Headspace Raises $93 Million as Meditation App Enters Expansion Mode
Tami Abdollah is dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer. Follow her on Twitter.
Headspace raised $93 million in debt and equity as the Santa Monica-based mindfulness company aims to fend off competition from rivals like Calm by growing globally as it pursues ambitious plans to launch the first FDA-approved meditation app.
The company, which is riding the wave of wellness as everyone from Wall Street traders to school teachers embrace meditation for health, announced Wednesday that it will pump funds into their direct-to-consumer business, where revenue has doubled year-over-year from 2017 to 2019.
Headspace projects this sales growth will continue as it faces steep competition from rivals such as Waking Up, Personal Zen and Calm, another meditation app that claimed unicorn status last year. It will also use the fresh round of financing announced Wednesday to beef up its international presence. Last year, the company launched localized versions of the app in French and German, and appointed former Apple executive Renate Nyborg as Head of Europe. It's also debuted a Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese version, and continues to expand its presence in Asia.
"As we think about the next ten years and beyond, we are focused on harnessing this power and applying it to other areas of our members' lives to help them create healthy routines that last a lifetime – whether that is through our Headspace consumer app, the work we currently do with hundreds of employers, or with healthcare providers as we look to deliver better access," said Richard Pierson, chief executive and co-founder of Headspace.
The company reported that the group of investors was led by blisce/, with participation from Waverley Capital and Times Bridge – the global investments and partnerships arm of The Times Group of India – and existing investors The Chernin Group, Spectrum Equity and Advancit Capital. The fundraising included a debt package of $40 million from Pacific Western Bank.
This year, Headspace announced a flurry of deals that will bolster the meditation app's profile including an agreement with Starbucks that provides employees a free subscription to the app that runs $69.99 for new users. It struck a similar partnership with Hyatt Hotels Corp. that gives guests access to the app. It's also launched a "Barbie Wellness" collection with El Segundo-based toy manufacturer Mattel Inc. that is supposed to introduce kids to the benefits of self-care. The focus includes a Barbie's meditation offering on YouTube that is led by Eve Prieto, who is the female voice of Headspace.
The relatively recent push into corporate partnerships comes as companies are looking for cheaper ways to invest in employee wellness and productivity, while offering perks to attract talent.
But the company's biggest push has yet to be realized — providing FDA-cleared proof of the claims that meditation bolsters health and overall wellness in regular users.
Headspace has engaged in evidence-based research studies since 2015, regarding the meditation app's impact to medical issues including cancer and asthma, with an additional focus on pain management and sleep.
In 2018, Headspace established Headspace Health, a wholly-owned subsidiary, to look into delivering a prescription meditation app for health professionals and their patients, as early as 2020.
It's unclear what the status of its efforts to obtain FDA clearance for its meditation programs to treat a range of "chronic" disease is as a company representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
This story has been updated. Rachel Uranga contributed to this report.
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This Test Prep Service has a Cult Following Among Med Students. Soon it Will Have an Animation Studio
The unnamed king wears a crown and large pink robe as he grasps a tissue to his nose.
No, this isn't some Netflix show on the quarantine lives of the rich and famous; it's actually a method SketchyMedical uses to help students recall complicated concepts.
Such images by Los Angeles-based online education startup SketchyMedical have helped catapult the company to cult status among the med school set, who dress up in their drawings for Halloween. One fan even got a tattoo of SketchyMedical's pencil representing penicillin.
On Thursday, SketchyMedical announced its first outside investment stake, a $30 million shot in the arm from former Hollywood executive Peter Chernin's investment firm TCG to help establish an in-house animation studio that will bring to life those famous sketches and expand its team of 30 employees.
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Eliminating battery waste, developing new hair growth therapy, fixing carbon dioxide. These are among some of the ambitious problems that companies are trying to solve at the First Look SoCal Innovation Showcase beginning Tuesday.
Hosted by nonprofit Alliance for SoCal Innovation, the online event connects early-stage tech and life science companies with investors and serial entrepreneurs.
