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Hey Sifted Reader, 

Having a coach is ‘in’ — and yet, unless you’re a certain kind of founder or investor lucky enough to have one, what *exactly* coaching is remains somewhat mysterious. 

Today, we speak to some of Europe’s top founder coaches to find out what they actually do — and we speak to some of Europe’s top founders to find out why they need coaches so badly.
 Amy and Anisah 🧡

\How to

Work with coaches

Amy Thomson, pictured, is the founder of women’s wellness platform Moody Month. That isn't her first startup rodeo either, having run marketing agency Seen and women’s entrepreneur network Future Girl Corp previously. Her secret weapon? Executive coaching. We sat down to chat about how to find and work with a coach. 

Get a coach as early as possible. Coaching is a tool to help people make more effective decisions and share the stress being experienced — so the earlier you engage one, the better chances your company has at success. It can also help relieve founder isolation and identify when you’re manic or heading towards burnout, saving your team — or even the company — from it. A coach helps you make sense of the information you share with them by extrapolating themes to play back to you. This helps you get a bird’s eye view so you can make informed decisions. Coaches are not decision-makers, therapists nor mentors. 

Hire a coach you feel you can trust. Of course, you want a coach with coaching credentials who comes with good referrals. But finding the right coach for you is a process. You want to find out if your communication styles are complementary. Do they reflect information back to you in a way you understand and vibe with? Do you feel safe to share everything? Could you cry in front of them? That’s the level of comfort you want. Always have a trial period — it’s so personal, it’s hard to know if it will work without one. I wish there was a Tinder for coaches but most often you find them through your networks. Ask senior leaders that you respect — founder friends, investors, board members — if they have had coaches. Speak to them — they might not be the right fit but they’ll have recommendations. You could also do a callout on social media if you’re looking for something specific. Ask your therapist or current coach if they know anyone too. 

Find a new coach when your needs change. You need a running mate who can support you at each stage. This can be the same person, but often, you reach a point when you realise you need to move on. I'll say, "Let's work together for six months and see where I get to". Your progress might stagnate, you might become more friends than coach/CEO, or you might outgrow the level they can support.

Offer your senior team coaching too. The people [in your company] under extreme pressure, with decision-making capabilities, management challenges and bottom line responsibilities, could also benefit from a coach. But don’t prescribe a coach or let them see the CEO’s coach — give them a budget to find their own that they gel with. 

Budget for coaching for the CEO and senior management. Investors who want their companies to succeed will not have a problem with this. Between £500-£1k a month [per person] is average for a startup coach. Some will scale up/down based on the size of a company. 

Schedule your coaching sessions. A coaching session once a month seems right. You may, when things are quieter, only need coaching once a quarter. If you have a menstrual cycle, never plan a session in your luteal phase — the time between ovulation and before the start of menstruation — when you may feel most vulnerable or like things are too hard. I joke with my board that for three days every month I am done with the company. 

— Anisah

\A message from our sponsor Zendesk

Want free customer support software?

If you do, you’re probably thinking about how to improve your customer experience. Apply now to the Zendesk for Startups Program to get six months of free customer support software, expert advice and access to a supportive community of founders.

Apply here.

\On the Subject of...

Coaches

🕵️ Finding the right coach. Finding the sweet spot between what you need and how you work and what a coach can provide and how they work is key. Here are some questions to help with the matchmaking process.

🎨 The art of asking questions. Good coaches challenge people to come up with the answers they are looking for. 

🤔 What are the characteristics of a successful person? Dr Julie Gurner, an executive coach and prolific Twitter personality, shares some of her learnings in this thread.

😬 Have the hard conversations. Founder coach Amy Buechler and CEO of Y Combinator Michael Seibel chat about why founders get coaching and some of the tools that help them through the tough times. A good listen if you’re thinking about getting a coach. 

🏢 Organisational coaching. It could be what you’re searching for if you want to change company culture and provide an arena for tough discussions.

\Feature

The existential loneliness of the founder CEO

Being a founder can be really darn lonely.

Often, founders can feel like they have no-one they can honestly talk to about their challenges — not their cofounders, investors, friends or family. 

Unless, that is, they have a coach. 

