How to Build a Meditation App Better than Headspace

Sep 21, 2021·11 min read

While meditation apps like Headspace and Calm attract enormous investments, there's still a chance to launch a better product, attract users and build a sustainable business around a software app, Find out how to do this the right way.

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As consumers were forced to buy and order everything online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the eCommerce industry seemed to become the most potentially profitable one in 2020.

At the same time, another industry jumped to a record high in 2020-2021 - the wellness industry.

The meditation and wellness industry is at its peak. It is valued at $4.5 trillion; it is powered by awesome digital products and physical agencies; it is supported by celebrities and loved by people in the US and numerous countries worldwide. As people pay more attention to their mental health and well-being, they look for handy, simple tools for meditation and relaxation.

Higher demand is connected to higher income and investments. For example, in 2020, a guided meditation app called Headspace raised more than $140 million in funding.

If you are looking for ways to succeed in 2021, building a meditation app better than Headspace may become a life-changing decision.

But how to create a meditation app?

How to organize the meditation app development process in the most effective way?

And how to save money on app development?

Discover all the answers and gain some inspiration from our article.

How to build a meditation app: select the type

You know that the meditation industry blooms, and that’s a super-profitable niche to enter. You know there’s a demand for a meditation app, and you would like to start building your business.

But do you know what to build exactly?

Choose from several types of meditation apps.

Guided meditation app

Guided meditation apps look similar to Spotify or other audio streaming apps. Users access playlists of various guided meditations, relaxation practices, and songs. The key goal of this sort of apps is to help users reduce stress and anxiety.

In this case, the list of features is not immense. You may mimic Headspace’s functionality and add some unique, user-centric features to your app.

However, in this case, you may need someone to “guide” meditations. This may be a celebrity, a meditation guru, etc., to read the script and help users meditate.

Several blocks later, we’ll take a closer look at Headspace’s success, its business model, and app features. Keep reading!

Mindfulness and meditation app

An app like Calm may be a better option if your target audience consists of more experienced meditators who don’t need guides and defined sequences of sessions to follow. This sort of apps may require much more content. Besides meditation sessions, mindfulness apps should contain blog materials on a better life and well-being, mantras and affirmations, breathing sessions, etc.

Building an app like Calm may be a great choice if you already run a wellness business and have a team of professionals able to generate worthy content for your app.

What if you don’t? Check out the following two types.

Meditation library app

Just like the eBay online marketplace provides products and services from different vendors, you may provide content for meditation and well-being created by professionals on your platform. This app may mix simple functionality and valuable, user-generated content and build a bridge between gurus and psychologists and interested users.

In this case, you may need to build two different sides of an app - for meditation trainers and meditators. The main challenge would be to bring both types of users to your app and solve the so-called chicken and egg problem.

The meditation marketplace app should be beneficial for contributors. The specialists who produce and record meditation sessions for this sort of apps should be able to generate revenue, promote their meditations and attract new followers within an app.

Check our blog for more tips on P2P marketplace development.

Networking and meditation app

Providing guided meditations and talks led by the world’s top meditation and mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists and teachers, InsightTimer is also a social network for meditators. Here, users may exchange messages and conduct video or audio calls, create discussion groups and communities, share geolocation and make friends online.

At the same time, the app is packed with other helpful content and features.

A networking and meditation app may become a great tool to succeed in this market; however, it requires more resources to bring an app similar to InsightTimer to life.

It is essential to focus narrowly, start slowly, and extend the simple idea to an advanced product for online meditation. Building an app like Headspace may be one of the proper steps to take at the beginning of your business.

Get ready to find out more about this prosperous meditation app.

Headspace meditation app: the road to $215 million of investments

Headspace’s total funding amount exceeds $215 million. In 2020, the number of Headspace subscribers reached two million, and it keeps rising.

headspace meditation app success

Check out a bit of insight from its story and get ready to build a better product:

Headspace: early days

Behind every great business, there’s a great founder.

Behind Headspace, there are two of them. And they are a Buddhist monk and a former marketing specialist.

Andy Puddicombe traveled to Asia and became a monk after several tragic occurrences in his life. He came back to the UK in 2004, with the defined mission to popularize meditation in London. Puddicombe opened a meditation clinic and met his future partner, Richard Pierson, there.

As Puddicombe helped Pierson cope with job-related stress and burnout, Pierson provided consultancy on meditation clinic growth and brand development. Together, they started the event management company Headspace. Several mindfulness talks held in London allowed making initial revenue. This revenue turner to a springboard for the first version of the app - Headspace journey.

