Calm.com, which began as a website that helped busy, information-overloaded web workers take a mental break, is now turning into a real business. The company is today announcing a $415,000 round of funding from a number of notable angel investors, and the debut of a mobile application initially aimed at teaching relaxation.
You may remember reading about Calm.com last summer when it was starting to generate some buzz. (For example, this Business Insider headline summed it up rather hilariously: “The Hyperactive Weirdos Of Silicon Valley Are Going Crazy For This Site That Calms Them Down.”) The idea, apparently seemed to have hit a nerve in a culture where it’s all about pushing forward, not resting, not sleeping, and always being connected.
“I struggle on a daily basis with addiction to social media and information,” Tew says. “I noticed over the years that it has affected my attention…and I think that’s true of most people nowadays.”
Tew, who has been meditating since age 14, says he has been interested in relaxation techniques like what Calm offers for some time. But what surprised him was the reaction to the “Do Nothing” website – after jumping up to 2 million uniques in its first day, he realized that there might be the potential for something beyond just a fun side project.
He teamed up with Calm co-founder Michael Acton Smith shortly thereafter to work on the new effort. Smith is still a co-founder today, though not involved day-to-day, as he’s also CEO and founder of gaming company Mind Candy, maker of the popular Moshi Monsters title. Tew says that Smith checks in weekly, and still sits on the board, but development to date comes from himself and one other engineer currently. (But he’s now looking to hire.)
With the mobile app, iPhone-only to start, users are walked through a program called “The 7 Steps of Calm,” which was developed with a London-based meditation teacher, Maggie Richards. The app is a free download, and the first session is free, but to unlock the rest it’s a $4.99 in-app purchase.
“We’re trying not to use the word ‘meditation’”, Tew notes. He says that the word puts off some people who see it as some whole new skill they would have to learn. “We want people to go to Calm.com rather than having to learn to meditate which is seen as this heavy, high-friction thing,” he says. “We want to have a much simpler thing. If you need to be Calm, you can just go to Calm.com and follow the instructions.”
The longer-term vision for the company is to grow beyond being an easy app for relaxation, into a platform for offering other sorts of personal development tools for things that range from quitting smoking to learning to be more creative. Users could choose to subscribe to Calm’s content on a subscription basis. ”If we could be the Netflix of personal development,” says Tew, “that would be cool.”
Getting deeper into the personal development market would mean that Calm could compete against marketplace-style resources like LiveNinja for instance, which more broadly offers a way for users to teach others and offer advice or services. But Tew says that he wouldn’t take Calm down the marketplace route, as the company will remain the producer of all content itself.