A multi-billion-dollar industry and growing, today meditation is big business. In the US alone, the market is predicted to hit $2.08 billion in value by 2022. Reimagined and repackaged to serve the needs of a digital-first generation plagued by poor mental health and the desire for self-optimisation, the ancient practice has firmly cemented itself as one of the key pillars of wellness.
THE STATS: Highlighting just how competitive the market has become, a recent report by Sensor Tower revealed that more than 2,500 meditation apps have flooded the space since 2015, with those at the top of the totem pole generating more than $195 million in revenue — a 52% increase in comparison to 2018.
According to Google, the number of searches around yoga and meditation apps, like ‘yoga for beginners app’ and ‘mindfulness apps’ have also increased by 65% YoY, so it’s of little surprise that more than 52 million users downloaded the top 10 meditation apps in 2019.
In fact, in North America, which is the leading market for mindfulness meditation apps, the number of people using them has risen by three times since 2012, with nearly 40% of people currently reporting weekly meditation and breathwork sessions. And, those doing so are willing to pay for a subscription if it means they’re better able to reach personal goals based on athletic performance, productivity, managing stress and more.
Headspace, for example, claims to have over two million paid subscribers, whilst Calm has more than one million paying customers.
THE CURRENT STATE OF PLAY: With the arrival of the coronavirus only working to accelerate consumer engagement with meditation apps further — according to Sensor Tower, in April 2020 the world’s 10 largest English-language mental wellness apps (specifically, those focused on meditation) saw a combined 2 million more downloads across the month compared with January — investors are understandably keen to continue pouring capital into the category.
Since February, Headspace has raised a further $93 million in new equity and debt financing, sleep and mindfulness app for children Moshi has raised $12 million in Series B funding, and Meditopia — the most-downloaded meditation app in non-English speaking markets — has raised $15 million in seed financing. And there are signs of more to come.
With so much activity saturating the space, incumbents and new entrants alike have now turned their attention to disrupting the status quo by creating more reflective and accessible pathways into the practice.
As we highlighted in our 2020 Consumer Wellness Trends Report, in an era where demand for personalisation is greater than ever before, identity-driven consumers are demanding a new approach to meditation –– one that’s more intuitive, reflective and diverse. For forward-thinking disruptors that can rise to the challenge, they have the potential to stand out in an increasingly competitive crowd and serve previously untouched demographics.
THE TRAILBLAZERS: Here we track the meditation apps that are leading the charge when it comes to making the practice more approachable, enjoyable and culturally relevant.
Who: Founded in 2018 by Brad Warsh and Mason Levey (co-founder of US boutique yoga brand Y7).
What: WAVE answers consumer demand for elevated at-home meditation that’s more culturally-driven. The platform, devised after Y7 noticed demand for music-driven meditation experiences, enables participants to make the practice a part of their daily routines — on their own terms.
“We asked consumers what activities they turn to for inspiration and empowerment. Listening to music was the #1 activity indicated by our respondents. People are already doing this on a daily basis, which further validates our framework for music-driven meditation content,” Warsh and Levey told PSFK.
The service, which mirrors the aesthetic and functionality of popular music apps, enables participants to share graphics featuring lyrics from the songs they have meditated to across social media platforms, whilst the vibrating WAVE Bolster makes a visually pleasing addition to the home. Engagement with the brand can be worn as a badge of honour — a way for consumers to share their personal journeys with mental wellness, but still feel part of a cool collective.
“Our goal is to shift the perception of meditation being a chore into it being a fun experience you actually want to do on a daily basis. By making the practice more approachable, enjoyable and culturally relevant, we’re creating a lifestyle brand that is meaningfully different than anything else on the market.”
Watch out for: Live meditation sessions, collaborations with trendy wellness brands including Kin Euphorics and Feals and Netflix-inspired mixes.
Who: Founded in 2010 by former monk Andy Puddicombe and co-founder Richard Pierson.
What: One of the global leaders in the category, Headspace has reached more than 62 million users in 190 countries, and is estimated to have grossed $56 million in 2019.
Widely regarded as a pioneer of the much-replicated guided meditation model that helped to bring the practice to the masses, rather than alter its core experience, in more recent years the company has made moves to appeal to a wider audience through creative collaborations and partnerships. Think Barbie, Sesame Street, British Airways, Hyatt Hotels, SXSW, Nike Run Club and Casper.
However, perhaps where innovation can be seen the most, is beyond its direct-to-consumer business. Headspace Health, the company’s revolutionary endeavour to integrate mindfulness into healthcare, is in the process of carrying out clinical trials, with the goal of making its initial prescription meditation program available to doctors as an important tool in improving patient health outcomes and quality of life. A move that further points to a future where the convergence of the health and wellness industries could revolutionise healthcare.
According to Pierson; “Headspace has shown millions of people the power of using mindfulness to mitigate stress, anxiety, and other everyday issues while continuing to advance the field through clinically-validated research.”
As for the next ten years? “We are focused on harnessing this power and applying it to other areas of our members’ lives to help them create healthy routines that last a lifetime – whether that is through our Headspace consumer app, the work we currently do with hundreds of employers, or with healthcare providers as we look to deliver better access,” he recently revealed.
Watch out for: Integration on social media platform Snapchat, in the form of a miniature Headspace app designed to meet younger generations where they already spent time
Who: Launched in 2012 by Alex Tew and Michael Acton Smith.
