Mindfulness startup (and Spotify partner) Headspace raises $93m


Back in November 2016, Spotify launched its first ‘bundle’ subscription with another digital service: meditation and mindfulness firm Headspace. The bundle still exists, although according to Headspace it’s only available in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and the UK.

Since that bundle was announced, Headspace has continued to grow: its latest press release notes that its app has been downloaded more than 62m times, and that it has more than two million paid subscribers, and 600+ corporate clients via its Headspace for Work service. The reason we’re writing about it now is also announced in the press release: a $93m Series C funding round for Headspace, including $53m of equity funding and $40m of debt capital.

Headspace has now raised more than $168m of funding, while its biggest rival Calm has raised $143m, including rounds of $88m and $27m in 2019 alone. This is all relevant to Music Ally because these companies *are* music/tech startups. And not just because their guided-meditation sessions have music in the background, either. Calm appointed its first head of music last year, and has worked with artists including Above & Beyond and Moby – if you missed our recent Sandbox feature on those partnerships, you can read it here.

So, mindfulness is big as a trend, and mindfulness services like Headspace and Calm are attracting big funding. It’s reasonable to ask, then, how long it will be before music streaming services in general (and Spotify in particular, given its current push into non-music audio) will start playing in this market more publicly.

We say ‘publicly’ because Spotify has already quietly expanded its mindfulness content. A year ago, meditation and other non-podcast audio was grouped in a ‘Word’ category within its ‘Genres & Moods’ section. Now, though, there’s a dedicated ‘Wellness’ category on the service, with subcategories for yoga, nature sounds, self love, exercise, meditation, fresh start, spa & massage, and relaxation – each with its own curated stash of playlists (or in the case of self love, podcasts).

The meditation subcategory includes a Headspace guided-meditation playlist (although it hasn’t been updated since 2017) as well as some Spotify-owned playlists gathering guided meditation from independent mindfulness teachers/artists. It all still feels a bit toe-in-the-water though. Spotify splashed out €357m on its first three podcast acquisitions last year, with another €130-180m now on its fourth, The Ringer.

Will its wallet be opening up for mindfulness acquisitions in the near-ish future, and if so, will Headspace or Calm be candidates? Calm’s $1bn valuation last year might make Headspace (valued at $320m in 2018) the more affordable option if so. And will Apple, Amazon and other streaming services be drawn deeper into this category too? All of this is something to meditate on.

Stuart Dredge

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