Headspace Health: Your Mind’s Best Friend
The Headspace app helps you create life-changing habits to support your mental health and find a healthier, happier you.
Mindfulness and proper meditation techniques may be unfamiliar to most of us. Yet they are proven healing concepts. With origins in Buddhism, practicing mindfulness is known to help reduce stress. It also helps with diverse conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, heart ailments, psoriasis, sleep disorders, and mental health issues.
Unfortunately, like most people, you may not have indulged in these therapies due to your busy lifestyle or lack of awareness. Fortunately, there is a company that is changing that.
Headspace was founded by Andy Puddicombe and Richard Pierson when they decided it was time for a change.
Headspace is a digital health application that teaches users the art of meditation and dealing with stress. Through the app, users learn proper mindfulness and breathing techniques. As a result, you can reduce stress by 14% in just 10 days. The techniques in the app help you relax your mind in minutes, improve focus, and get great sleep.
Keep reading the story of how Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk with a degree in Circus Arts, and an aspiring entrepreneur, Richard Pierson, came up with the brilliant idea of an app to make meditation and relaxation more accessible to everyone.
Meet the Co-founders
Puddicombe was born in London, grew up in Bristol, UK, and attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham. After his parents divorced, his mother regularly took him to meditation classes. He was eleven at the time, and meditation made him feel better.
One early Christmas morning, Puddicombe—age 22 at the time— met with a tragedy while standing outside a nightclub with his friends. A drunk driver crashed into them, killing two and injuring most of the rest. Puddicombe got saved as he had stepped away from the group before the tragedy happened. Three months later, his step-sister was run over and killed in another accident. More bad news followed. Soon after, he lost another friend during their heart surgery.
Therapy wasn't a thing in the UK back then. So, Puddicombe went to other countries to get rid of those difficult feelings in his mind. Yet, upon returning, the questions in his mind remained.
In 1994, Puddicombe was in the middle of his Sports Science degree at De Montfort University. That's when he unexpectedly diverted his interest to travel to Asia and study meditation in the Himalayas. After ten years of traveling around the globe, his journey culminated in North India, where his ordination as a Buddhist monk took place.
In 2004, Puddicombe taught Meditation in Russia for a good part of the year. He followed that up with a brief stint at the Moscow State Circus. He then returned to London and attained a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts from the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama. His interest in Circus Arts stemmed from his desire to rebuild his muscle strength.
In 2006, Puddicombe set up his private meditation practice as a mindfulness and meditation trainer in London, which he ran for four years. That's where he met Richard Pierson— his to-be business partner and co-founder of Headspace.
At the time, Pierson was a struggling professional who booked an appointment with Puddicombe. He suffered from social anxiety and was healed through meditation. The two of them immediately connected.
Pierson was born in Kent (South of London), where his parents were established entrepreneurs. He went to boarding school at age 13 and later to Nottingham Trent University, where he studied Media and Cultural Studies.
After attaining his university degree, Pierson pursued a career in the advertising industry in London. He rose through the ranks quickly but felt burned out of the industry and wanted to meditate instead. Before the launch of Headspace in 2010, he had 8 or 9 business ideas cooking that he was trying to get off the ground.
Pierson decided to spread the word about the benefits of meditation. So, he expressed his interest in partnering with Puddicombe in his business.
They started with a book and workshops. By 2010, they were down to their last $50,000 from the book advance. However, the last roll of the dice proved lucky for the duo behind Headspace!
The Genius of Headspace
Headspace transformed the meditation and wellness industry. It entered the global market through its genius— teaching something as complex as mindfulness meditation by breaking it down into bite-sized, snackable videos, audio, and practices.
Although the duo was from non-technical backgrounds, Pierson's innovative mind wanted to create the "Nike Plus" of mindfulness by taking the concept online. So, in 2012, the duo put the app together in beta and launched it, after which they got lucky immediately.
The initial bit of luck that helped their app take off came from The Guardian newspaper. Rallying behind what Andy and Richard believed, the publication agreed to put a million booklets in front of every Guardian newspaper advertising the app.
Guardian's kind gesture helped Headspace rake in 36,000 pounds in their first January alone. An amount equal to what they had earned in the previous 18 months.
