Edith Cooper and Jordan Taylor didn’t set out to help corporate America with its diversity challenges, but their professional development startup, Medley, is attracting attention from companies that want their employees to interact with leaders from different walks of life.
The anti-racism protests that followed the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the subsequent introspection at companies “have shown us is that Medley is needed now more than before,” says Taylor, who began working with Cooper, her mother, on an idea for a membership-based community in 2018. “We’re trying to create a consistent way for people to people to invest in their ability to relate to others.”
Medley, which formally launches today, organizes members into small groups that meet monthly with a certified coach. Members also can tap into workshops and forums. Membership fees range from $50 to $250 a month. (The founders have implemented a sliding scale to promote inclusivity.) Prospective candidates who apply in July are eligible for a founding membership rate of $150 monthly and $1,500 annually.
Cooper and Taylor say the groups are carefully curated, so that participants aren’t placed with people from the same company or sector, unlike other professional memberships, which often are organized by industry.
Cooper, who sits on the boards of Etsy, Slack, and EQT, and served as global head of human capital management at Goldman Sachs for a decade, says she and Taylor didn’t plan to market the memberships to companies. But in recent weeks, several companies have approached Medley about underwriting memberships for their employees.
“Organizations are starting to understand the anguish their people are going through,” she says, referring to the emotions that have surfaced as a result of the protests as well as anxieties tied to the spread of COVID-19. Businesses are seeking “to provide opportunities to put the personal, the professional, and the philsophical together.”
Still, Cooper says, the success of the groups hinges largley on individuals who apply to Medley on their own. “We believe that individual responsibiltiy and commitment is a key driver,” she says. “When people sign up and pay money [out of their own pocket], they show up in a different way.”
Taylor, who was chief of staff of the media company Mic and worked at Boston Consulting Group, said membership at launch will be virtual. Monthly meetings will take place via videoconference—she and Cooper settled on a group size of eight partly because larger meetings proved unsuccessful on video platforms. The pair temporarily shelved plans to open a physical space in New York for meet-ups.
Investors in Medley include Damien Dwin, cofounder and co-CEO of Brightwood Capital Advisors, Jen Rubio, cofounder of luggage company Away, and Tim Armstrong, founder of technology company DTX.
“Medley instantly struck a chord with me because people should belong to a mind and development gym like they belong to a fitness gym,” says Armstrong, who recalls meeting Cooper when he was CEO of AOL and she was at Goldman Sachs. “Most people spend more time on their fitness goals than their career goals. Medley also empowers people to own their own development, and not outsource.”