Table of contents
- Founders - Paulwyn Devasundaram & Allard van Helbergen
- Based in Sydney + remote working
- Started in 2021
- 2 founders, 2 employees
Paulwyn, what's your backstory?
My background is in Computer Science, Software & Hardware engineering. Born and grew up in India, did my undergrad there and then moved to Brisbane to do my postgrad at UQ. I did a little bit of research work at uni on Computational Linguistics and then decided to move into the tech industry for a couple of reasons: 1) motivational: I wanted to be building products that people actively used, rather than work on research that may or may not end up being beneficial to people, 2) financial: I was tired of being a poor student and wanted financial stability.
After working on industrial/mining software in Brisbane for a couple of years, I moved to Sydney to work at Atlassian. That was my first taste of what it is like to work at a fast-growing company building real products for everyday use cases.
From Atlassian, I moved to Canva, which was poised for a phase of hyper-growth and blitz-scaling. In between Atlassian and Canva, I tried my hand at building a couple of different startups but didn’t end up going very far with them, mainly because I couldn’t build enough conviction in the ideas to go all-in.
In 2021, the time finally felt right to go all-in on Medoo. I had an idea that I strongly believed in and had convinced Allard (my co-founder and life partner) to work with me on it. By this time I had a much better understanding of what it takes to build a product and a business.
Tell us what your company does?
Technology has largely created a world that is full of distractions. Even the tech meant to help you reflect and grow your inner self often causes stress instead. Research has shown that behavioural science-based coaching is one of the most effective ways of creating long-lasting change and growth. And coaches are doing incredible work helping people grow their careers, businesses and their inner selves.
But where are the technology-based tools that support coaches in their effort by being deeply embedded in the process of coaching and people development?
That’s the gap that we are aiming to fill through Medoo.
By enabling and augmenting the process of coaching and people development, our vision for Medoo is a suite of products that help people gain deeper insights faster, accelerate the growth process even more, and reach new heights of inner development.
How did you come up with the idea?
Like many other people, I have struggled to build long-lasting healthy habits. I have also struggled with negative thought loops, ineffective communication patterns, anxiety and depression. I sought support/help in many different places: managers, therapists, self-help books, and apps.
But nothing was as helpful as coaching was to me.
Specifically, during my time at Canva, the coaching I received from the internal coaching team was incredibly valuable in helping me grow as an individual and a leader. I felt that I could accelerate my growth and see significant changes in myself that were sticky.
During this process, however, I noticed a lack of depth in tooling to support the coaching process. Being in the engineering side of tech naturally led me to think about how I could support this wonderful community by building products to support and enhance the coaching process.
I didn’t act on this idea until late 2021, when I felt the timing was finally right to pursue a product idea of my own full-time. I had just left a role at another startup, where I launched a new product in 3 months, and I was feeling full of energy to build something that I felt deeply passionate about.
The name ‘Medoo’ has roots in the Tamil word ‘Médhoo’ which means ‘slow’ or ‘gentle’. Our ultimate mission for Medoo is to help everyone design and live their best lives. We felt that this name captures the essence of trying to live an intentional life that is rooted in self-discovery and growth.
How did you go about building and launching the business?
Like many other founders, my first step was finding a co-founder. Luckily for me, my partner Allard is a Product and UX designer, and we’ve wanted to build something together for a while. But that doesn’t mean it was easy to convince Allard to go all-in on Medoo! He asked some great questions, did a lot of research and then agreed to join me.
Our next step was to speak to as many coaches as possible about their process and pain points. Once we had established that there were pain points to solve, we created mockups and prototypes of potential products and got their feedback on the prototypes. After a few iterations, we started building Medoo in February this year, and we are rolling out our beta product as we speak!
What's next for you and your business?
Our beta rollout is happening as we speak! We’d love to hear from coaches who are interested in test-driving our beta product.
What digital tools do you use regularly?
Slack, Atlassian tools (Bitbucket, Jira, Confluence), AWS, Google Workspace, 1Password, Canva, Figma.
