UK

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s chief of staff quit job after ‘performing tasks beyond contract’

Harry and Meghan’s chief of staff is said to have ‘wanted out’ after finding herself ‘having to fulfil a great many functions for the couple’, insiders have claimed today. 

Catherine St Laurent was head-hunted by the couple from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to become their ‘chief of staff’ and executive director of Archewell, their new non-profit organisation, last April. 

But yesterday it emerged that the Canadian-born mother-of-two had unexpectedly left her post just 11 months into the job. 

Insiders say Ms St Laurent ‘wanted out’ after performing tasks outside of her contract, according to The Telegraph.  

One source told The Telegraph: ‘I think there was a sense that she was having to fulfil a great many functions for the couple – not all of which were necessarily in her job spec.’

Harry and Meghan were dogged by a spate of departures from their ranks as working royals, losing at least two PAs as well as other key staff from their private office. 

Catherine St Laurent was head-hunted by the couple from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to become their ‘chief of staff’

The couple called her an ‘incredible asset’ when they announced her appointment, adding: ‘We are excited to have her on our team.’

The couple called her an ‘incredible asset’ when they announced her appointment, adding: ‘We are excited to have her on our team.’

Ms St Laurent was head-hunted by the couple from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to become their ‘chief of staff’ and executive director of Archewell, their new non-profit organisation, last April.

CATHERINE ST-LAURENT: ‘SENIOR ADVISORY ROLE’

Catherine St-Laurent

Old position: Executive director of the Archewell Foundation

New position: A ‘senior advisory role’ at the Archewell Foundation

Catherine St-Laurent took on the position of chief of staff and executive director of the Sussexes’ non-profit enterprise the Archewell Foundation in April 2020.

The Canadian-born French speaker was previously the director at Pivotal Ventures – Melinda Gates’ women and families foundation – and held a top communications role at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

At the time of her appointment, a friend told the Mail that Ms St-Laurent  was ‘feisty, fair and up for a tough conversation’, adding: ‘But if all goes wrong, she is good for a laugh and a cocktail afterwards. 

‘She’s a good egg. She’ll bring a clean-sheet perspective.’

After her hiring last year, the Sussexes had said: ‘We are proud to be joined by Catherine St-Laurent in this next chapter with us.

‘Her leadership and proven track record working within two organizations that have tremendous impact in the world — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Pivotal Ventures make her an incredible asset and we’re excited to have her on our team.’

In a departing email to staff, she announced: ‘I am thrilled to be able to play a supporting role in realising their vision and enabling them to achieve impact on the issues that matter most to them.’

It has now been revealed that mother-of-two Ms St-Laurent will instead take on a senior advisory role for Archewell, and will ‘continue to bring high-level strategic guidance’ to the foundation, a spokesman told Page Six

The couple called her an ‘incredible asset’ when they announced her appointment, adding: ‘We are excited to have her on our team.’

But yesterday it emerged that the Canadian-born mother-of-two has unexpectedly left her post.

There was no comment from her directly, but according to the New York Post, Miss St Laurent has already stepped down, although she will continue to work with Archewell in an ‘advisory’ role.

She will be replaced as Archewell’s executive director by the couple’s current communications officer in the UK, James Holt. 

Reports suggest they have no immediate plans to replace him, leaving the Duke and Duchess of Sussex without any official representation in Britain and all their media relations now being handled in the US.

The couple have already appointed Toya Holness as Archewell’s ‘global press secretary’. Buckingham Palace ceased to act for them after they quit as working royals last spring.

One royal insider expressed surprise at Miss St Laurent’s departure, telling the Mail: ‘She was a huge appointment for them.

‘A big hitter with a great track record, poached to head up their new working life in the US. It is really quite astonishing she has left that role after less than a year.’

Miss St Laurent is apparently launching her own new ‘social impact firm’, supported by and working with Archewell. 

Earlier this month Buckingham Palace announced it was launching a probe into the handling of claims by their former head of communications that Meghan bullied several female members of their team, forcing at least two to quit.

