Moshi’s CEO Ian Chambers is on a mission to improve the health and happiness of a billion families around the world. It’s an ambitious target, one made all the more urgent by the coronavirus pandemic, but Chambers believes the company is well on track.
Since 2017, the #1 rated sleep and mindfulness audio app for kids, has delivered more than 50 million hours of sleep-inducing audio to its 160,000 annual subscribers in more than 60 countries around the world.
Originally an online entertainment platform called Moshi Monsters, Moshi was founded in 2005 by Michael Acton Smith. Dad-of-two Chambers joined a decade later when Smith left to launch sector superpower Calm, and pretty soon decided to dedicate the Moshi world to kids’ health and wellbeing.
“We effectively started again,” he tells Welltodo. “We moved away from games and websites and headed in this new direction, but drew on all the knowledge and intellectual property from what was created over many years.”
The app now delivers 30 minute audio experiences – a mix of gentle rhyming journeys with dreamy lullaby choruses, or meditations based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy – to help kids drift off to sleep.
Each story is dreamt up by Moshi’s BAFTA-winning “Director of Dozing” Steve Cleverley and a team of sleep scientists. “We’re helping kids discover the magic of mindfulness,” says Chambers. “And also catering to the health and wellbeing of the whole family by helping parents reclaim their evenings.”
Here Chambers reveals how the company, which closed a $12 million Series B round in April, evolved into what it is today.
On what makes Moshi stand out……
It’s our content, our intellectual property. Steve Cleverley is our chief creative, and the whole team behind Steve is world-class. Nearly everyone else in this space gets someone famous to voice a story, like Alice in Wonderland or Wind in the Willows. But they aren’t designed for the process of going to sleep. They’re bedtime stories that have been around for donkey’s years.
With Moshi, after you’ve read to your child and the lights go out, we’re getting kids learning how to fall asleep independently, and helping them deal with separation anxiety from their parents.
On Moshi’s creative process……
Every story is formed in a specific way. They start off engaging to activate the child’s dream-like mind and thoughts. And they become slowly more soporific over the course of 25 minutes to half an hour. They are a mixture of singing, narration, music, background noises. They’re just so magical. I really believe that’s the reason this works. That’s why parents come back every single night to use our content. It’s because our content works.
On how the pandemic has shifted Moshi’s consumer habits and needs……
The biggest change is that parents and families are spending a lot more time together, clearly, but that’s having an impact on the work/life blend. Parents are taking on different responsibilities at different times of the day, particularly where childcare has been impacted by the pandemic.
We’ve seen parents using Moshi for their kids because they want to have more time in the evenings. An overall rise in anxiety plus a change in work/life blend has undoubtedly shifted the relationship with these products. That’s not just a Moshi thing. We’ve seen that with Calm and Headspace and the whole market.
On making an impact on people’s lives……
As of September, our business has grown 180% on last year, with paid subscribers passing 150,000 but we were already growing strongly before the pandemic.
The thing that drives me every day is what our customers think. Just read any of the 50,000 reviews on our app. I had an email from a lady recently who told me her daughter suffers from diabetes and they have to take her to hospital for her injections. They then found Moshi and now she puts headphones on, listens to Moshi and can administer her injections herself at home.
Another parent of an autistic child told us they hadn’t been to sleep before midnight since the day he was born. He’s now four years old. Since they started using Moshi he goes to sleep at 8pm every night. That doesn’t just impact the health of the kid, it also impacts the wellbeing of the parents. It gives them their evenings back. When you read stuff like that you realise this is significantly improving peoples’ quality of life.
On introducing kids to the magic of mindfulness……
Currently we’re focused on the under 10s, but we know there’s been a rise in anxiety among pre-teens and young teenagers. As we learn and create more mindfulness content we want to set kids up for a lifelong relationship with the magic of mindfulness, to find ways to get them understanding and using it with their family, so when they’re older they have some of these tactics that will help support them during difficult periods in their lives.
On safeguarding kids in an increasingly digital world……
I think of it as a balanced digital diet. As a parent, I wanted to create experiences that are ultimately benefiting the wellness of the family. My background is in gaming, with previous roles at Ubisoft, EA (Electronic Arts) and IGN, and I believe gaming is an incredibly important and powerful entertainment media. But there also needs to be a sensible discussion about time spent, access, age ratings.
We need very thoughtful dialogue as companies about how kids balance their digital diet in a world of limitless media. Part of that is parenting, part is responsibility by companies, part is from government legislation. All we can do is focus on what we’re doing. We create an experience that is backed by science, and help transition kids from screen time to a very relaxed audio environment.
On the greatest innovations in the sleep sector……
Our stories are the biggest innovation in the sleep space right now. No one else has done it. No one has come close to it. In terms of the future, I believe we’ll see innovation in the delivery mechanism. We’ll see how that space evolves. Is it smart devices, speakers? I’m not sure which one will own the bedroom but we’ll always get our content onto the devices that make the most sense.
On investment and opportunities in the kids’ wellness sector……
Interest in kids’ health and wellbeing is certainly rising. We’ve come quite early to the table with a specific interest in kids, and you can see by the incredible investment into the likes of Calm and Headspace that the mindfulness sector is thriving — they’re into the hundreds of millions of financing. I’m sure we’ll get to that point as well but the kids’ space is a little further behind.
One of the things that’s very important is that as younger parents grow up and have children, those demographics are going to be looking for solutions for their children as well. If you think of a longer term view, as the younger users of Calm and Headspace start to have kids in the next 5-10 years then we can be there for their family.
On expanding into schools, hospitals and workplaces……
The reality is that sleep is a public health crisis and the market has 100% penetration because everyone sleeps, so there’s so much more room for us to expand. Right now we’re only in English, so we’re looking to add new languages in the foreseeable future. The other area is distribution. This year we’ve already provided our app to schools and nurseries for free to help them deal with the impact of the pandemic. We’re also looking at hospitals and travel.
We believe we can make meaningful differences anywhere kids sleep or need to take a bit of time out. We also recently launched Moshi for workplaces. More and more companies are focusing on health and wellbeing and it’s something we pride ourselves on too, so offering Moshi to employees through their companies is a really interesting way to reach more people.
On completing Moshi’s mission……
We’re a health and wellbeing business. Our vision is to improve the health and happiness of a billion families. At the moment we’re doing that through audio stories for sleep and audio content to introduce kids to the magic of mindfulness. In the future we’ll do anything that supports that vision. Who knows where we’re going to go next. Ultimately it always comes back to improving the health and happiness of families. We’ll do anything that supports that vision.