Headspace: staying grounded during the Pandemic

The sudden outbreak of covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown resulted in the need for an ubiquitous and accessible solution for mental health. Headspace was definitely one of the big winners of the Pandemic.

The sudden outbreak of covid-19 at the beginning of 2020 left countries with no other option than to enforce strict lockdowns, affecting millions of jobs, families, and businesses. These negative outcomes of the curfew became evident immediately and have been since then a mayor object of concern for policymakers and journalists. However, the pandemic caused another inevitable negative impact on society which passed almost unnoticed in the media and social networks: mental health.

While the Coronavirus death toll became part of every news channel, millions were going through anxiety and depression at home. According to a national health survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 40% of adults in the US reported symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder during January 2021, a 300% increase versus a baseline pre-covid situation in the first half of 2019.

Considering the sudden worsening in collective mental health, and the isolation that households were subject to during the pandemic, the steep growth of Headspace during 2020 should come as no surprise.

Headspace was founded in 2010 and had its app launched in 2012, almost 10 years ago. Created by Andy Puddicombe, a college dropout who eventually became a Buddhist monk, Headspace is a secular meditation app which focuses on mindfulness and sleep. It was the first app which popularized and democratized the access to mindfulness through a program of guided meditations and content. Based on a freemium business model, the platform was able to grow its userbase rapidly while generating more and more new and original content.

As defined on their webpage: “Headspace has one mission: to improve the health and happiness of the world”. Therefore, it is easy to imagine why the company has experienced a so steep growth since covid hit. Its mission and its product precisely address the forementioned drop in health and happiness of the world caused by the Pandemic. Additionally, the virtual and mobile-first nature of the platform makes it ideal for individual at-home meditation. With millions of people forced to stay in their houses and looking for new platforms of content and entertainment, the rest is history.

Headspace doubled its number of registered users since March 2020, registering 70 million total downloads across all the platforms on which the service is offered. Its app currently has a 4.9 Stars average rating, and the company has secured $47.7 million more in equity funding in the middle of covid, as part of its Serie C. Also considering the $53 million raised in February, right before covid hit, the company has raised $215 million so far.

Although the context itself might have resulted in a strong organic growth for Headspace, the company has never stopped innovating in terms of their product. Nowadays there are literally thousands of apps competing with Headspace to a greater or lesser extent. The big rival to Headspace is Calm, a newer app with a somehow similar value proposition and comparable size and funding.

In order to stay relevant and competitive, Headspace has expanded their business model and product portfolio, and launched several new features during the past year:

  • B2B partnerships: The platform offers a service called Headspace for Work, where employers can trust Headspace to boost their employees’ mental wellbeing. Since the quarantine started in mid-March 2020, partnership requests have been up a 500%, and over 1,100 companies are already enrolled in the program.
  • “Headspace Guide to Meditation”: Co-created with Netflix and available on their platform, this guide is ideal for beginners who want to learn more about Headspace and start practicing meditation and mindfulness.
  • “Free for the Unemployed”: Back in May 2020, when millions of jobs were lost in the US, Headspace announced that it would offer a free yearly Headspace Plus subscription to all unemployed Americans.

As more and more people start looking after their mental health and as users get more and more comfortable with virtual guidance vs. an in-person class, the future looks bright for Headspace. However, the product faces fierce competition from Calm and countless other services, and the unavoidable risk of being disrupted. Once the world goes “back to normal”, Headspace must make sure that they don’t, and continue betting on B2B solutions and Headspace produced content in 3rd party platforms.

References

“‘Headspace Guide To Meditation’ Is The Perfect Show For Meditation Newbies”. 2021. Study Breaks. https://studybreaks.com/tvfilm/headspace-guide-to-meditation/.

Azevedo, Mary. 2021. “Meditation App Headspace Secures $47.7M More In Funding, Filing Shows”. Crunchbase News. https://news.crunchbase.com/news/meditation-app-headspace-secures-47-7m-more-in-funding-filing-shows/.

“Guided Meditation For Everybody – About Headspace”. 2021. Headspace. https://www.headspace.com/about-us.

“Headspace Announces Free One-Year Subscriptions For All Unemployed Americans”. 2021. Businesswire.Com. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200514005286/en/Headspace-Announces-Free-One-Year-Subscriptions-for-All-Unemployed-Americans.

“The Implications Of COVID-19 For Mental Health And Substance Use”. 2021. KFF. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/.

“The Mindfulness App Headspace Is Booming. But Is It Actually Effective?”. 2021. Advisory.Com. https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2020/08/14/mindfulness-app.

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2 thoughts on “Headspace: staying grounded during the Pandemic

  1. Thank you so much for this! I first heard of Headspace through Netflix. At one point, “Headspace Guide to Meditation” was in the top 5 shows to watch on Netflix, Thailand. Since then, the app has been quite popular in my country. To your point, I do think that collaboration with Netflix did help them thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic. The show allowed them to standout from indeed the thousands of apps available that are trying to address the same issue. To be able to grow sustainably after the pandemic, I would be curious to know how the company plans to continue to differentiate its features. One idea I have is to potentially partner with meditation gadget companies such as Muse, Aura, and Leaf Urban. https://www.mindful.org/three-meditation-gadgets-vying-for-your-attention/

  2. Hey Tomas, thanks for this article. I like how you talked about the initiatives Netflix took in order to expand their business model. I think what stands out for me is the sense of community that Headspace has managed to build with its app. I think this need for community has become even more important due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. Just like you, I wonder if Headspace will be able to gain the same traction after the pandemic, especially when we can return to becoming part of physical communities.

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