“This is something incredibly exciting and truly unique - different daily guided meditations for every single day of the year, in a graduated course, with easy-to-learn, scientifically-validated techniques, and over 270 hours of instructional, inspirational, and motivational content. Wow!”

Version 2 launch

The first version of the meditation app, or the beta version, was launched in 2012. The second version was available for download in summer 2014. Headspace founders invested more than a year in gathering constructive feedback from first users to improve the product.

In his interview with Foundr, Puddycombe emphasizes the importance of collecting feedback.

“(After the launch) we spent a year just listening to feedback from people what they liked, what they didn’t like...we finally, got to a point where we launched something that was very close to what we originally intended and wanted to do that. That was the moment I think where we felt that we were really fulfilling sort of the mission that we’d set out on.”

After version two went live, the company raised $4 million in Angel Round.

Growth and acquisition

Series A and Series B brought $71 million more.

In 2017, Headspace’s valuation reached $250 million. The number of users and subscribers grew swiftly, and the product got in more investors’ sight.

In 2018, Headspace acquired Alpine.AI - a voice recognition AI software that allowed connecting meditation app with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Users could simply say “I’m feeling stressed,” and personal assistants on their smartphones or other devices suggested meditation sessions from the Headspace app.

Valued at $320 million, the app then served the needs of more than 31 million users.

Android app re-build

While business was profitable and prosperous, the Headspace Android app was still buggy. Exhausted with time-consuming bug-fixing, the development team decided to completely re-write the Android app. The team paused critical updates and new features design, planned new app development, and focused on building a feature-rich solution from scratch.

Then, the pandemic happened.

Trying to adjust to a new reality, working remotely, the team managed to entirely re-write the Android version of Headspace and satisfy users with a new impeccable meditation app in autumn 2020.

Monica Grandy, a Senior Android Engineer at Headspace, shares valuable re-write insights on the company’s Medium.

The Headspace success story is the perfect example of a startup business model:

headspace meditation app growth

The Headspace team never stopped collecting feedback, fixing bugs, promoting their product, and attracting investments. These processes are vital once you’ll decide to build your own meditation app.

Now, discover how to do this.

How to develop a meditation app?

Validate your idea first.

No matter if that’s a unique, revolutionary product you’d like to build or you follow a well-illuminated path building an app like Headspace, you need to make sure your idea has a chance to survive before you invest a six-figure sum in it.

So this block will mainly answer a question about how to start your business in a meditation industry with minimum expenses, time, and worries.

To build a meditation app like Headspace, you may need ten years or even more because that’s exactly how long Headspace exists.

To validate your idea, up to twelve months may be enough.

And with our article, you’ll find out how to plan these twelve months in the most effective, harmless, and profitable way.

  • Develop your hypothesis

Have you already chosen the type of app you’d like to build? Would you like to create an app similar to Headspace? Or are you more intrigued with InsightTimer - the app that wins most of the users’ time?

Define your goal clearly, create a concept and prove it.

For example, you would like to build a meditation app for the local students’ community. Are you sure potential users need your app? What pack of features they may be willing to try? How should the simplest version of your app look like, and what would you like to gain with it?

Draw a simple sketch of screens. Assume how it may help your target audience. Define how you can check the app’s efficiency. Write your goal. For example, in 12 months, you’d like to collect feedback from 200 users.

Clarify your vision, plan upfront, and develop in-depth documentation at this step.

  • Convert the idea in the simplest app

Once you have the documentation ready, build your app’s prototype. No advanced features, no fancy design. Focus on simplicity. The fundamental goal of your prototype is to allow clicking through your idea on an actual device and align your business goals with the development team’s efforts.

A prototype may be the very first version of a meditation app. It shouldn’t be perfect; it should be created. Once ready, it may demonstrate your app’s main features, screens, and relations between them.

  • Ask for an initial feedback

When you have a prototype, you can make sure it meets your requirements. You can ask your friends and partners what they think about this prototype. You can ask users to try it and then collect informative feedback. Just like Headspace founders invested nearly a year in gathering feedback, you should prioritize initial users’ opinions. Based on feedback, you can make critical business decisions.

The sooner you launch a prototype, the sooner you can evaluate it, re-build it if needed, or decide to leave the meditation industry behind and move in a completely different direction.

  • Define your next steps

Depending on feedback, you can decide how to move forward.

