Headspace Snags Ex Hulu Exec As It Prepares New Netflix Sleep Series

Headspace Snags Ex Hulu Exec As It Prepares New Netflix Sleep Series

It's been a prolific run for Headspace since closing a $93 million round last year. The Santa Monica-based startup inked a series of corporate partnerships and even launched a Netflix special called Headspace Guide to Meditation.

In its latest move to push out the meditation app—and eventually land FDA approval—Headspace has brought on an ex-Hulu executive to lead marketing.

Val Kaplan Zapata, who begins as its chief marketing officer next month, helped double Hulu's subscriber base in under three years, Headspace said in a statement announcing her new role. She's also worked at Instagram and an e-commerce mattress company called Helix Sleep.

In an emailed statement, Zapata said the company's recent partnerships with brands like Sesame Street "bring mindfulness and meditation to consumers in new and creative ways."

She said Headspace sits at the intersection of a few market trends—the consumer's demand for digital content and a new appreciation for mental health and mindfulness.

"I see so much opportunity to continue to meet consumers where they are and leverage useful, relevant content to build even deeper connections and daily habits with Headspace members," she added.

Among the company's pushes for this year will be the release of its second Netflix series, Headspace Guide to Sleep, and an interactive experience.

Subscriptions to venture-backed meditation apps spiked during the pandemic as the world fell into a state of collective anxiety. The company offered free subscription plans to K-12 educators and healthcare professionals and signed deals with Starbucks to offer customers free trials and with Google to produce a video series aimed at young children. Among its other brand partners are Amazon, Apple, Nike and the NBA.

The company has 70 million users in 190 countries, spokesperson Steven Bram said, and downloads were up 20 percent towards the end of 2020 since mid-March.

"It's a strange feeling for the team. We're happy that we're able to reach more people, but we're also aware that that's at the cost of a really difficult year," co-founder Andy Puddicombe told Vulture in January.

The company has also expanded their work with companies looking to offer perks to employees.

The Netflix series are 20-minute sessions that help viewers work through their anxieties. Among the episodes are: How to let go; How to fall in love with life; How to deal with pain.

"Our lives are filled with distraction, filled with stimulation," the narrator begins the first episode of the eight-part series. "But imagine if there was a way to slow things down."

Editor's note: The story has been updated with Zapata's comments.


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Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.