What did “wellness” look like 20 years ago? Today, society is demanding that companies innovate and create products that promote a healthier and happier lifestyle – everyone wants to achieve the best version of themselves. But to achieve this, you don’t need to spend $10 on a cleansing juice, rather Journey Meditation is taking a cue from the past and creating the first group meditation app. While meditation has been around for thousands of years, many people don’t know how to meditate properly or find it enjoyable, so Journey created the instructor-led meditation app that enables authentic interaction with instructors and others in the community. Users can gain more access to the wellness and meditation community through various forms of memberships, in order to make it accessible to various people.
AlleyWatch chatted with founder and CEO Stephen Sokoler about creating a meditation app that is using technology in its fundamental ways to connect and help people.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a $2.4M Seed round led by Canaan, with participation from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Betaworks, BDMI, The Fund, Nelstone Ventures, New York Venture Partners, and multiple prominent angel investors.
Tell us about the product or service that Journey offers:
Journey LIVE is the first group meditation app with live instructors and real-time classes for meditators of any skill level. Acting as a meditation studio in the palm of your hand, Journey LIVE is based on the core premise that community and human connection enhance meditation. The experience creates the feeling of an in-person, group meditation class by enabling authentic interaction with supportive teachers and others in the community.
What inspired you to start Journey Meditation?
I found meditation while living in Australia and it changed my life. After I sold my previous company, I decided I wanted to do something that could significantly improve the world. When I looked at meditation, I thought it was fairly misunderstood as spiritual, religious, difficult, and confusing. I then thought we could bring it to people in a simple, approachable, secular way. If we met people where they are physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially, we can really have an impact.
For thousands of years, meditation has been a social activity in communities around the world. However, current meditation apps only offer single-user, pre-recorded experiences. While convenient for some, these experiences lack connection and do not leverage the full potential of meditating in a group setting, ultimately failing to address the fundamental human need for connection.
What market does Journey Meditation target and how big is it?
Journey LIVE is really for anyone looking to live a happier, healthier, less stressed life. As every meditation is guided by an experienced teacher trained to meet people where they are at, users don’t need to have any prior meditation experience to benefit from Journey LIVE. On the other end of the spectrum, we have had a lot of experienced meditators say that Journey LIVE has been a great addition to their normal practice.
Where should we be drawing the line between self-help and meditation?
Meditation is a practice that has benefited people for generations in communities around the world. I would liken meditation more to exercise than self-help – similar to physical fitness for the body, meditation is mental fitness for greater clarity and emotional wellbeing.
I would liken meditation more to exercise than self-help – similar to physical fitness for the body, meditation is mental fitness for greater clarity and emotional wellbeing.
What’s your business model?
Users at any level of meditation experience can connect with a wider community and deepen their practice with monthly ($19.95/mo), yearly ($14.95/mo), or lifetime ($399.95) memberships to the app. Yearly memberships can be purchased for only $7.95/mo if purchased within the first month of launch.
What was the funding process like?
Intense! It’s an amazing process but can be very emotionally challenging. Having the support of my team and fellow entrepreneurs who had been there before was critical. I presented over 180 pitches in less than 3 months, which was very intensive.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The biggest challenge was helping people understand why Journey was important to the industry. People mistakenly think meditation is a solitary act and don’t understand why listening to a recording by yourself is not conducive to learning, connecting and building a sustainable practice. Once investors understood that meditation has been practiced in communities for thousands of years and the connection to the teacher and other students makes a big difference, the whole conversation changed.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
I believe it was a combination of three factors. First, there is a huge societal push towards the importance of self-care and mental wellbeing. Second, for the last several years, we had success bringing together groups of people to meditate at organizations all over the world. And third, the current approach that meditation apps are taking is suboptimal, with most people falling off the wagon. We created a better way for people to not just meditate but take the time to connect to themselves and others.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re very focused on helping our users live happier, healthier lives. In order to do that, they need to use the app on a consistent basis. We’re very focused on retention and product-market fit.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Be careful with your money. Folks are very willing to give you money when you don’t need it and way less so when you do. Make sure to make every dollar count.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’re going to go even deeper with the human connection elements. We’re excited to explore different ways to achieve this. For example, following the success of our Mom Community, we’re also going to launch other like-minded communities led by members of those communities.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
I cook about 90% of my meals at home. When I do eat out, I love Buddakan and Carmine’s, although I haven’t been to either in over a year. My go-to treat is ice cream!