A spokesman for the couple denied the claims, calling it a ‘calculated smear campaign’.

At the time of her appointment as Harry and Meghan’s most senior team member, Miss St Laurent had said she was ‘thrilled to be able to play a supporting role in realising their vision’.

She added: ‘From our very first conversation, Harry and Meghan have expressed a deep commitment to improving lives and having a positive impact on society.’

The couple have also made two high-profile new appointments.

Ben Browning, who produced the Oscar-nominated film Promising Young Woman, is now head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio as part of their multi-million dollar link-ups with Netflix and Spotify.

Mr Browning said it was a ‘unique opportunity’ and he wanted to turn Archewell into a ‘global production company that will spotlight diverse voices and share uplifting stories’.

The couple have also linked up with Invisible Hand – a ‘social impact and culture change agency’.

Intriguingly, given numerous reports suggesting Meghan has political ambitions in the US, its founder Genevieve Roth worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

She will also serve as a ‘senior strategic adviser’ to the couple.

A statement said Invisible Hand would be focusing on ‘strategic change through storytelling and community building in support of gender and racial equity’.

A spokesman for the Sussexes added: ‘They join a rapidly expanding team that’s deeply dedicated to advancing systemic cultural change and supporting compassionate communities across the world.’

A judge has ordered The Mail on Sunday to publish a statement saying it infringed the Duchess of Sussex’s copyright by publishing extracts of a letter she sent her father. 

Lord Justice Warby said it did not need to be published until the outcome of an appeal process.

He also ruled against Meghan on how large the statement needed to be printed, saying it would take up a ‘disproportionate amount of the front page’ if the font size was the same as the original 2019 headline.

Is this more proof Meghan Markle wants to be first woman US president? Duke and Duchess team up with Genevieve Roth who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election campaign

Meghan Markle has teamed up with one of the senior figures from Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 presidential campaign, adding fuel to the rumours that the Duchess is keen to enter the political sphere. 

It emerged last night that Harry and Meghan had joined forces with Genevieve Roth, who will serve as a senior strategic advisor at the couple’s Archewell foundation.  

Invisible Hand, a social impact agency founded by Roth, will also be working with Archewell on initiatives and campaigns.

Alaskan-born Roth, who says she has ‘a lifelong commitment to gender equity,’ previously served as the director of creative engagement for the 2016 Clinton Presidential campaign.

A graduate of Emerson College and the Columbia Journalism School Publishing Course, Roth also worked with The White House and Let Girls Learn, a US government initiative launched by former President Barack Obama and wife Michelle. 

The news adds to the speculation that Meghan, who routinely uses her position to comment on gender and racial equality, is keen to launch a political career. 

Invisible Hand will be working with the Duke and Duchess's Archewell foundation on initiatives and campaigns

Invisible Hand will be working with the Duke and Duchess’s Archewell foundation on initiatives and campaigns

Meghan has joined forces with Genevieve Roth (pictured in 2014), who will serve as a senior strategic advisor at the couple's Archewell foundation

Meghan has joined forces with Genevieve Roth (pictured in 2014), who will serve as a senior strategic advisor at the couple’s Archewell foundation

Who is Genevieve Roth? 

Genevieve Roth is the Founder and President of Invisible Hand

Genevieve Roth is the Founder and President of Invisible Hand

Alaskan-born Genevieve Roth is the Founder and President of Invisible Hand, a social impact and culture change agency. 

More recently, the mother-of-one was made the Senior Strategic Advisor to Archewell, the organisation founded by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

She is the former Features Director of Marie Claire Australia and before that, held editorial positions at GQ and Esquire. 

She left her job in magazines to serve as the director of creative engagement for the 2016 Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign. 

The mother-of-one, whose husband is black, often speaks out about racism in America, and has written at length about the ‘racism in her own marriage’. 

In an article for Primer, she wrote: ‘Race is an issue in our marriage because as a white woman of privilege, I have racist tendencies written in at a cellular level, and that can really gum up the works.’

