Interview: Colombe Mandula, co-founder and COO of Simundia

Educapital
5 min readApr 17, 2024

Colombe Mandula is the co-founder of Simundia. Alongside her co-founder, Grégoire Schiller, this clinical psychologist has dedicated herself to democratizing coaching within the corporate sphere. Presently, Simundia spans across 40 countries, boasting a community of over 300 coaches and providing guidance to thousands annually.

How did you transition from clinical psychology to entrepreneurship?

I’ve always been interested in personal and professional development. I firmly believe that it extends beyond therapy settings and can be applied across diverse domains such as business. Delving into human understanding is essential. Psychology governs so much. It provides a valuable perspective applicable in everyday scenarios, regardless of your activity.

What did you do after completing your Master’s in psychology?

After completing my psychology studies, I enrolled in HEC Entrepreneurs. To me, it felt like a natural progression since I had a keen interest in entrepreneurship. I’ve always aimed to integrate both fields, even though the exact path wasn’t clear at the time. While this trajectory may have appeared unexpected, I had a broader vision for the future. Embracing multiple professional endeavors and exploring diverse opportunities resonated with me from an early stage. After all, life offers ample time for exploration.

Did you start your professional journey as an employee?

I found it intriguing to gain experience within a company, to observe, to undergo training, and to learn. I worked at My Little Paris, with the Boston Consulting Group, and founded my first company, WomenNow, which aimed at creating content to empower Indian women. Then, in 2017, I co-founded Simundia. I was introduced to Grégoire (Simundia’s co-founder) by friends, and we soon discovered that we complemented each other well. He was already immersed in the project, and I became deeply engaged.

What do you and Grégoire promote through your company today with your teams?

For us, coaching should be genuinely accessible to all. This could significantly improve both well-being and performance. We believe there’s still a need to raise awareness about the importance of seeking regular guidance, as we all face new or challenging situations daily, and seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be viewed as taking charge of one’s own life. Mental health remains a taboo subject today, but it should become as routine as physical health.

How do you take care of your mental health?

Entrepreneurship is like a marathon. Establishing daily routines is essential for endurance. Personally, I engage in morning yoga sessions, reading, and organizing frequent lunches with fellow entrepreneurs and coaches, which serve as rejuvenating moments. At Simundia, we’ve implemented various rituals that prove quite beneficial. This includes partner meetings every Monday morning, followed by a company-wide gathering. Fridays are dedicated to recapping the week’s achievements. While some may perceive these rituals as restrictive, they actually provide a sense of calm and structure.

Who has been a source of inspiration for you along your journey?

Maybe it’s my psychology background, but I don’t believe anyone is completely inspiring. There are always complexities. Instead, I find myself drawn to specific behaviors and attitudes. Sometimes, I’m impressed by the personalities of individuals I encounter and their approach to various situations. It’s really the combination of these small, remarkable aspects from different people that can be truly inspiring. All of these individuals serve as my daily role models in some way.

You’re one of the few women in the tech industry. Have you encountered any challenges?

When I first launched my company, I faced difficulties because I was consistently one of the few women present. The investors were predominantly men, as were my colleagues… Some behaviors were unsettling. Asserting myself wasn’t straightforward, and I even sought coaching on the matter. However, I no longer feel this way today. I’ve gained more confidence in myself. It’s fantastic now; half of Simundia’s team comprises women, and the majority of our managers are women too! By actively recruiting women, we’ve attracted even more. Additionally, most of our coaches are also women.

Does this observation extend to the coaching field as well?

And it applies to psychological support overall. In France, around two-thirds of the clientele are women. There are significant societal pressures for men to exhibit strength and resilience. This underscores the value of coaching in the business realm; we’re able to effectively engage men, a crucial aspect for instigating change within organizations. Empowering women necessitates the involvement of men. Coaching offers a results-driven, action-oriented approach that strongly resonates with men, and that’s incredibly beneficial.

In your opinion, how can we attract more women to entrepreneurship or scientific careers?

It undoubtedly requires the presence of more role models, ideally ones that reflect realistic experiences. Additionally, we must recognize and appreciate the importance of diversifying traditionally female-dominated professions, particularly in caregiving roles such as elderly care and childcare. These fields are predominantly staffed by women, often underpaid and undervalued, despite their fundamental significance.

Has a book recently made an impact on you?

One of my all-time favorite books is ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This masterpiece follows the saga of a Colombian family across generations, skillfully blending magical realism with everyday life. The way it portrays extraordinary events in a remarkably ordinary manner is utterly captivating. It’s a narrative technique I deeply appreciate. In fact, I was so enthralled by the book that I’ve visited Colombia twice since reading it!

COLOMBE MANDULA’S PROUST QUESTIONNAIRE

What’s the highlight of your workday?

Seeing my inbox empty.

What technology captivates you?

Rockets.

Any tech you’re not fond of?

I can’t grasp the appeal of smartwatches. We already have computers and phones. Adding a watch with constant notifications for emails and messages feels completely disconnecting. It’s just not for me.

Another profession you’d consider?

I’ve always been drawn to law. I enjoy advocating for causes, and in entrepreneurship, there’s a similar aspect, especially in the beginning stages. There’s a sense of defending a vision, even when others doubt it. Being a lawyer would have been fulfilling.

What street would you add to your favorite city?

I adore Marseille, and I’d love a magical little street that instantly transports me from Paris to Marseille whenever I need to recharge in the Calanques.

An object that inspires you?

Books. They’re tiny yet hold immense power. Through them, you can journey to countless places and experience a myriad of emotions.

Interview by Zoélie Adam-Maurizio for Educapital

--

--

Educapital

We invest in entrepreneurs shaping the future of education and work