Torch takes $10M to teach empathy to executives – TechCrunch
When everyone always tells you “yes,” you can become a monster. Leaders especially need honest feedback to grow. “If you look at rich people like Donald Trump and you neglect them, you get more Donald Trumps,” says Torch co-founder and CEO Cameron Yarbrough about our gruff president. His app wants to make executive coaching (a polite word for therapy) part of even the busiest executive’s schedule. Torch conducts a 360-degree interview with a client and their employees to assess weaknesses, lays out improvement goals and provides one-on-one video chat sessions with trained counselors.
“Essentially we’re trying to help that person develop the capacity to be a more loving human being in the workplace,” Yarbrough explains. That’s crucial in the age of “hustle porn,” where everyone tries to pretend they’re working all the time and constantly “crushing it.” That can leave leaders facing challenges feeling alone and unworthy. Torch wants to provide a private place to reach out for a helping hand or shoulder to cry on.
Now Torch is ready to lead the way to better management for more companies, as it’s just raised a $10 million Series A round led by Norwest Venture Partners, along with Initialized Capital, Y Combinator and West Ventures. It already has 100 clients, including Reddit and Atrium, but the new cash will fuel its go-to market strategy. Rather than trying to democratize access to coaching, Torch is doubling-down on teaching founders, C-suites and other senior executives how to care… or not care too much.
“I came out of a tough family myself and I had to do a ton of therapy and a ton of meditation to emerge and be an effective leader myself,” Yarbrough recalls. “Philosophically, I care about personal growth. It’s just true all the way down to birth for me. What I’m selling is authentic to who I am.”
Torch’s co-founders met when they were in grad school for counseling psychology degrees, practicing group therapy sessions together. Yarbrough went on to practice clinically and start Well Clinic in the Bay Area, while Keegan Walden got his PhD. Yarbrough worked with married couples to resolve troubles, and “the next thing I know I was working with high-profile startup founders, who like anybody have their fair share of conflicts.”
Coaching romantic partners to be upfront about expectations and kind during arguments translated seamlessly to keep co-founders from buckling under stress. As Yarbrough explains, “I was noticing that they were consistently having problems with five different things:
1. Communication – Surfacing problems early with kindness
2. Healthy workplace boundaries – Making sure people don’t step on each others’ toes
3. How to manage conflict in a healthy way – Staying calm and avoiding finger-pointing
4. How to be positively influential – Being motivational without being annoying or pushy
5. How to manage one’s ego, whether that’s insecurity or narcissism – Seeing the team’s win as the first priority
To address those, companies hire Torch to coach one or more of their executives. Torch conducts extensive 360-degree interviews with the exec, as well as their reports, employees and peers. It seeks to score them on empathy, visionary thinking, communication, conflict, management and collaboration, Torch then structures goals and improvement timelines that it tracks with follow-up interviews with the team and quantifiable metrics that can all be tracked by HR through a software dashboard.
To make progress on these fronts, execs do video chat sessions through Torch’s app with coaches trained in these skills. “These are all working people with by nature very tight schedules. They don’t have time to come in for a live session so we come to them in the form of video,” Yarbrough tells me. Rates vary from $500 per month to $1,500 per month for a senior coach in the U.S., Europe, APAC or EMEA, with Torch scoring a significant margin. “We’re B2B only. We’re not focused on being the most affordable solution. We’re focused on being the most effective. And we find that there’s less price sensitivity for senior leaders where the cost of their underperformance is incredibly high to the organization.” Torch’s top source of churn is clients’ going out of business, not ceasing to want its services.
Here are two examples of how big-wigs get better with Torch. “Let’s say we have a client who really just wants to be liked all the time, so much so that they have a hard time getting things done. The feedback from the 360 would come back like ‘I find that Cameron is continually telling me what I want to hear but I don’t know what the expectations are of me and I need him to be more direct,’ ” Yarbrough explains. “The problem is those leaders will eventually fire those people who are failing, but they’ll say they had no idea they weren’t performing because he never told them.” Torch’s coaches can teach them to practice tough-love when necessary and to be more transparent. Meanwhile, a boss who storms around the office and “is super-direct and unkind” could be instructed on how to “develop more empathic attunement.”
Yarbrough specifically designed Torch’s software to not be too prescriptive and leave room for the relationship between the coach and client to unfold. And for privacy, coaches don’t record notes and HR only sees the performance goals and progress, not the content of the video chats. It wants execs to feel comfortable getting real without the worry their personal or trade secrets could leak. “And if someone is bringing in something about trauma or that’s super-sensitive about their personal life, their coach will refer them out to psychotherapists,” Yarbrough assures me.