Amy Lewin finds out what founders and coaches talk about.

\Sifted Talks

The startups buying startups — why it’s worth a billion euros 

Since the start of the year, over €1bn has been spent on acquisitions by European VC-backed startups — 10 times more than last year.

This means more private European tech companies are buying smaller startups, gaining a bigger share in other markets and acquiring new offerings and talent. It’s a growing trend, but what’s behind it and will it last? 

Join the experts on October 21.

\People Moves

Sproutl has a COO. The online gardening marketplace, which raised a $9m seed round in July, has hired Devin Sinclair as its first chief operating officer. He was previously CEO at South Africa’s biggest food delivery platform. 

VC moves. Sahar Meghani and Bérénice Magistretti have joined Berlin-based VC Visionaries Club — although both will be flying the flag for the firm in London.

Instabox hiring spree. The Swedish logistics tech startup has recruited Leilei Tong as head of sustainability; she was previously VP of logistics at Indonesian logistics giant Gojek. Instabox has also appointed Victor Melander as head of communications and Tom Englund as new deputy CEO.

Got any people intel you'd like to share with us? We'd love to hear it... 😉 

\Smart Reads

1) The invisibility of women’s work. Why do gender differences occur in tasks and what can managers do to distribute work more equitably across their team? 

2) Hire the right marketer at the right time. Marketing is a huge umbrella term so who do you actually need to hire right now? 

3) Finding the next tech breakthroughs. VC June Angelides asks if we are dismissing technology that could be central to future solutions. 

4) Launch your product. Some of them are obvious (and annoying!) but this thread has compiled a comprehensive list of the marketing tactics successfully used to get attention for a product. 

5) How can I help you? Five top tips to ensure your startup is providing stellar customer service.

Read something you think everyone else should too? Send it on over to Anisah.

Forwarded this newsletter?

Subscribe to Startup Life.

\Show of the Week

Start-Up (2020)

I’ve found it — the cheesy startup romcom you never knew you needed. Start-Up is part of a wave of recent Netflix investment into K-drama originals, recently highlighted by Squid Game. The show centres around Seo Dal-mi and Won In-jae, two sisters who were separated at a young age after their parents split up, and who both dream of becoming South Korea’s Steve Jobs. While I don’t think there are huge amounts of practical advice one could take away about starting a business or the life of a founder, here’s what I did learn:

  • ‘When a dog runs off, it only becomes a stray dog.’ This is what the sisters’ mother says to their father when he quits his desk job to found his own business. The show focuses a lot on class, and how startup fortune favours the wealthy. And, while this show is based in South Korea, the idea that most founders come from privilege is no stranger to Europe: a 2021 report found that 75% of UK founders come from advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, and over 80% are in a comfortable financial position when they start out. Quitting your job to found a business is still seen as brave when you’re rich and dumb when you’re poor.
  • South Korea’s female entrepreneurs are on the up. Startups have become a way for South Korean women to surpass very low glass ceilings at traditional companies. In 2020, more than 11% of South Korean working-age women were involved in starting or managing new companies — a big increase from 5% in 2016. Similarly, the results of a 2018 Mastercard report, which looked at 57 countries, says South Korea showed the most progress in advancing female entrepreneurs, and that more women than men had joined startups. But that doesn’t mean women don’t face biases; Start-Up very subtly and cleverly weaves in the gendered experiences of the main characters without trapping them into female founder stereotypes.

While the episodes are LONG (each sit at over an hour, a bit too long for my TikTok-level attention span), Start-Up managed to keep me hooked. This is a really dreamy show, with a sort of cliché, sort of not love triangle and synth-y K-pop soundtrack that makes you feel like you’re an over-sugared kid on a theme park ride. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Georgina, Sifted’s head of content

\Survey

Are you tempted to get a coach now?


100%.
I wish I could afford one...
I don’t need that wiffle waffle.

Come back next week for the results!

Amy Lewin
Deputy Editor

Get in touch with her at amy@sifted.eu.
She loves a bit of reader feedback.
Anisah Osman Britton
Founder at 23 Code Street

Get in touch with her at anisah@sifted.eu.
She loves to hear about the latest in startupland.
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