And in an article for Good Housekeeping, Roth wrote about the notion of white privilege and her heightened understanding of it after marrying her husband, Jordan.  

Ms Roth also worked as the executive director of special projects at Glamour magazine, and the producer of the Glamour Women of the Year Awards. 

In 2014, Roth helped launch The Girl Project, Glamour’s ‘global philanthropic initiative’ supporting girls’ education. 

Roth describes herself as an ‘expert on the intersection of narrative change, women’s empowerment, and social justice.’

Her agency Invisible Hand has created campaigns for clients including Archewell, PBS, The Obama Foundation, The XQ Institute, and The Girl Effect. 

A graduate of Emerson College and the Columbia Journalism School Publishing Course, Roth also worked with The White House and Let Girls Learn, a US government initiative launched by former President Barack Obama and wife Michelle.

She was a 2018 Shorenstein Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.  

A statement said Invisible Hand would be focusing on ‘strategic change through storytelling and community building in support of gender and racial equity’.

A spokesman for the Sussexes added: ‘They join a rapidly expanding team that’s deeply dedicated to advancing systemic cultural change and supporting compassionate communities across the world.’ 

Numerous reports have suggested the Duchess is plotting a track to the White House – rumours which ramped up in the aftermath of her interview with Oprah Winfrey. 

Meghan’s friends have previously encouraged speculation about her political ambitions – describing her rise from modest beginnings as ‘the embodiment of the American dream’. 

The Duke, 36, and Duchess of Sussex, 39, last year faced a backlash after weighing in on the US election – breaking with centuries-old tradition that calls for members of the Royal Family to remain politically neutral.

But Meghan’s spokesman insisted her political activism would not end after the US election because she feels ‘encouraging people to get involved’ is ‘important’. 

A spokesperson for the Sussexes said the comments were ‘not time specific’, telling Insider: ‘Part of being an active member of society is to take part in the democratic process. So encouraging people to get involved in politics is something that is important.’

The Duchess first confirmed her plan to vote in last year’s US election back in August during an interview with Marie Claire.

Meghan spoke about the importance of voting, saying: ‘I know what it’s like to have a voice, and also what it’s like to feel voiceless. I also know that so many men and women have put their lives on the line for us to be heard.

‘And that opportunity, that fundamental right, is in our ability to exercise our right to vote and to make all of our voices heard.’ 

In September, the couple recorded a video message for Times 100 urging Americans to vote, while hinting that they both supported Democrat Joe Biden.

Last year a royal source claimed the Duchess was aiming to become more ‘politically engaged’ after she and Prince Harry quit their roles as senior royals.

At the time, an insider told the Daily Mail that Meghan had grown ‘frustrated’ by the fact that she was not able to be actively involved in politics while she was a senior member of the monarchy, and that she wanted to ‘take advantage’ of the freedom to share her opinions with the world.

Before marrying Prince Harry, the Duchess was outspoken about her dislike of President Donald Trump, branding him ‘misogynistic’ and ‘divisive’ during a talk appearance in 2016, shortly after he had won the election.

When Trump made an official state visit to the UK in June 2019, Meghan did not join the other royals in meeting him. 

Earlier this month, a senior Labour figure – a veteran of Tony Blair’s Downing Street administration with strong links to Washington – claimed to The Mail on Sunday that Ms Markle, 39, was networking among senior Democrats with a view to building a campaign and fundraising teams for a tilt at the US Presidency.

A source close to the Duchess of Sussex declined to comment, but the couple have made little secret of their political beliefs. 

A source said: ‘The Blairite, internationalist and Democratic party networks are buzzing with talk about Meghan’s political ambitions and potential backers.’

Last year, a friend of the Duchess told Vanity Fair magazine that one of the reasons she did not give up her American citizenship when she married into the Royal Family was to allow her to keep open the option of entering Washington politics.

US constitutional experts responded that she would have to renounce her title if she wanted to hold public office in the States, because it would cut across the US oath of allegiance.

