”.

Chief impact officers are a rare but increasingly popular position at startups and Silicon Valley firms. The position, which has been given the nickname “Chimpos”, usually carries responsibility for measuring sustainability, mental health and a company’s impact on wider society.

The Silicon Valley tech firm Salesforce was one of the first to introduce the position. It says its CIO is responsible for “driving positive social and environmental impact across our company, customers, partners and community”.

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