Insider No. 47: What’s Next in Mindfulness?

The Business of Mindfulness

In recent years, meditation and mindfulness have broken into the mainstream. As a result, this centuries-old practice has become a buzzword and newly minted investment muse. But does our obsession with mindfulness and the commoditization of meditation defeat the purpose? And as the industry matures, what’s next in mindfulness? Let’s take a look.

Mainstream mindfulness: the business of mindfulness is fast becoming a pillar of the $4.2T wellness industry.

  • The US meditation industry is now worth $1B, according to IBISWorld.
  • By 2024, the alternative healthcare industry—including meditation, acupuncture, breathing exercises, yoga and tai chi, and chiropractic services—will be worth $19.9B.
  • Meditation and mindfulness are the fastest-growing health trends in America, with nearly 40% of people reporting weekly meditation and breathwork sessions.

This trend is being driven by a few key factors, including smartphone apps, new research, wellness culture, and the rise of burnout.

Technology. The integration of technology into traditional mindfulness practices makes meditation accessible and affordable for people all over the world. How accessible? On iTunes, for instance, there are nearly 1,000 mindfulness and meditation apps to choose from.

Science. New research on mindfulness and meditation has proven the practice’s benefits, even for people who practice for as little as 10 minutes. From controlling and managing pain to lowering blood pressure and lessening the symptoms of depression, the results are real.

Wellness. The rising popularity of wellness culture and self-care have thrust mindfulness into the spotlight. Perpetuated by the Wellness Industrial Complex, meditation and mindfulness are perfectly aligned with our never-ending pursuit of optimization and productivity.

Burnout. According to a 2018 APA poll, 40% of Americans are more anxious than they were at this time last year. Today’s teenagers report higher rates of anxiety and depression, too. Mindfulness, then, seems like a natural remedy to combat these difficult trends.

An ethical conundrum: Some experts have gone so far as to call this industry boom “McMindfulness”, referencing the fact that a 10-minute, app-assisted meditation or a technology-enabled meditation headband stray incredibly far from the original intent of a Buddhist meditation practice, which has no end goal.

In traditional Buddhist meditation practices, there is no opportunity to “do it right” because the process isn’t something you judge. Additionally, meditation and mindfulness programs are also traditionally offered for free, which presents an interesting market tension.

Money on my mind: Despite the apparent conflict, this industry isn’t going anywhere, and opportunities for business and revenue growth will continue to rise.

To date, Headspace and Calm have managed to build billion-dollar businesses on the back of this trend. Following their lead, a growing list of startups and investors are hoping that their mindfulness play will hit it big. Recent funding rounds and products launches include:

  • WAVE Meditation, a music-driven meditation app and sensory, vibrating pillow, closed $5.65M in seed funding.
  • Journey Meditation, a subscription-based group meditation app, landed $2.4M in seed funding.
  • Core raised $4M for its handheld meditation training device.
  • Calm Radio, a provider of “life-enhancing music” for focus, relaxation, mindfulness, and sleep, secured $1.25M.
  •, a wellness platform focused on interactive meditation and movement coaching, raised $3M from SoftBank Capital.
  • Elevate Labs, a “mental fitness” startup, closed $7.1M in Series B funding after announcing its new personalized meditation app, Balance.

Zooming out: Meditation and mindfulness are paving the way for mental health startups hoping to address depression, anxiety, and burnout. Next, we expect to see more wellness-infused, technology-enabled mental health startups emerge. From Two Chairs and Alma to Talkspace and Lyra Health, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what is sure to become a massive industry.

📉 The Boutique Bust?

In recent years, boutique fitness has been booming. But now, there’s uncertainty in the system.

First, a looming recession threatens to derail the explosive growth. If the markets sour, expect members to rethink spending $34/class. However, a financial crisis isn’t the only concern.

Initially, boutiques thrived as an alternative to big-box gyms. But, as Bloomberg points out, incoming concepts that look to stand out from the crowd, like cold-weather and prison-style workouts, are becoming “comically niche”, contributing to a fragmentation and near over-saturation. Meanwhile, Planet Fitness, one of the biggest of the big-boxes, is surging.

Similarly, connected fitness represents an existential crisis. As we learned in breaking down Peloton’s S-1, more than 500K users are cycling at home. Let’s assume a few of them ditched their studio membership.

Lastly, the ongoing wellness-ification of everything is creating competition for fitness studios. Now, consumers are tapping into their would-be sweat budget to spend on self-care at acupuncture, napping, stretching, and spa concepts.

Looking ahead: Surely, there’s a course-correction coming. Whether it will be a hard reset or a recalibration remains to be seen.

🛏 The Nike of Sleep

When direct-to-consumer mattress company Casper got its start back in 2014, its bed-in-a-box model was both disruptive and novel. In the years since, the category has become increasingly crowded, forcing Casper to dream bigger.

The solution? A pivot to wellness. More than ever, a good night’s sleep has become an essential component of any self-care routine. As a result, selling sleep has become a billion-dollar business.

  • Humans spend about one-third of their lives sleeping.
  • Sleep deprivation costs the US $411B of lost productivity each year.
  • The global market for sleep aids is expected to reach $101.9B by 2023.

Bolstered by wellness culture and inspired by Nike, Casper hopes it can live up to its billion-dollar valuation by building the definitive brand in the sleep space. This plan has seen the company build an ever-expanding portfolio of products, including bedding, pillows, bed frames, a sleep-enhancing night light, and, most recently, CBD gummies.

Casper’s rumored public offering comes at a time when the market has soured on unprofitable, cash-burning startups like Uber and WeWork. Worse, although Casper brought in $400M in 2018 revenue, its competitor Tempur Sealy earned $2.7B. So, while the “Nike of sleep” definitely sounds cooler, it’s just another way of saying “we have to make more money.”

📰 News & Notes

📱Meet Onyx

This week’s startup spotlight features Onyx, a smartphone-based digital training app that uses AI-powered movement tracking to count your reps, correct your form, and provide on-demand workouts streamed directly to your phone.

We spoke with CEO Asaf Avidan Antonir.  >> Read the full Q&A here.

💰 Money Moves

  • Salad chain Sweetgreen closed $150M in funding, bringing the company’s valuation to $1.6B.
  • Denmark-based Simple Feast, an on-demand provider of plant-based meals, raised $33M in Series B funding.
  • Kaia Health, a digital therapeutics startup that uses AI-guided exercise to treat chronic pain, raised $8M from Optum Ventures.
  • Venus Williams invested in Zeel, a therapeutic massage company bringing massage therapists to your door. Williams will also serve on the board of directors.
  • Crisp, a startup that uses big data analysis to reduce food waste, raised $14.2M in funding led by FirstMark Capital.
  • Heal, a leading medical house call provider, acquired Doctors on Call, a NY-based house call network. More from Fitt Insider >> DTC Healthcare
  • Cannabis holding company Future State Brands launched with $25M in funding led by Cresco Capital. More from Fitt Insider >> Weed is Wellness
  • NurturMe, an allergen-free organic baby food company, was acquired by investment firm Grays Peak Capital for an undisclosed amount.
  • FeetMe, a leading tech-based gait assessment and rehabilitation company, closed €9.4M in Series A funding led by LBO France.
  • UK-based ACAI Activewear, a women’s outdoor clothing brand, raised £350K in funding led by Dow Schofield Watts Angels.
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