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Prince Harry Joining San Francisco Mental Health Wellness Startup

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX/CBS SF/AP) -- Prince Harry has joined a San Francisco mental health wellness startup as the firm's "Chief Impact Officer".

BetterUp, headquartered at 1200 Folsom Street in San Francisco, has been closed because of COVID-19 restrictions. CEO Alexi Robichaux told the Wall Street Journal that Prince Harry will be attending all-hands meetings and various special events.

According to its website, BetterUp is an employee coaching and mental health platform that uses AI and behavioral science expertise to pair users with coaches and "micro-learning content", to fulfill its mission of helping clients "unlock greater potential, purpose, and passion". The company works with employees from companies including Mars, AB InBev and LinkedIn on coaching and mental health services.

The Duke of Sussex will not have any direct reports or manage any employees. Financial terms of his employment with BetterUp were undisclosed.

In a company blog post, Prince Harry said he was joining BetterUp because he believes in the company's mission of being proactive about mental health, and outlined his four main goals as an executive: driving advocacy and awareness for mental fitness, guiding the company's social mission, influencing the vision of the platform, community, and member experience, and outreach and strategic planning to expand coaches and membership.

"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."

Prince Harry also indicated he had used BetterUp's services.

"I've personally found working with a BetterUp coach to be invaluable," he wrote in the post. "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."

Robichaux said the Duke of Sussex is a good fit for the company because of "his model of inspiration and impact through action."

Robichaux cited Harry's efforts founding the Invictus Games, which gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports, and founding Sentebale, an Africa-based charity supporting young people affected by HIV.

"It seems like a tremendous fit. He's someone with a deep background in military experience. A global mindset, and he values diversity," said Ahmad Thomas, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, have been working on detangling their lives from the British royal family and are living in California. After the couple's high profile tell-all interview with Oprah, the two have reportedly signed multimillion dollar content deals with Netflix and Spotify. Prince Harry arrives at BetterUp with his celebrity status and brand at an all time high.

"And that's where it's important for him to come in and be able to show value immediately. Show value in line with the mission and what they're looking to achieve and also be very authentic in what he brings to the organization," said Thomas.

Dr. Shaun Fletcher, Assistant Professor of Public Relations at San Jose State, said the prince should be allowed to focus on the human side of his job, as an ambassador for mental health.

"I think that he has an opportunity to create a space for ambassadorship, and a role that does not fall into alignment with some of the dehumanizing principles and practices that big tech in Silicon Valley oftentimes fall prey to," said Fletcher. "So I think if he resists, some of the day to day, trite, sort of rigidity of big tech, of spreadsheets and reports and hierarchy and bureaucracy, I think that Prince Harry stands a very good chance of bringing something that's much needed to big tech in Silicon Valley."

"From day one, Prince Harry comes into BetterUp as the most powerful person in the corporation. Prince Harry has significant influence over and above anyone at the BetterUp organization, including the Chief Executive Officer," continued Fletcher. "So the relationship and how it moves forward will be worth keeping an eye on, to ensure that both parties move forward in a healthy and productive way Because working with influencers and celebrities like Prince Harry, and all of the value and branding recognition that he brings, could possibly be a detriment to corporations like BetterUp, because he has a significant following that will also follow him away from better up, if things go south, and do not end in a productive manner."

In February, the company announced a $125 million Series D fundraise, bringing the firm's valuation to $1.73 billion.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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