Investment Notes: Medoo

Read why AfterWork Ventures invested in Medoo - software that supports coaches to be better at the craft and coachees to get more out of their coaching journey.

At some point in our lives, most of us have had a coach. Whether this be a soccer coach, a debating coach, or a music teacher - there’s been someone who’s observed from the sidelines, shouted encouragement, pushed us to dig deeper, and helped us to improve at our game.

Ted Lasso | Know Your Meme
“For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.” - Ted Lasso

As adults, far fewer of us regularly receive coaching - whether this be from a life coach, an executive coach, or a transformative coach. This seems counterintuitive - what we do as adults is likely more challenging, more involved, and higher-stakes than the extra-curricular activities we did in high school.

There is immense human potential and inner capacity that can be unlocked through effective coaching relationships. As more people realise this, we believe we’ll see rapid growth in the coaching industry. And just as designers, engineers, and other professionals all have toolkits - coaches will also need tooling to excel at their craft.

Enter Medoo - co-founded by Paulwyn Devasundaram and Allard van Helbergen, Medoo is building tools to empower every coaching and personal growth journey.

In its first product iteration, Medoo is providing ways to construct, track, and visualise a coaching journey. Coachees are supported to create an archive of their reflections, helping them to identify and make sense of behavioural and thought patterns. Its shared online space also deepens the connection between coach and coachee by allowing them to stay connected outside of sessions.

We are proud to be first believers in Medoo, leading in their pre-seed round and investing alongside LUXEM, Dan Gavel from Black Sheep Capital, Peter Huynh from Qualgro, and founders-turned-angel-investors Vu Tran (co-founder of EdTech Go1), Guy Pearson (founder of client engagement and commerce platform Ignition) and Anna Podolsky and Gabriel Guedes, co-founders of pet wellness company Lyka.

What we loved about the idea

We love the way Paulwyn and Allard think!

Before we invested in Paulwyn and Allard, we got to know them first as community members. Both are experienced startup operators - Paulwyn has been an Engineering leader at Atlassian, Canva, and Tiliter, while Allard has been a Designer at Google and Atlassian.

As one of our resident technical experts, Paulwyn contributed to the technical due diligence of several investment opportunities we considered. We thoroughly enjoyed working with Paulwyn; we found her to be insightful, considered, knowledgeable, and extremely generous. She soon became a super-contributor to our community - pitching in to help on a number of projects, all while building conviction to go all-in on her own startup.

She was enthusiastic in sharing her experiences with the community:

Paulwyn’s reflections in our #gratitude Slack channel

We were fortunate to have a front-row seat to Paulwyn and Allard’s process of building conviction in Medoo, and observed as they methodically went about understanding and de-risking different parts of their endeavour. When they decided to dive in the deep end, we were ready to jump alongside them.

Paulwyn and Allard with the furbaby, Thor

Coaching is unlocking human potential

Paulwyn contributed to Canva’s hyper-growth phase, leading cross-functional groups and teams across many parts of the business: payments, subscriptions, referrals, security, and customer insights. During this time, she credits the coaching she received from Canva’s internal coaching team for accelerating her personal development, enabling her to step into responsibilities for which she would not have otherwise felt prepared.

This experience piqued Paulwyn’s interest in coaching as a transformative force for good - with the potential to unlock profound personal growth through identifying blindspots, troubleshooting obstacles, and building the mental fortitude to rise to tough challenges.

Paulwyn presenting about Medoo at AfterWork’s investor update

Medoo will enable coaches and coachees to have even more effective relationships by allowing them to collate all their notes and resources in one place, connect asynchronously, and visualise growth as it’s occurring.

Replacing traditional management with coaching relationships

Earlier this year, we wrote about The Future of Work. We believe several of the trends we identified will accelerate the adoption of coaching by corporates:

First, we predicted an erosion of middle management. Advances in automation stand to have the biggest impact on middle management - while most organisations still need ‘doers’, their ‘minders’ are increasingly able to be replaced with process management software.