Is it super-positive feedback with recommendations about a more attractive, user-oriented design? You can go for re-design and keep on working on a minimum viable product.

Do users have concerns about privacy, quality, or other characteristics? Brainstorm on how you can get rid of weaknesses and improve user experience.

Are there any signs that prove your hypothesis is wrong? Still great news. Bad results are still results, and if you discover that your initial idea has no chance to survive, proceed with another one.

Several iterations of testing different concepts may lead you to the most desirable result and success, eventually.

  • Start MVP development

Does the prototype meet your requirements and expectations? Do users like it? Probably, it’s time to turn it into an MVP.

A minimum viable product is an app you can reach out to investors and raise funds with. This simple yet high-quality app demonstrates excellent UI/UX design and critical functionality and represents your brand. The MVP allows attracting more users and collecting more feedback which, in the future, will be used for further app upgrades.

Check our article on MVP development to find out more.

The choice of the must-have features for your MVP depends solely on your idea and future plans. In the next block, we’ll take a look at a couple of features you may find useful for your meditation app.

Key features for the MVP

We’ve analyzed the Headspace functionality and prepared this brief feature overview to help you generate new ideas and come up with the MVP development plan.

  • Sign in and sign up

Let users access your app effortlessly. Allow authorization via Google or Facebook account.

  • User profile

Collect essential information about your users like gender, age, location, etc., to provide relevant content and suggest personalized meditation sessions.

  • Personal statistics

Allow users to track the progress. Add some elements of gamification to encourage users to practice meditation daily.

  • Meditation library and streaming functionality

Create a database of meditations, audio, and video sessions.

  • Filters and search bar

Help users find the needed mindfulness session in several clicks.

Additionally, you may want to add:

  • Intro screens to inform users about the MVP’s key features;
  • Invite a Friend feature to help your app spread;
  • Blog or library to enrich your app’s content base;
  • In-app recommendations to suggest users more meditations based on the previous search
  • Social media integration that allows users to connect their Facebook or Instagram account with a meditation app.

Not sure how to start? What features are necessary to prove the concept? What features are the must for a successful MVP? Contact us, and let’s answer these questions together.

Three tips you wish you know at the starting point

These three tips may help you succeed:

1. Delegate everything you can

Even if you are skilled in software engineering, marketing, and PR, it doesn’t mean you need to handle it all by yourself. Different tasks may be exhausting, time-consuming, and distracting. Focus on your key business goals and delegate everything you can.

Outsourcing software development may be one of the best chances to cooperate with talents from around the globe and cut MVP costs.

2. Start with the discovery phase

You need to generate the idea, test a prototype, launch an MVP, start raising funds and deal with myriad other tasks. Sounds like a massive scope of work, doesn’t it?

However, proper planning, well-written documentation, and a defined plan on how to analyze success or failure factors may save the day. This is what the project discovery phase is about.

The discovery phase is the initial step of your product growth that helps to make sure your idea is potentially successful with no need to invest tens of thousands of dollars in it.

Headspace founders invested around $50,000 in the first version of a meditation app. But it doesn’t mean you need to act the same way. You may start with the discovery phase, make sure your app is worth investing in, and minimize potential expenses.

3. Join the race as soon as possible

Although last year was a great challenge for people and businesses, it became one of the best years for the meditation and mental health industry. Meditation apps jumped in popularity for individual and corporate use. For example, Calm and Headspace raised more than $215 million, attracted new users, and boosted their businesses.

The best time to launch a new meditation app is right now. Stress, anxiety, and fatigue surround people in the physical and digital worlds. Depressed with the pandemic, isolation, and the vague future, users may look for a cozy spot in the ocean of despair. There is a chance for your app to become this digital spot.

Final thoughts

A meditation app like Headspace is a key to users’ hearts and investors’ attention in 2021.

An MVP would become your first step to a profitable meditation and mindfulness business. Following the iterative approach, collecting users’ feedback, and raising funds, you’ll get a chance to upgrade your MVP to a full-featured solution. After each iteration, your product will become more mature, more handful, more loved by users.

Structure your idea, meet your development partner and start with the project discovery phase to minimize potential risks and cut unnecessary costs. A reliable engineering team will guide you through the entire development process and help with tech specifications.

Do you hesitate about what step to take next? Don’t hesitate to share your idea and concerns with us, and let’s launch a meditation app users need and want so much.

Start your meditation app business today.

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