Plug&Play Supported Startup Coachfox Creates Marketplace For Professional Coaching

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Susanne Klepsch, co-founder of the Austrian startup Coachfox, spoke to us about the importance of finding a business niche and the lessons the whole team learned at the Axel Springer's Plug&Play in Berlin.

How would you describe Coachfox in a few words?

Coachfox is an online marketplace that connects people with first-class professional and personal coaches via video, audio, chat or in-person sessions. We provide a detailed directory, easy scheduling, secure real-time video calling, automated payment and invoicing – all in one place. Whether it is to boost your career, learn skills such as negotiation, presentation or leadership, gain self-confidence or better deal with conflicts or stress – Coachfox helps you get from where you are to where you want to be. Our vision is to become the go-to platform for personal development and professional growth.

What inspired you to create the coaching platform? How did it all start?

Right after my studies, circumstances led me to take on a position in my family business for which I wasn’t prepared. Tough decisions, a sudden leadership role, and an enormous workload made me consider seeking a coach – an external specialist, who could guide me through decisions and help me grow both personally and professionally. However, as the company was located in the country side, the offer for such services was almost non-existant. Searching for coaches online was frustrating, as the market was highly fragmented, the jungle of websites from individual coaches was overwhelming and prices and availabilities of coaches were non-transparent.

At the same time my co-founder, Ile Cvetkoski, was developing a video-conferencing platform. Together we conducted market research and realized quickly that a platform like Coachfox was not yet existing in the German-speaking market. So we decided to build an MVP and move forward with the idea.

Burnout or even depression among entrepreneurs are topics still not discussed very widely. From your experience, do you see an increased need for your services among this group of people? If so, how should it be tackled?

Burnout is an increasing problem with every 1 in 5 people experiencing at least one throughout their lifetime. Coaching has proven to be an effective method to prevent burnouts and help deal with stress, improve time management and better handle conflicts in the workplace. Most entrepreneurs I have met are going through times of high pressure, roller-coaster rides of strongly believing in their idea and being close to giving up or having struggles with co-founders and teams. As not every founder is a born leader, many investors are increasingly encouraging startup founders to seek coaching and even governmental bodies are now sponsoring coaching for startups.

What is the biggest challenge that the company has faced?

The biggest challenge that we have had so far is finding the right focus as coaching is a very broad subject that can be rolled out in many different ways. We understood that if we did everything at once, we would end up doing nothing successfully. Therefore, we had to make decisions to sacrifice some areas of our product to better clarify our positioning. Throughout our journey, we have been fortunate enough to have met many experts, investors, mentors, and clients who all had largely conflicting opinions. Finding the right balance between adapting the product to feedback and remaining faithful to the initial vision of your startup is very challenging.

The competition in terms of coaching and consulting appears to be fierce. What makes Coachfox stand out of the crowd? What is the key differentiator?

All competitors in the German-speaking market merely offer a simple directory of coaches without any appointment scheduling, video calling or payment options. We integrate the full process in one platform. In addition, we handpick our coaches, conduct quality checks and work together with renowned coaching associations to ensure an excellent offering to our clients. Besides video and audio calls, it is also possible to book face-to-face sessions on Coachfox. Thus, we are providing the optimal place for “blended coaching”, which is proven to be the most effective approach when continuous improvement is desired.

What’s the most considerable pivoting maneuver that the team has undertaken throughout the journey so far?

Our initial idea was to build a holistic coaching platform representing all possible coaching topics ranging from life coaching to career advice to psychological counseling. We later narrowed it down to relationship and love coaching, but quickly realized that the product-market fit wasn’t there, as coaching is largely associated with business. Thus, we decided to move our focus more into the business segment. You can imagine how tough this process was for the whole team, but the learnings were immense and helped us grew our idea further.

What is the most memorable moment throughout the history of Coachfox?

Being part of the Axel Springer Plug & Play Accelerator was an exciting period for all of us. In those 100 days, we learned a tremendous amount about our product, our clients, our team and ourselves. We had two weeks to move the entire team from Vienna to Berlin and find accommodation for all of us. At times, we were four people staying in a one-bedroom apartment, so we truly experienced the real Berlin startup life.

If there is one thing you could wish for in improving the European startup ecosystem – what would it be?

I believe that there should be more funds dedicated to foster collaborations between startups on a European level. We constantly come across startups in other countries that are either moving into similar business areas or are building complementary products. I believe joining forces with some of them could be mutually beneficial and could make it easier to compete against some US giants. However, most startups usually have no time nor money to dedicate resources to such collaboration efforts.

What’s one piece of advice you can give to fellow founders for their startup?

In short: plan less, try and do more.



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