Torch’s direct competition comes from boutique executive coaching firms around the world, while on the tech side, BetterUp is trying to make coaching scale to every type of employee. But its biggest foe is the stubborn status quo of stiff-upper-lipping it.
The startup world has been plagued by too many tragic suicides, deep depression and paralyzing burnout. It’s easy for founders to judge their own worth not by self-confidence or even the absolute value of their accomplishments, but by their status relative to yesterday. That means one blown deal, employee quitting or product delay can make an executive feel awful. But if they turn to their peers or investors, it could hurt their partnership and fundraising prospects. To keep putting in the work, they need an emotional outlet.
“We ultimately have to create this great software that super-powers human beings. People are not robots yet. They will be someday, but not yet,” Yarbrough concludes with a laugh. IQ alone doesn’t make people succeed. Torch can help them develop the EQ, or emotional intelligence quotient, they need to become a boss that’s looked up to.
The first round of Disney layoffs begins this week, CEO Bob Iger shares in memo
In February, Disney CEO Bob Iger told shareholders in an earnings call that the company plans to lay off 7,000 employees as part of a significant restructuring. Today, in an internal memo to employees, which TechCrunch was able to obtain, Iger revealed that there will be three rounds of layoffs, with the first beginning this week.
“This week, we begin notifying employees whose positions are impacted by the company’s workforce reductions,” Iger wrote. “Leaders will be communicating the news directly to the first group of impacted employees over the next four days. A second, larger round of notifications will happen in April with several thousand more staff reductions, and we expect to commence the final round of notifications before the beginning of the summer to reach our 7,000-job target.”
The job cuts will reportedly affect Disney’s media and distribution segment along with ESPN and the parks and resorts division, according to CNBC.
“For our employees who aren’t impacted, I want to acknowledge that there will no doubt be challenges ahead as we continue building the structures and functions that will enable us to be successful moving forward. I ask for your continued understanding and collaboration during this time,” Iger added.
Iger returned as CEO in November 2022, replacing Bob Chapek. Since the takeover, Iger has already made significant organizational changes to the company. In addition to the layoffs, the company will also cut down on spending. Disney plans to cut $5.5 billion in costs, including $3 billion in content spend.
Iger has also admitted to being “open-minded” about the sale of Hulu, which Comcast partially owns.
Despite Disney’s direct-to-consumer division increasing in revenue by 13% to $5.3 billion, the company reported an operating loss of about $1.1 billion, which it blamed on higher costs at Disney+ and Hulu.
While Disney+ reported its first-ever subscriber loss in Q1 2023, the company noted that its streaming business — Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ — will become profitable in late 2024. Netflix is one streaming service that has managed to turn a profit.
Disney+ lost 2.4 million global subscribers in the first quarter of 2023. However, it managed to gain 200,000 subs in the U.S. and Canada. Hulu and ESPN+, on the other hand, added 800,000 and 600,000, respectively.
Disney’s annual shareholder meeting is set to occur on April 3.
As media companies continue to face losses in the current market, many are adopting the same strategy as Disney. In 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery dealt with job cuts and removed HBO Max content as it confronts a debt load of $53 billion. This company intends to save $3 billion in 2023.
You can now bundle Frontier internet with YouTube TV on the same bill
YouTube TV announced today that it expanded its partnership with internet service provider Frontier to launch a single billing option, which will allow customers in the U.S. to bundle fiber internet with YouTube TV on one bill.
YouTube TV teamed up with Frontier in 2021 to give customers access to fiber internet and a live TV streaming service. However, they had to pay the providers separately. Today’s launch of integrated billing will make it more convenient for users.
Also, Frontier fiber internet customers will now get $10 off the YouTube TV subscription for one year, whereas existing Frontier TV customers will receive $15 off.
The offering is likely to convince customers to switch to YouTube TV as Frontier no longer offers its TV service. After filing for bankruptcy in 2020, Frontier stopped offering cable television in 2021.
Many cable TV companies have decided to either launch streaming services or partner with services like YouTube TV. For instance, in 2021, Disney announced plans to shut down hundreds of cable channels as it shifted focus to its flagship streamer Disney+.
“Our partnership with YouTube TV makes it easier for customers to ditch cable,” John Harrobin, Frontier’s Executive Vice President of Consumer, said in a statement. “We take our position as the un-cable provider seriously and are constantly listening to consumers. Many want one source for internet and TV, and that’s what this partnership is all about.”
