From Sesame Street to Netflix, How Headspace's New CMO Plans to Bring Mindfulness to the Masses

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

From Sesame Street to Netflix, How Headspace's New CMO Plans to Bring Mindfulness to the Masses

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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Nat Rubio-Licht
Nat Rubio-Licht is a freelance reporter with dot.LA. They previously worked at Protocol writing the Source Code newsletter and at the L.A. Business Journal covering tech and aerospace. They can be reached at
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