March 26

Does Your Product Need a Celebrity?

I was pretty surprised when I saw the news announced this week that Prince Harry would add one more title beyond the Duke of Sussex to his title: Chief Impact Officer at mobile-based coaching and counseling company, BetterUp

Wait, what?

Yes, Prince Harry just took a giant leap into the C-Suite at a tech company that was just recently valued at nearly $2 Billion. In his role, he’ll be tasked with promoting greater dialogue around mental health. Interestingly, his broad role does seem to even touch product experience.

And, of course, he’ll be bringing the cache and gravitas that comes with being a former member of the Royal Family to the Silicon Valley tech company that, while already on the rise, dramatically increased its visibility in one single hire.

Some, of course, would say that this is a giant publicity stunt — that any dollars spent towards wooing Harry would be a marketing expense. Although, the CEO of BetterUp contends that it’s more than that.

Even still, this isn’t the first time that celebrities and tech startups have been intertwined. Certainly, many have been a part of investing in tech startups and even being considered a part of the co-founding teams. Will Ferrell (Funny or Die), Jessica Alba (The Honest Company), and Jay Z (Tidal) are all well-known examples. And it’s common practice to hire celebrities as paid endorsers. Heck, you can do this right now using Cameo and get Kevin from The Office to endorse your business for a couple of hundred bucks.

But, joining the C-Suite? Well, yes, they’ve done that, too. In 2005, HP hired Gwen Stefani to be Creative Director. Just a few years later, Lady Gaga took on the same title at Polaroid. Microsoft and Intel also hired celebrities to take on lofty roles. But if you forgot that those hires even happened, it’s probably a sign that it didn’t really go well — and those celebs have moved on.

So, what should we expect of Prince Harry and BetterUp? Will the result be similar to those other high-profile celebrity hires? The jury is still out. One major difference between BetterUp and those other tech companies named above is that BetterUp, while a Silicon Valley unicorn, is still really building, rather than simply maintaining, its global image. And Prince Harry will certainly help it do that. For now, anyway.

Mike Belsito

About the author

Mike Belsito is a startup product and business developer who loves creating something from nothing. Mike is the Co-Founder of Product Collective which organizes INDUSTRY, one of the largest product management summits anywhere in the world. For his leadership at Product Collective, Mike was named one of the Top 40 influencers in the field of Product Management. Mike also serves as a Faculty member of Case Western Reserve University in the department of Design and Innovation, and is Co-Host of one of the top startup podcasts online, Rocketship.FM. Prior to Product Collective, Mike spent the past 12 years in startup companies as an early employee, Co-Founder, and Executive. Mike's businesses and products have been featured in national media outlets such as the New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, NPR, and elsewhere. Mike is also the Author of Startup Seed Funding for the Rest of us, one of the top startup books on Amazon.


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