As People Leaders are tasked with managing bigger teams, many of which will be remote, they’ll lose the ability to personally guide the professional development of their direct reports. We believe centralised internal coaching teams may step into this role - internal coaches will work with individuals to define their goals, reflect on their performance, and unlock personal growth.

Additionally, we believe we’ll continue to see talent moving around at pace. We see operators developing specialised skill sets that are particularly valuable to companies or organisations at a particular stage of growth (e.g. the zero-to-one phase; the scale phase). These operators will join companies to execute on what they excel at, before moving to the next company that needs their help.

In this scenario, high performing individuals can progress quickly, untethered to any particular organisation. In the absence of a professional framework, those individuals might be inclined to seek out alternative structured ways to improve their craft, including with the help of an executive coach. Moreover, as professionals move between jobs at pace, they will encounter more ‘transitional’ periods and career crossroads. Here, transformational coaches can help individuals to navigate these transitions.

If these trends accelerate, we could see a world where coaching largely replaces people management at corporations. The Medoo team have an ambition to build a tool that will not only occupy an important role in this future, but even help to usher it in.

The challenges we saw

Coaching is a fragmented market with many individual operators, each with their own idiosyncrasies

There are 6 million coaches globally - and more that operate in a part-time, informal capacity. Many coaches are one-person bands, with their own idiosyncratic systems, processes, and preferred ways of communicating with their clients. In our customer interviews, we found that many coaches are old school - printing out worksheets for their clients and conducting all their asynchronous communication over Whatsapp.

While several tools exist to help coaches run their practices (e.g. tools for bookings, scheduling, and payments), there is an absence of tools that assist with the craft of coaching itself.

This presents both an opportunity and a challenge. While there is an opportunity to become the go-to set of tools for coaches looking to level up their craft, the challenge will be to distribute the product in this fragmented industry - where every practitioner has their own habits and preferred way of operating.

To tackle this challenge, the Medoo team have thought deeply about the common pain-points experienced by coaches and their clients, and are building features to tackle them in turn. For example, there’s usually a lull in engagement between coaching sessions. This represents a missed opportunity to build momentum and check-in on how the coachee is incorporating learnings for their coaching sessions into their daily life. Additionally, it’s difficult to communicate the value that coaching has unlocked in a concise and tangible manner. By bringing the progress to life through visualisations, Medoo will help to communicate this value.

Building in-roads into the coaching community

Luckily, there is a salient and close-knit coaching community. Coaches are active and enthusiastic participants - freely and fervently sharing advice, resources, and tactics with one another.

The Medoo team have been on the front-foot when it comes to building trust with this community. Even before their product launch, Medoo has hosted panel discussions with highly-regarded coaches - such as this one about how coaching can help founders ‘buy time’ by accelerating their rate of growth.

No alternative text description for this image
With coaches Sarah Nanclares, Veronica Mason, and Peter Huynh

In a short time, Medoo has built strong relationships across the coaching community, and even brought more attention to coaching as a valuable investment. Many coaches have enthusiastically signed up for Medoo’s beta, and are evangelising the product - before it’s arrived!

How we built conviction

At bottom, Paulwyn and Allard care deeply about equipping people with the agency and capacity to design and manifest the lives they want to live. In a world besieged with problems, the common blocker to solving them is our lack of fortitude, grace, and aptitude to rise to the challenge of solving them.

Just as the encouraging cheers and unwavering support from our coaches played no small role in propelling us over the finish line at high school swim carnivals, coaches have a valuable role to play in enabling all adults to achieve their goals. Coaches and coachees deserve best-in-class tools to support this important endeavour - and we’re proud to be backing Medoo to build them.

Allard (aka DJ Zoos) DJing our inaugural NAUT FEST

If you’re a coach, you can join the waitlist for Medoo’s product launch. If you’re interested to learn more about coaching, subscribe to Medoo’s publication for regular coaching stories.

Do you enjoy our weekly instalments of investment notes and other perspectives on VC investing? Make sure to subscribe to never miss an edition.