BioZen Batteries Aims to Solve Our Energy Storage Issues<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDI0Nzg5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTg3OTYyNn0.y9dSMjovB1GtsQ1SZhKiPTIJY3VW0XOE2YXd-JN1xYU/image.jpg?width=980" id="95064" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3ad9197ad70005802e6d34d6da3c29d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Left to right: BioZen Batteries' co-founders Zach Rengert, Nate Kirchhofer and Eric Brigham.<p>Nate Kirchhofer, co-founder and CEO of <a href="https://biozenbatteries.com/" target="_blank">BioZen Batteries</a>, wants to make batteries that will outlive him.</p><p>Santa Barbara-based BioZen creates organic electrolytes, the active material inside a specific type of battery called a "redox flow battery." It's a different type of technology that differs from the lithium batteries often used in mobile applications like cars and phones. Only 5% of those get recycled.</p><p>BioZen's batteries are well suited for green, large-scale energy storage, Kirchhofer said. For example, batteries that help solar panels connect to the grid or provide backup during disasters when the power goes out.</p><p>Kirchhofer, an electrochemist, founded the company in June of 2019 with Zach Rengert, a materials chemist, and Eric Brigham, the company's CFO. Kirchhofer and Rengert met while getting their doctorate at UC Santa Barbara.</p><p>There hasn't yet been a push for sustainable batteries because it isn't economically incentivized, Kirchhofer told dot.LA. He said that his batteries are cheaper than competitors.</p><p>Kirchhofer's product fits into a growing renewable energy market and a social movement in which individuals want to do their part. He's worked for four startups but says this one is poised to make the biggest impact.</p><p>"If it's not our generation that solves climate change, there's not another chance. There's not another Earth." he said. "If we can make these batteries happen, we can truly integrate renewable energy and stop the petroleum-dominated energy paradigm we're part of."</p>
Amplifica's founder Dr. Maksim Plikus
Amplifica Treats Baldness with Mole Molecules<p>Back in 2013, Amplifica's founder Dr. Maksim Plikus began studying hairy moles. Though some find the growths unsightly, his work showed promise for baldness treatment.</p><p>He, along with colleagues at UC Irvine, discovered that molecules from moles that grow excessive hair can induce follicle growth when administered anywhere on the skin.</p><p>"As long as you can tease it out and replicate it in the form of purified molecules, you can achieve essentially what we think would be a novel, revolutionary solution to baldness," Plikus told dot.LA.</p><p>Plikus said his company is the first to solve hair loss by replicating cells from hairy moles to stimulate hair growth. At the moment, hair follicle research has emerged as a leading experimental model for studying stem cells.</p><p>By 2025, hair-loss products are projected to surpass $12 billion, Plikus said. But only two drugs are FDA approved and require daily treatment in the form of pills, which he said come with long-term side effects.</p><p>Amplifica says it's poised to put a more effective and convenient solution on the market. Pinkus' proposed product is a topical solution requiring less frequent application, like getting Botox injections a few times per year.</p>
FixingCO2 Aims to Recycle Fuel from the Air<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDI0ODM4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzA1ODA4MH0.9RqwD9zUN1et1kor8zNPj8WH2kOX6SrysdpRDFT5QMc/image.jpg?width=980" id="daa89" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9851b177139c4b5e06bd9c96fb395083" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
FixingCO2's team. CEO Eldar Akhmetgaliyev is at right.<p><a href="https://fixingco2.com/" target="_blank">FixingCO2</a> got its start on Mars. Like the name says, the company aims to fix the global carbon problem that's fueling climate change.</p><p>In 2018, co-founder Alma Zhanaidarova's professor and research group at UC San Diego received a grant from NASA to build out a reactor that makes renewable fuels and chemicals from carbon dioxide, often a byproduct of industrial waste. The technology was being developed in anticipation of a one-day human mission to Mars, where 95% of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide.</p><p>Now, the San Diego-based startup is commercializing their product for earthlings.</p><p>"It's a different application but the same core technology," co-founder Eldar Akhmetgaliyev told dot.LA. "Instead of making fuels from oil or any other fossil sources, we can make them essentially from air."</p><p>The team is developing the hardware to capture industrial emissions blamed for much of the Earth's warming. The product has significant application for the aviation industry, where planes are built to burn jet fuel that produces carbon emissions.</p><p>"These kinds of technologies provide them a pathway to decarbonization," he said. "They can use fuels made from CO2 so they're not contributing to climate change."</p><p>As fires burn through California and the Pacific Northwest, Akhmetgaliyev said there's urgency for innovators in the carbon tech market. "We're pretty much turning our planet into Mars," he said.</p><p>He said that by 2050, about 14% of overall carbon reduction will come from carbon capture and utilization (CCUS) technology like his.</p><p>"The market hasn't met its opportunity and with the effects of climate change being seen everyday, there's going to be more drive towards these low carbon technologies."</p>
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