It’s important to note that Frontier is only available in 25 states. However, YouTube TV also partners with other internet companies, such as Verizon.
YouTube TV has more than five million paid subscribers and trialers in the United States. Earlier this month, the company increased its subscription price to $72.99 per month, up from $64.99.
Here’s how to stream Major League Baseball games in 2023
Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season is back this week, with Opening Day beginning on Thursday, March 30. MLB Opening Day 2023 will be one to watch since all 30 teams play their first game of the regular season on the same day– the first time since 1968 when such an event occurred.
With so many major league teams, it can be tricky to figure out where and how to watch the games you want to watch—especially for cord-cutters. For instance, nationally televised games will be broadcast on Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network, whereas local team’s games will air on regional sports networks (RSNs).
Another channel worth watching is MLB Network Strike Zone because it provides highlights, updates, scores, standings and stats from teams across the league. The channel broadcasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, when several games are going on at once, to ensure you don’t miss out on the action.
Plus, this year will be the second time that Apple TV+ is the exclusive home of “Friday Night Baseball” games. Peacock also livestreams exclusive MLB games with its Sunday morning package, “MLB Sunday Leadoff.”
In total, the MLB regular season consists of 2,430 games.
Here are some of the best live TV streaming services to watch MLB games this 2023 season:
- Sling TV
- Hulu Live TV
- YouTube TV
Starting off with an obvious one, MLB.TV is a streaming package that Major League Baseball directly offers.
The subscription costs $24.99 per month or $149.99 per year and allows fans to watch every out-of-market game, making it a great option for viewers who want to watch a team that doesn’t play in their home city.
While MLB.TV subscribers won’t be able to watch a livestream of their local team, the games are available to watch on-demand 90 minutes after they end.
Fans can sign up for MLB.TV either on the MLB website or through streaming services like Prime Video and Fubo.
The most expensive on the list is DirecTV’s “Choice” plan, which is $84.99 per month. Fortunately, the plan is also the most comprehensive, with access to every national MLB channel, including Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network.
You’ll most likely get your local RSN as well, depending on your location.
DirecTV also has the MLB Extra Innings add-on, which is $149.99 per season, and gives you every out-of-market game along with MLB Network Strike Zone and MLB Extra Innings Mix, which lets users stream up to eight games at the same time.
Sling TV, on the other hand, is arguably the best bang for your buck. For $70 a month, users can sign up for the Orange & Blue bundle ($55/month), as well as the Sports Extra add-on ($15/month), to get access to Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN, MLB Network and MLB Network Strike Zone.
However, there are no RSNs or out-of-market games on Sling TV.
Fubo (formerly FuboTV) offers MLB Network, MLB Strike Zone, ESPN, Fox, FS1 and RSN coverage. One caveat is that Fubo doesn’t broadcast TBS.
Fubo has three subscription plans: Pro ($74.99/month), Elite ($84.99/month) and Premier ($94.99/month).
The streaming service recently announced it is launching an MLB.TV add-on for $24.99 per month.
Hulu Live TV is great for fans who want to watch nationally broadcast games on FOX, TBS and ESPN. However, the streamer doesn’t have as many RSNs as it used to, so there may be blackout restrictions. For example, Hulu Live TV doesn’t offer RSN groups like AT&T SportsNet and Bally Sports.
Also, out-of-market games aren’t available on Hulu Live TV.
ESPN+ is home to daily regular-season games that air live on ESPN. Note that MLB games on ESPN+ may have local blackout restrictions.
While YouTube TV ($72.99/month) dropped MLB Network this year, it still carries most RSNs and national networks like Fox, ESPN, and TBS.
The reason YouTube TV dropped MLB Network was because of a carriage dispute, which is becoming more common recently. These disputes are making it very difficult for sports fans to find RSNs across both live TV streaming services and linear television.
Plus, YouTube TV is another streaming service that doesn’t offer Bally Sports RSNs.
Speaking of Bally Sports, 19 of its RSNs may be in trouble. Recently, Diamond Sports Group (DSG), an independent subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting Group that owns these 19 RSNs, filed for bankruptcy.
But the good news is that Major League Baseball will likely take over the RSNs if DSG is no longer able to broadcast them.
Here are some of the most important dates to keep an eye on this season, including Opening Day, which starts at 1:05 p.m. ET with the first two games scheduled: Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants vs. New York Yankees.
- March 30: Opening Day
- April 29-30: Mexico City Series
- July 11: All-Star Game
- October 1: Final day of MLB regular-season
- October 3: MLB Playoffs
Note that the dates for the World Series, Division Series and Championship Series are TBD.
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