Backed by Harry Styles, Ashton Kutcher, meditation app Calm nabs $27M

By Jonah Comstock

Calm, developer of the meditation and sleep app of the same name, has raised $27 million in a round of funding led by Insight Ventures that also includes singer Harry Styles (formerly of One Direction) and Sound Ventures, the investment vehicle of actor Ashton Kutcher. This is the company's first major funding round since a $1.5 million seed round, and brings its total investment to $28.5 million.

“The last few years have been extraordinary for Calm,” cofounder and co-CEO Michael Acton Smith said in a statment. “Much of the growth has been fueled by word of mouth, and we now have over 26 million downloads, with 50,000 new sign ups a day. In a very short amount of time meditation has moved from the fringe of society to the mainstream.”

Smith and cofounder/CEO Alex Tew founded Calm in 2012 with a guided meditation app. But over the years the company has added additional features including a breathing coach feature, "sleep stories" designed to help users fall asleep, a collection of soothing songs called Calm Music, and audio classes called Calm Masterclasses. In addition, the company has released a second app, called Checky, that helps users keep track of how many times they've checked their phone in a day. 

"Mental wellness is an extremely important issue in modern society," Kutcher, who also invests in house call app Pager, said in a statement. "We think the Calm team has built a very impressive product that is improving the lives of millions of people. We believe in them and their grand vision to make the world a healthier and happier place.”

Calm itself is free, but users have to pay an annual $60 subscription fee to access most of the content. The company generated $22 million in revenue in 2017 according to a press release. That's not just from app subscriptions: the company has also produced a book and an aromatherapy spray that it sells on the side. That revenue stream — paid non-digital offerings – is poised to grow according to the company's website.

"The heart of Calm is digital and we'll continue to expand our offering within the app," the site says. "At the same time, we're also growing offline in various ways that bring more peace, clarity, and perspective into people’s busy lives. Stay tuned for another book collaboration with Penguin, Calm clothing, Calm home-ware, Calm hotels, and more."

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Ralf-Gordon Jahns (pictured on the right) is the Managing Director of Research2Guidance, a leading market analyst and strategy consultancy company for the global digital health market.