Genevieve Roth left her job in magazines to serve as the director of creative engagement for the 2016 Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign.

Genevieve Roth left her job in magazines to serve as the director of creative engagement for the 2016 Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign.

Buckingham Palace tried to distance the Royal Family from the remarks made during the US election by issuing a statement saying that ‘the Duke is not a working member of the Royal Family’ and describing his comments as ‘made in a personal capacity’.

The source added that the presumption was that the Duchess was eyeing 2024, when President Joe Biden will be 82 and deciding whether he wants to run for a second term.

If she made it to the White House, Meghan would be the first female US President – succeeding where Hillary Clinton narrowly failed four years ago – and the second non-white occupant of the Oval Office after Barack Obama.

She would also be following in the footsteps of President Ronald Reagan, who was a Hollywood actor for four decades before switching to politics. 

During the 2020 campaign, the Duchess addressed the When All Women Vote Couch Party, the organisation co-founded by Michelle Obama to encourage participation in elections. 

Aides at the centre of palace intrigue that saw Meghan accused of bullying

Melissa Touabti (right) is pictured with Robbie Williams' wife Ayda for whom she previously worked

Melissa Touabti (right) is pictured with Robbie Williams’ wife Ayda for whom she previously worked

PA WHO QUIT AFTER WEDDING:

Melissa Touabti, the duchess’s former personal assistant, had previously worked for Robbie Williams and Madonna.

She played a key role in preparations for Meghan and Harry’s wedding in May 2018, but quit after just six months.

The Frenchwoman, 41, took a job with the billionaire Livingstone family – owners of the stately home Cliveden. 

THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR:

Jason Knauf joined the royals in 2014, having acted as a ‘crisis management expert’ at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The 36- year-old American, who completed his master’s at the London School of Economics, served as communications secretary to the ‘Fab Four’ of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan before the Cambridges and Sussexes created separate offices in March 2019.

Mr Knauf now heads William and Kate’s charitable foundation. 

THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR: Jason Knauf (left) walks behind the couple at the Invictus Games in Toronto

THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR: Jason Knauf (left) walks behind the couple at the Invictus Games in Toronto 

THE TOUGH TALKING AUSTRALIAN: 

Formerly the Queen’s assistant private secretary, Samantha Cohen had planned to quit Buckingham Palace in 2018. Instead, she agreed to stay on and help the duchess through her first months in the Royal Family.

The well-liked but tough-talking Australian became the Sussexes’ private secretary, but left in 2019 to work for the environmental charity Cool Earth. 

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II (accompanied by Samantha Cohen) attend a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018 in Widnes, England

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II (accompanied by Samantha Cohen) attend a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018 in Widnes, England 

  

Other aides who have quit the Sussexes since their wedding: 

September 2018: Senior comms secretary Katrina McKeever 

January 2019: Female royal protection officer 

March 2019: Assistant private secretary Amy Pickerell 

June 2019: Two nannies leave within weeks of each other 

January 2020: Sussex Royal charity foundation’s Natalie Campbell   

JAMES HOLT: THE NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ARCHEWELL FOUNDATION

James Holt

It was today revealed that Meghan and Harry's UK PR chief James Holt (pictured) would take on the director role

It was today revealed that Meghan and Harry’s UK PR chief James Holt (pictured) would take on the director role 

Old position: UK PR spokesman

New position: Executive director of the Archewell Foundation

James Holt previously led communications for the Royal Foundation, the charity headed by the Cambridges.

Holt has worked at Kensington Palace for several years – as well as for the Liberal Democrats – and is passionate about many of the causes championed by Harry and Meghan.

He acted as Harry and Meghan’s UK spokesman and will now take on the role of executive director of the Archewell Foundation.

Holt, a BA Journalism graduate from the University of Lincoln, rose to the position of Head of Media for the Liberal Democrats in 2010 – and stayed in the role until August 2013.