What: One of the wellness industry’s few unicorns (valued at more than $1 billion), Calm has grown rapidly to over 40 million downloads worldwide, with one new user joining every second. The company quadrupled revenue in 2018 and is currently on a $150 million annual revenue run rate, as well as boasting over 1 million paying subscribers.
What started as a meditation app, has grown far beyond that, argued Acton Smith recently.
Adding: “Our vision is to build one of the most valuable and meaningful brands of the 21st century.”
In its quest to do so, the company, which is bringing mental fitness to a wider audience through partnerships with Samsung, American Airlines, Sonos, Uber, XpresSpa and more, has been diversifying its offering to tap into growing wellness verticals such as sleep.
Sleep Stories, a feature launched in 2018, featuring narration from celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey, Stephen Fry and Harry Styles, is designed to encourage users to develop new app-related habits. Train Your Mind, meanwhile, taps into the growing self-help category via sessions narrated by athlete LeBron James, who opens up his playbook for mental fitness.
According to the startup, it plans to double down on entertainment through its content to keep subscribers engaged. “Calm needed something it could own, and that something was original content,” Acton Smith told Inc. last year. “We’re taking a leaf out of the Netflix strategy book,” he added.
Watch out for: The brand’s upcoming HBO Max show based around the app’s sleep Stories series. A celebrity-filled cast including Mahershala Ali, Idris Elba, Oscar Isaac, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Lucy Liu, Cillian Murphy and Keanu Reeves will provide narration against a background of visuals from the producers of National Geographic’s One Strange Rock documentary series.
Who: Launched in 2020 by founder Raffaele Ricci.
What: MEYA uses the power of electronic music to create a modernised approach to meditation which users can leverage to improve sleep patterns, enhance focus or learn to relax.
The startup’s in-house music producers and DJs create specific, mood-enhancing rhythms and
binaural beats to put the mind at ease and more receptive to empowering messages. Each MEYA Track is recorded in 432hz and includes the latest binaural technology to ‘entrain’ the mind, combined with cinematic techniques to trigger positive emotions.
To provide a more personalised and less restrictive approach than the classic guided meditation apps on the market, MEYA allows users to choose their goal and then select their preferred background music to match their mood and musical tastes. Whether it is during a morning commute, in the office, or in the gym, the meditation –– like listening to a song — is made accessible, easy and enjoyable dependent on the daily touchpoint or precise mood.
“For many people today, meditation that focuses on calming the mind and requires you to be still is difficult,” argues Ricci. “MEYA introduces a new way to meditate with dance electronic music; and whether you are still or dancing, the ‘entrainment’ power of the beats facilitate the desired, meditative state.”
By offering an alternative to traditional meditation, the app aims to connect with those who struggle to meditate and in doing so, reach more people.
Watch out for: MEYA intends to create a community of users who share its philosophy, as well as using audience data to inform new content.
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Who: Michael Acton Smith of Calm strikes again with this 2004 launched business, originally under the umbrella of parent company Mind Candy.
What: A mindful meditation and sleep app for children, Moshi aims to tap into the ever-expanding world of wellness for kids. It claims to help millions of families around the world become happier and healthier by helping kids relax and fall asleep at bedtime.
The Moshi Twilight app, which has told more than 40 million bedtime stories since launch and has been the #1 ranked app to help kids sleep in 60+ countries, includes Moshi Twilight Sleep Stories, an audio-only app filled with sleep stories, meditations, music and sounds.
Its secret sauce is bound up in its ability to not only help children to overcome sleep difficulties but in return enable their parents to get more uninterrupted sleep — one of the modern world’s most valued commodities and a market valued at more than $70+ billion in its own right.
Like Calm, Moshi has enlisted the help of celebrities including Sir Patrick Stewart and Goldie Hawn, who lend their voices to the app’s popular sleep stories. It also offers mindfulness content to be used to help navigate specific situations such as timeout or anxiety management.
“We see Moshi truly at the intersection of content and health/wellbeing,” argues Julia Hawkins early-stage investor at Latitude, which participated in the startup’s latest funding round.
“Here we have a true uncapped opportunity: everybody sleeps, and there are over 1.3 billion children under 10 in the world. And especially in today’s world, the role of Moshi is even more important in supporting families to manage anxiety and sleep,” she added.
Watch out for: The launch of new features expanding into mindfulness and meditation content for the family to do together.
Who: The startup was founded in 2017 by Fatih Celebi, Berk Yilmaz and Ali Murat Ceylan.
What: A mental wellness platform providing personalized content, including mindfulness-based meditations, sleep meditations, music and more, Meditopia is the most-downloaded meditation app in non-English speaking markets.
Combining mindfulness, science, and technology with a local look and feel that’s more intuitive for each audience, it focuses on long-term mental wellness programs that help people build mental resilience in their daily lives.
Available in 75 global markets, in 10 languages, thanks to its local and cultural relevance it has attracted 14 million users.
“Mental wellness is something everyone should be able to achieve, regardless of their country of origin, native language, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or religion,” commented Murat in a recent statement.
Adding: “We first focused our efforts on our home country Turkey before expanding worldwide so whether you are Latino, Japanese, Russian, North American, or Arab, you can find support and coaching in our global community.”
Watch out for: The platform, which currently offers over 400 recorded sessions on a broad range of topics: stress, anxiety, pregnancy, sexuality and more, plans to use recent investment to double down on localization, including finding local professionals for a better understanding of the culture and needs of respective markets.