Ariana is the founder of SPOKE, the UK’s leading music-led mindfulness app, and an activist for emotional and mental health. This is her second startup and she is a passionate advocate for better social innovation in mental health across business, policy, and culture. She recently graduated from Cambridge with an MSt in Social Innovation, with focused research on youth mental health and the role of artists and cultural leaders to create positive social change. Besides running SPOKE, she loves live music, dance, travel, and getting lost in her imagination through books and art.

In your own words, what’s your role in the app business right now?

Current well-being tools do not represent the diversity of young people today, and this is why uptake is low and/or churn is high for most mindfulness apps. By innovating the culture around mental wellness tools, millions more people will start looking after their mental health early – which could prevent crises down the line. I am determined to implement our philosophy and thesis in the app sector; to truly meet people in their lifestyles and adapt dynamically to the fluid needs of young people today.

How did you end up working in apps? / get started?

I ran a live music events company for a few years and found these experiences to be one of the most majestic and impactful ways to engage audiences. However, live experiences are not truly scaleable and not accessible to the millions of people who you can reach through an app. This is why I wanted to move into apps – and to bring some of the immersive magic into the app experience.

What are you most excited about in apps right now? (tech, trends, people, verticals)

Probably the use of AI in personalisation, we are about to get really sophisticated really fast and those who can leverage that will create the future.

What other companies in the app space do you rate/ inspire you and why?

I’ve always loved the app Lirica which helps users learn Spanish through Latin music. Also, Yoni Circle is great (although I dislike the name) but they beautifully bring women together in a meaningful way. Lastly, Stack World is probably the best community of female professionals I have ever seen and I recommend it to all of my friends.

What do you like most about working in apps?

The fast pace and need to iterate quickly to stay relevant to people’s lives. I love that we have essentially built a little world for people inside a tiny square, and the possibilities are endless as to where we can take them.

What one thing would you change about the app industry / market?

I am a hypocrite because I genuinely think people need to be off their phones more. The app market has grown at the expense of real-life connections and is a massive opportunity cost for people. We need good people creating apps that bring as much joy as possible to people’s lives, and a ban on addictive design loops and some other less ethical practices.

Where do you think there’s an opportunity for apps / or unmet needs?

A democratic integration with IoT across cities from everything from town planning, transport, public services, events, and regulations. The way we govern society needs to become more sophisticated and aligned with society’s lifestyles fast – it is obscenely behind the times.

If you weren’t working in apps what would you be doing?

Probably in AI and community building – something connected to culture, international connections, and campaigning for better social change.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I’m half Persian, love to host dinner parties, have a cruel addiction to carrot cake and am obsessed with ancient or abandoned buildings…

Do you know someone driving change and growth in the app industry? Nominate an app leader here.

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