He worked as Special Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister – Nick Clegg – from June 2013 to January 2014, and moved up to become Head of Government Communications for the Deputy PM until September 2014.

He took on the voluntary position of Director of Communications for Pride in London between March 2016 and November 2017.

In October 2017 he took up the role of Senior Communications Officer for The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry – staying in the role for one year.

He then became Head of Communications at The Royal Foundation for one year, until September 2019.

BEN BROWNING: HEAD OF CONTENT FOR ARCHEWELL  

Ben Browning

Ben Browning, Head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio

Ben Browning, Head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio

New position: Head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio

Veteran producer Mr Browning has previously worked on films including The Big Sick, Arrival, Room and Late Night and is set to head up Archewell’s work with Spotify and Netflix.

Most recently,  Mr Browning worked on Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan, which was nominated for five Oscars. 

It is thought that Browning will be working closely with Spotify and Netflix to help bring Archwell’s creative partnerships to life, Harpers Bazaar reports.

Browning has been nominated for a BAFTA Award, Academy Award and PGA Award for his role in the production of Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan.

He had also previously worked as executive producer on HBO’s I Know This Much Is True, which stars Mark Ruffalo.

Browning said in a statement: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have founded a next-generation production company with best-in-class distribution partners in Netflix and Spotify, a clear agenda to inform and entertain, and an unparalleled global reach.

‘From the moment they shared their vision for Archewell as a global production company that will spotlight diverse voices and share uplifting stories, I knew I wanted to help with this unique opportunity. 

‘It’s a thrilling company to be starting.’

Prince Harry gets a real job: Duke to become ‘Chief Impact Officer’ for $1.73billion San Francisco-based mental health coaching start-up Better Up that works with US giants from Hilton to Chevron

By Martin Robinson, Chief Reporter for MailOnline  

Prince Harry announced his first job in the corporate world today by revealing he had taken an executive position at a Silicon Valley start-up that claims to be worth $1.7billion.

The Duke of Sussex will be ‘chief impact officer’ at mental health services business BetterUp, where he will help promote an app used by corporate giants including Hilton, Facebook and oil firm Chevron to improve the wellbeing of their staff.

The company’s 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.

Harry was introduced to Mr Robichaux through an unnamed mutual friend – and it is not yet known if he has invested in the company, where other backers include the Dubai sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Capital and Olympic snowboarder Shaun White. 

In a statement introducing himself to his new colleagues, Harry also revealed that every employee of his Archewell foundation will get access to its services.

Mr Robichaux said Harry has already helped make decisions at the business, including at a recent strategy meeting where he ‘recommended that executives frame the tool in terms of resilience and overcoming adversity and setbacks in a challenging time’. 

He added that the sixth-in-line to the British throne ‘comes from a very different background’ to his colleagues.

BetterUp is thought to charge companies about $2,000 (£1,450) per worker for six months of executive coaching, and has more than 200 employees and 2,000 contract coaches on its books. 

Mr Robichaux – who grew up in Dallas, Texas, with a biblical linguist father and Greek immigrant mother – has compared the app to a life coaching Tinder for millennials to keep them happy at work.

He said the firm came to him as an epiphany while doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain, and attended the University of Southern California (USC) along with co-founder Eduardo Medina.

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’.

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’.  

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’. 

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

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'

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 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)

The company's chief executive Alexi Robichaux has declined to say how much the royal will be paid

The company’s chief executive Alexi Robichaux has declined to say how much the royal will be paid

Eduardo Medina is also a USC graduate who worked at management consultant companies Altamont Capital Partners

Eduardo Medina is also a USC graduate who worked at management consultant companies Altamont Capital Partners

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, 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

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

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’.

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 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?’ 

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.’  

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: Venture capital firm focusing on enterprise technology and health sectors
  • Threshold Ventures: Venture capital firm partnering with entrepreneurs building innovative consumer, enterprise and healthcare technology companies
  • Plus Capital: Venture advisory firm for celebrities
  • 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.’ 


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