Not only has Headspace disrupted the ancient contemplative practice of meditation; it enables users to disrupt themselves by reducing stress and anxiety, improving relationships, and boosting performance at work. It is a technological solution to our pandemic of burnout fueled by…technology. Headspace makes finding that centered place within as easy as checking Facebook or watching Netflix. As co-founder Andy Puddicombe, a former Tibetan Buddhist monk said, “All you need to do is to take 10 minutes out a day to step back, to familiarize yourself with the present moment so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in your life.”
What is it?
Headspace has a freemium business model. Users download the app or sign up on headpace.com. The first 10 guided meditations are free and allow you to experience Puddicombe’s calming British-accented narration. If you want to continue, you can sign up for a paid “gym membership for your mind.”
Subscriptions include thousands of hours of meditations organized into series including “Sport,” “Health,” “Relationships,” and “Performance”. Each series has packs of 10-30 meditations around specific topics. For “Health,” these include cancer, depression, self-esteem, stress, anxiety, sleep and pregnancy. There are also shorter meditations for children and stand-alone “singles” that can be used for everything from meltdowns to fear of flying.
There are currently 10 million users in 160 countries; the percentage of paying users is not public.
To keep users motivated, the first screen on the app is a timeline showcasing completed meditations as well as the next few meditations in their current pack. Key stats are displayed, including the “current run streak,” the number of consecutive days a user has meditated. Awards are earned for achieving milestones, with the holy grail being the “365-days-straight” award. Headspace also integrates with Apple Health, which tracks minutes spent meditating.
Goldman Sachs and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are among the organizations offering Headspace as an employee benefit.  Last year, Headspace raised $30 million in venture capital to develop a specialized offering for corporate clients. As companies are increasingly looking to capitalize on the benefits of mindfulness, this has high potential.
Headspace also partners with companies to bring meditation to their customers. Its videos are featured on the Virgin Atlantic inflight entertainment system. This month, Spotify began offering a bundled subscription with Headspace in Scandinavia at €5.00 off the cost of purchasing both separately. Here is a fun collaboration with Selfridges Department Store in the UK.
Headspace employs innovative digital strategies to raise awareness about its app:
- It is active across social media platforms and regularly engages with people who mention the brand. This encourages users to generate virtual word of mouth advertising.
- It produced a free podcast called “Radio Headspace” on general interest topics related to mindfulness — a great way to attract new customers.
- The founders frequently give interviews to niche sites/blogs (e.g. Fatherly.com) and podcasts (e.g Tim Ferris). Targeting stressed out audiences and people interested in self-improvement is a great free way to build brand awareness and acquire customers
Where should Headspace go?
The founders have suggested a future iteration of the app could serve people the right meditation for any given circumstance based on biofeedback from wearables: “If your heart rate is elevated we can say, ‘Oh hey, why don’t you try a stress single?’” They can take this a step further by gauging how users respond to different meditations through building a feedback mechanism that assesses how users are feeling after a meditation so it can gauge what works for different people and personalize offerings.
Headspace has a basic “buddy system” in which users can keep tabs on the progress of up to five friends who have opted in and send them an encouraging nudge. They could expand this functionality to allow users to find all of their Facebook friends on the platform and allow groups to create challenges and listen to the same meditation concurrently. These network effects created by having more friends engaged on the platform could keep users from falling off the bandwagon and ending their subscriptions. Headspace could also enable users to post automatic social updates from the app letting friends know they are meditating and any achievements they have earned. These would serve as great endorsements for Headspace.
Headspace could create a platform for third-party guided meditations. This would increase the amount of content, add stylistic diversity, and convert other meditation producers into Headspace evangelists. These producers could be compensated on a per-play basis.
Content for Other Apps
Headspace could allow people to download meditation packs on iTunes and Amazon and stream select meditations on Spotify. This is another way to generate revenue from people who don’t want yet another subscription. And who knows, perhaps they’ll be converted!
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 Emma Seppala, “How Meditation Benefits CEOs,” Harvard Business Review, December 14, 2015, https://hbr.org/2015/12/how-meditation-benefits-ceos, accessed November 2016.
 “Andy Puddicombe: All It Takes is 10 Mindful Minute,” TED, filmed November 2012, https://www.ted.com/talks/andy_puddicombe_all_it_takes_is_10_mindful_minutes?language=en, accessed November 2016.
 Sarah Mahoney, “Mainstreaming Mindfulness: Headspace Launches First Ad Campaign,” MediaPost, November 2, 2016, http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/288185/mainstreaming-mindfulness-headspace-launches-firs.html, accessed November 2016.
 Lizzie Widdicombe, “The Higher Life: A Mindfulness Guru for the Tech Set,” The New Yorker, July 6, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/06/the-higher-life, accessed November 2016.
 Justine Hofherr, “‘Mindfulness’ is Coming to the Corporate World in a Big Way, So We Tried it Out,” Boston.com, October 13, 2015, https://www.boston.com/jobs/jobs-news/2015/10/13/mindfulness-is-coming-to-the-corporate-world-in-a-big-way-so-we-tried-it-out, accessed November 2016.
 Andrea Smith, “This Airline’s Aromatherapy and Mindfulness Additions Aim to Help Banish Jetlag,” Lonely Planet, August 3, 2016, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2016/08/03/airline-aromatherapy-banish-jetlag/, accessed November 2016.
 “Spotify and Headspace Partner to Encourage Meditation and Mindfulness,” Spotify press release, November 3, 2016, https://press.spotify.com/my-en/2016/11/03/spotify-and-headspace-partner-to-encourage-meditation-and-mindfulness, accessed November 2016.
 Bill Barol, “The Monk and the Mad Man Making Mindfulness For The Masses,” Fast Company, January 28, 2015, https://www.fastcompany.com/3041402/body-week/the-monk-and-the-mad-man-making-mindfulness-for-the-masses, accessed November 2016.
Featured image from www.headspace.com, accessed November 2016.
Timeline and Progress screenshots from Richard Feloni, “I’ve Used a Meditation App Loved by Wall Streeters and Olympic Athletes Daily for the Past 8 Months, and Now I Can’t Imagine My Life Without It,” Business Insider, Aug 21, 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com/headspace-meditation-app-2016-8/, accessed November 2016.