Photo: Vcoach

Vcoach: “Personal Trainer for Communication”

With Vcoach, users learn how to improve their communication skills. The app analyzes the user’s own presentation and gives direct feedback. The founding team explains the idea behind their startup.

Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourselves!

Vcoach: The Vcoach team includes four founders, all with many years of professional experience, and we complement one another extremely well:

Stephanie Mayer (34, M.SC. in Business Administration in St. Gallen and Cologne) is responsible for Product & Sales. She has already worked for five DAX companies, for instance in in-house consulting for the biggest logistics company in the world and as Vice President of Channel Management at Prosieben.

Benjamin Gumpp (35, Dpl-Kfm. TUM-BWL TU Munich/CDTM) is responsible for Finance & Operations. He has more than seven years of experience in consulting and industry (for instance as a project manager at Oliver Wyman, one of the top consulting firms for financial services, and as Vice President of Channel Management at Sat.1).

Tobias Hölzer (29, M.Sc. in Physics, RWTH Aachen) is responsible for tech, particularly for the automation of training/coaching. He’s a physicist and machine-learning expert. He’s a serial entrepreneur in the field of machine learning and, among other things, established the AI services for the AI Venture Studio Merantix. He also likes to be on stage and is a TEDx speaker and moderator.

Dr. Clemens Lechner (34, winner of the German Universities Debating Championship, Dr. phil. Psychology, Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena) is a world-renowned researcher in the field of soft skills assessment. Thanks to him, we can incorporate the latest scientific findings into our training modules in real time.

What brought us together in particular was the shared passion for our virtual training product. Our common goal is to make high-impact training accessible to as many people as possible through automation, so they can make the most of themselves both professionally and in private life.

“The transfer to practical use is usually a problem

Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?

Vcoach: Good communication is essential for success in professional and private life. That’s why companies invest 15 billion euros a year in soft skills training alone.

But the current training solutions aren’t effective. They are not very flexible (1-2 day block seminars, booked weeks in advance), not scalable (max. 10-12 participants) and on top of that, the transfer to practical use is usually a problem. That’s because you can only improve communication through regular practice & feedback – having 12 people in group training seriously limits one-on-one time. E-learning is also not a suitable solution, because very few people have become better communicators by watching videos.

That’s why we developed a “personal trainer” for communication that gives on-the-job, individual feedback in small course units, which makes it possible to truly get better over the long term through regular practice.

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!

Vcoach: It’s true, lots of soft skills training offers exist. However: Trends such as digitization, new work, upskilling and the war for talent make more individual and accessible solutions necessary. Moreover, the effectiveness and sustainability of training has always been a problem and the cost-benefit relationship isn’t ideal.

Not your average training! What’s different about Vcoach compared to the classic (face-to-face) training you’re familiar with is that it’s:

More effective: more practice and individual feedback
More flexible: digital, easy (5 min./day), self-paced
More affordable: no trainer, no attendance, no travel expenses
More objective: measurable & based on scientific knowledge
More innovative: AI-based and can be used on a smartphone

“Remote from the very beginning”

Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?

Vcoach: The right sales pitch & channel: After a lot of trial and error in the beginning, we now have a solid, replicable and functioning pitch that gets potential customers excited from the start. That took a while in the beginning.

Focus! There are thousands of ways to define a product, appeal to customers, to implement tech. It’s very important to not get overwhelmed by all the options and to instead trust your own instincts, especially in the beginning when you still don’t have much quantitative customer data.

Founding a startup during corona: Our business model is fortunately a perfect match for the current situation and solves the problem of most face-to-face training having been called off for the moment. But it still wasn’t entirely trivial to start with sales right at the same time as the first lockdown. Nobody wanted to talk with us, budgets were on hold and many people simply couldn’t be reached by phone because they were working from home. That has fortunately changed significantly since it became clear that business and therefore advanced training need to go on and that this stage can’t simply be waited out.

We set our team up to work remotely from the very beginning, which is super practical, but it does bring along some team building challenges. We’ve solved that by introducing things like regular virtual team lunches and drinks and – when possible in the interim – with joint workshops in person.

Munich Startup: How is business going?

Vcoach: Getting listed as a new training provider by companies indeed takes a while during corona and requires a bit of patience. But now that we’ve created a funnel over the last few months, there’s been a sharp increase in the number of licenses sold each month. What’s particularly pleasing under these circumstances is that we get extremely positive customer feedback as soon as the first participants have completed training. We’ve already had several customers purchase additional licenses within the first four months. That’s a fantastic signal.

Moreover, we just won the HR Innovation Award in the “Learning & Training” category with our product. It was awarded to us by Europe’s largest HR trade fair (Zukunft Personal) and a distinguished jury of professionals.

Most of our current customers are SMEs with 500 employees or more. Our training is obviously particularly interesting for service providers and consulting services – after all, presenting themselves confidently is basically their core business. One of our customers in this area is Namics. Beyond that, our customers are quite varied, basically everyone who had booked face-to-face communication training before; such as the fashion brand Marc O’Polo (training for headquarters employees) or the Rosenheim Technical University of Applied Sciences (training for new teaching staff). We also have several pilot projects with listed companies.

“When it comes to founding and product development, you just have to dare to do it”

Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?

Vcoach: We’re only partly in Munich. Clemens is in Mannheim, Tobias in Berlin. So we’re more of a virtual team, which is a major advantage at the moment. Beyond that, Munich is great! Our office – when we aren’t in lockdown – is located right on Marienplatz, and Wayra has given us the fantastic opportunity to become part of a strong startup community. There’s also much on offer in terms of investors, and for current and future team members, Munich is an extremely attractive city with super recreational activities to offer. You also find a sufficient number of potential customers.

In summary: We highly recommend Munich as a location! That being said, a certain amount of flexibility/openness to a virtual setup is very helpful when it comes to recruiting!

Munich Startup: Risk or security?

Vcoach: All in! You just have to dare to put concepts on the market that haven’t been tested two or three times yet and to then test them with real data and improve. That’s the biggest difference between startup and corporate life.
Security is important for issues like data protection, especially in our line of business. But when it comes to founding itself and product development, you just have to dare to do it.