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Meditation Startup Seeks Place Amid Sea of Apps

The Wall Street Journal; By Heather Mack 

Miami-based startup Meditation Live has joined the growing group of meditation-focused startups to attract investors' attention. 

Founded last year, the company is backed by $3 million from investors including SoftBank Capital NY and Eric Yuan, the founder of videoconferencing company Zoom Video Communications. 

With a target market of every stressed or anxious human being with a smartphone, meditation startups have accrued tens of millions of customers.  The largest such company, Inc., hit a $1 billion valuation earlier this year. Other players include Headspace Inc.; Ten Percent Happier, incorporated as Change Collective Inc.; and Simple Habit. 

More competitors are on the way. Incubator Y Combinator's most recent cohort included three startups whose apps guide users through mental exercises for a range of purposes. 

One recent Y Combinator graduate, Mindset Health, works with clinicians to develop hypnotherapy apps for specific medical conditions. Another, Stoic, is designed to help users track emotions and identify patterns of response. A third, Quirk, makes an app offering mental-health support based on cognitive behavioral-therapy techniques. 

To stand out, Meditation Live's founders, the husband-and-wife team D Sharma and Julie Sharma, made their company's service interactive, and designed it primarily for enterprise clients to offer as an employee-wellness benefit. The company currently works with about a dozen teachers who are experts in various aspects of health, wellness and meditation. 

"It's like Peloton meets Zoom meets guided meditation," said Mr. Sharma, who along with Ms. Sharma helps develop the content with meditation teachers. "It's a live session where you can see the teacher and the teacher can see you, so you can ask questions and get feedback just like you would in a real class." 

Meditation Live charges enterprise customers an annual fee for each employee that uses the service. It also offers a consumer version for $30 a year. 

Although much bigger players exist in the market, SoftBank Capital NY Managing Partner Jordan Levy said the growth potential for anything promoting wellness is large enough that he couldn't turn down the opportunity to invest. Employers in particular are paying more attention to the health and well-being of their employees, Mr. Levy said. 

"I work with about 70 companies, and every one of them are talking about health and wellness," said Mr. Levy, who is also an investor in online therapy startup Talkspace, which is incorporated as Groop Internet Platform Inc. "It's top-of-the-list for everyone in terms of company culture creation."  

Mr. Levy added that the opportunity was big enough to pull him out of semiretirement as SoftBank Capital NY winds down its final fund. SoftBank Capital is part of SoftBank Group Corp. and is separate from the Japanese conglomerate's massive Vision Fund.  

"Employee wellness programs don't work when they force technology on people, but this one is really easy," he said. "Get out your phone for 10 minutes and get your head in the right place."

Originally Published on the Wall Street Journal.

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