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
Trillion Dollar Coach
The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell by Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg. I bought this book on impulse as a souvenir when I was on a visit to the Bay Area in California. I was wandering around Stanford, imagining what it might be like to go to uni there, and they had displayed this book prominently in their university store. I read it on the flight back home and was arrested by the stories of how Bill Campbell coached some of the most successful technology leaders.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
One of my all-time favourite books, I love it because 1) Daniel Kahneman is such a gifted writer, he makes his incredibly complex and detailed research work accessible to everyone through his beautiful way of writing, and 2) through reading this book, I was able to get deep insight into human behaviour, in particular around our unconscious biases.
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.
A classic, this book helped me build a deep appreciation for design and the impact it has on our lives. This book also inspired me to create deeply thought-through products and features.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz.
As someone who was (as still is a little bit) intimidated by negotiations, reading this book helped me unpack the foundational skills involved in being a good negotiator and helped to reset some of my preconceived notions about the dynamics at play during negotiations.
Any podcast/websites that help you run your business?
Paul Graham’s writing: Some of the articles he has written are timeless, and I keep going back to them often as I navigate the rollercoaster ride of being a founder.
Acquired podcast: Love the deep dives into interesting business stories, and love the fact that they have built a community around the podcast.
Not boring blog/newsletter: Most certainly lives up to the name of not being boring! :)
Any quotes you live by?
“If you don’t know what you are here to do, then just do some good” - Maya Angelou
“I’d say be brave and courageous because all you have is now. You might think that you could stay doing what you do and it will give you security, but we have no idea what’s around the corner. Life is too short not to live a purposeful, meaningful, joyous, enriched life.” - Ronni Kahn
What do you love and hate about being a founder?
I love that I get to work on something I feel so deeply passionate about, and I cannot imagine doing anything else at the moment. I also love the feeling of creating something out of nothing. It is an incredible feeling to take an idea that was in my head all the way to being a product and, hopefully soon, a product that is loved by many, many people.
I am slightly obsessive by nature, and I tend to hyper-focus on work quite often. This is great because I often find myself in a flow state, which is incredible, but it also makes me lose track of time and, on occasion, forget to take care of myself.
My secret to getting back on course is my amazing support network: Allard: my partner, Thor: our little dog, our family & friends, and my mentors & coaches. They each nudge me to self-reflect and break out of my obsessions in their own ways (Thor will give me intense nose boops and licks when I’ve spent too much working, for example), and I feel super lucky and grateful to have them in my life.
What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?
Understanding my needs, motivations, behaviours, and emotions has been, and is, an ongoing process. Building this self-awareness muscle has helped me recognise when I need to prioritise my physical and mental health over everything else. I keep an eye out for physical and mental indicators of stress. For example, physically, if I feel an intense tightness in my shoulders and neck, that is a clear sign to me that I’m getting overly stressed. A mental signal is racing thoughts: this is usually a strong sign for me to stop doing whatever it is I’m doing, take some deep breaths, and take a break.
I have a list of activities that act as my reset. I fall back on these whenever my body and mind indicate to me that I need a time-out. One of the best activities in this list for me is scuba diving. The feeling of immense awe at being surrounded by nature, the deep blue of the ocean, and being forced to be quiet and take deep breaths make this one of my favourite reset activities. We try to go on regular dives every couple of months or so, and I look forward to each one.
In a few words, sum up what it means to be the founder of a business
Being a founder is many things rolled into one: an artist, a creator, a storyteller, a builder, a parent. More than anything, it is an incredible privilege to be able to create something of value for other people.
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
There’s never a perfect moment to take the plunge. Looking back on a few years ago, when we tried to build our voice AI interface product, we now think we knew so little! So we’re willing to bet that 5 years from now, we will look back on today and think we knew so little. :D
Setting some guard rails for levels of comfort, e.g., modelling our financial runway, being clear on our shared values, what our non-negotiables are, etc., helped us prepare as best as we could and then take the plunge.
Once you take the plunge, though, things often are not as scary as they seemed before. Humans are incredibly resilient and creative. We (and you) are humans, so we (and you) are, of course, resilient and creative. You can do this!
Where can people find out more about your business?