Striking Lucky Early On
The lucky streak continued. Another stroke of luck was Virgin Atlantic's decision to add bespoke Headspace meditation content to its inflight entertainment system.
The workshops leading up to the app launch were wonderful events that conveyed the message about mindfulness and meditation's benefits. The events were also excellent opportunities to understand what things were affecting people.
The events instilled deep faith in Puddicombe and Pierson's teachings and caught the attention of many organizations. The Guardian newspaper and Virgin Atlantic were just a couple of those organizations. Albeit important ones.
In November 2012, Andy Puddicombe gave a TED Talk, "All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes." The talk outlined the many benefits of practicing mindfulness daily. The TED Talk was also a big deal at that time.
The Headspace App
However, not just organizations but different people also helped propel Headspace in the early days through their time and contacts. For example, help came from an agency that offered to build the Headspace app at an 80% reduction. The agency deeply believed in what the co-founders were doing. Consequently, the animations and recordings for the app were all done for free.
Help came in unique ways. At one of the workshop events, a visitor's suggestion in the form of a question took the co-founders aback. The question got the founders thinking and ultimately transitioned the company on a different growth path. A path that proved great for its bottom line.
That question was: Have you thought about making your app subscription-based?
If Puddicombe and Pierson hadn't taken that suggestion seriously, perhaps they wouldn't have the over 2 million paying subscribers they have today.
The Growth Journey of Headspace
Being non-technical founders, Puddicombe and Pierson didn't set out to create a billion-dollar business. Instead, they merely wanted to create a commercially viable business they were passionate about.
Along their journey, they had plenty of support for their company's mission: To improve the health and happiness of the world. The support helped. As a result, the app has been downloaded more than 65 million times. It has users in over 190 countries (in five languages), 100+ employees, annual revenue exceeding $100 million, and offices in London, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
The app has over 300 hours of guided meditation and exercises to combat stress and sleep-related problems. The app is consistently among the top-ranked apps in the Health & Fitness category on both iTunes and the Google Play Store.
Headspace isn't just any app, though. The company has hundreds of commercial clients. Over 600 companies, including Google, LinkedIn, Starbucks, Adobe, and General Electric, leverage the app to help their management and staff mediate. Furthermore, the company has partnered with the likes of Stanford, Harvard, and the U.K's National Health Service to study the effects of meditation.
In June 2017, Headspace engaged Ross Hoffman as the company's Chief Business Officer. He acknowledged that a balance between why Headspace exists and building the business is important for future growth. In essence, Headspace exists to bring greater happiness to others. Thus, focusing on revenue is important, but not to the extent that it should interfere with upholding the culture and the product.
The Launch of Headspace Health
In June 2018, the company launched its subsidiary Headspace Health. To develop FDA-approved meditation tools to help treat a spectrum of chronic diseases.
In August 2021, Headspace merged with the online mental health platform Ginger.io. After the deal, the combined valuation of the two entities was $3 billion. Their merger combines Headspace's meditation and mindfulness app with Ginger's teletherapy services. As a result, Headspace Health became one of the largest startups focused on mental health.
The Way Forward for Headspace Health
The future is promising for Headspace Health and its users. The company is constantly on an expansion path. Its January 2022 acquisition of startup Sayana—an AI-driven mental health and wellness company— was the latest expansionary step.
That strategic acquisition came just six months after Headspace's merger with Ginger.io. Acquiring Sayana is a move targeted at expanding Headspace Health's ability to provide personalized self-care content to its 100 million+ users.
The increase in the need for mindfulness and meditation in the US alone is staggering. Triggered by the pandemic, there's been a doubling of those with acute anxiety, depression, or other mental health needs.
Moving ahead, through its AI and data science-backed platform, Headspace Health strives to deliver an integrated experience by addressing a full range of mental health needs (prevention to clinical care).
Concerning the current status of the co-founders, both Puddicombe and Pierson continue to practice meditation daily out of firm belief. Of course, that's something all the people who work at Headspace are aware of and encouraged by.
Currently, Pierson is the CEO, doing the management and employee oversight. He ensures the company is running properly. Puddicombe is focused on growing the app and continuing to be its famous voice.
As for the rest of us, the message is loud and clear— we must be kind to our minds. So, why not download the app known worldwide to bring peace and tolerance to every home it's a part of!