People to Know / Punch Profiles : Merlin Kauffman, Founder + CEO of Soothe

Merlin Kauffman Aug 2015
Merlin Kauffman, Founder + CEO of Soothe (photo provided by Soothe)

By Punch Contributor Melinda Contreras 

Not too long ago, I read a tweet that asked, “Is there an app for me to find + pay someone to come to my office to rub the knot out of my neck?” The answer is yes, yes there is. That app is Soothe. The app that will bring a massage therapist to your home in as little as an hour was founded by Merlin Kauffman. Kauffman first stepped into entrepreneurship at age 17  by co-founding a company that offered wireless internet access to communities and coffee shops in his home state of  Indiana. This venture was soon followed with success acquiring domain names.  Kauffman then came up with the idea for Soothe after being unable to book a massage therapist in Boston after 7 p.m. In addition to improving access for consumers, Kauffman saw Soothe as a great opportunity to improve the wages of massage therapists, who typically makes less than 50% of fees when working for a traditional spa.  In between bringing Soothe to new cities (including DC), Kauffman took a few minutes to chat with us about education, his favorite apps, and more.

Pamela’s Punch: Briefly describe your average day at work.

Merlin Kauffman: There is no “average” day at work. 🙂 I primarily focus on Soothe’s growth by recruiting talented people to join our team and identifying partners for future expansion.

PP: What do you enjoy most about your job?

MK: I love that we are empowering our massage therapists to be their own bosses, work flexible schedules and earn 4x more on average than they would working at a traditional spa. We also deliver a relaxing experience to our customers in the comfort of their own homes at the touch of a button, which was previously not possible.

PP: You began working at age 11. What sparked you to get a job so young? Did you participate in any other extracurricular activities at school or in your community? 

MK: I was obsessed with my computer and technology when I was young. I was part of Apple’s eWorld around 1996 or 1997 when they shut down and migrated over to ‘keyword Apple’ on AOL. I learned programming primarily through AOL’s training course on RAINMAN, which was their propriety programming language. As far as extracurricular activities, I was a chess champion and avid basketball player.

(photo provided by Soothe)

PP: What on-demand apps do you use most often?

MK: Uber and Washio. Uber’s execution is the best there is and Washio helps me keep my clothes clean, with minimal effort.

PP: In the past week, what have you needed on-demand most?

MK: Rides. I travel a lot.


PP: What types of massages do you treat yourself to most often? Why?

MK: Sports massage – I am an active guy.

PP: You were told by a professor that a degree was only a piece of paper, but you later enrolled in Harvard’s Executive Business Program. What is your perspective on post-secondary education? (What would you tell your children about its importance?) 

MK: Attending Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program was a tremendous honor. I would tell my kids that secondary and post secondary education is important, but it also depends on each person. If you know what you want to do, college can really slow you down.

(photo provided by Soothe)

PP: How do you define success?

MK: Success is loving what you are doing and exploring the world with awesome people you surround yourself with.

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