The initial spark that showed Calm co-founders Alex Tew and Michael Acton Smith there was a market for meditation was rather simple. Tew, who had become a minor internet celebrity for the Million Dollar Homepage, built a website in 2011 called donothingfor2minutes.com, in which a user would stare at a screen and listen to waves on a beach for two minutes without touching their mouse.
At the end of two minutes, an email prompt would appear asking people to sign up. In two weeks, over 100,000 people did. A few months later Calm.com was founded, with the intention of building on Tew’s website success.
For the first year, Calm.com was labelled as a tool for hyperactive Silicon Valley developers. It started with a few introductory relaxation classes from UK-based meditation teacher Maggie Richards, but expanded to include classes specifically designed for poor sleeping, stress and work performance.
Calm has always offered introductory lessons for free, followed by a monthly subscription for access to the entire archive. Some have criticised the app (and Headspace) for monetising meditation and mental health, while others have said the exercises are simply repackaged concentration training tools.
Even with a small staff size (50 in 2019), Calm struggled in the early years to break even. In an interview with Entrepreneur, Smith said the company was down to “a few thousands dollars” and had to reduce staff to keep the business afloat. It wasn’t until 2018 that meditation apps moved out of the niche app department and began making serious money.
Calm and Headspace, the leaders of the sector, only generated $70 million in 2017, but that ballooned 74 percent in 2018 to $122 million. The entire industry grew by 306 percent in that time, according to Sensor Tower, with thousands of apps hitting the iOS and Google Play store since 2015.
As Calm grew, so did its ambitions. In 2017, it won Apple’s App of the Year award, which propelled it ahead of its rival Headspace in downloads and revenue. It added Sleep Stories, which has become the app’s most popular segment, reaching over 140 million listens in 2018.
Calm has used Sleep Stories as a platform to draw in dozens of celebrities, such as LeBron James, Stephen Fry, Harry Styles and Matthew McConaughey, who narrate original stories or fiction. Calm also has archival recordings of Bob Ross available, alongside thousands of other narrated stories.
Following in the footsteps of Headspace, Calm has also launched workplace services.
In the past year, Calm has also expanded to other languages, publishing stories in Spanish, French and German. It’s not clear how successful these pursuits have been, as the US still accounts for around 60 percent of the entire meditation app market.
We have collected data and statistics on Calm’s revenue, usage and app chart performance. Read on below to find out more.
|Launch date||5 April 2012|
|HQ||San Francisco, California|
|People||Michael Acton Smith (co-CEO), Alex Tew (co-CEO), Tamara Levitt (Head of Mindfulness)|
|Industry||Meditation and wellness|
Calm Total Raised
Calm Paid Subscribers
Calm Total Downloads
Calm Top Grossing iOS App Position
Calm vs Headspace: Revenue
Calm other key stats
- Calm was the top meditation app of 2019 by worldwide revenue and downloads (Sensor Tower)
- Calm has seen a 148 percent increase in revenue between 2017 and 2019
- It anticipates over $100 million in revenue generation in 2020 (TechCrunch)
- 60 percent of web traffic came from the US, UK came second with 10 percent (SimilarWeb)
- 63 percent of revenue was generated in the US, UK came second again (SensorTower)
- Calm is the first “unicorn” meditation startup, valued at $1 billion in 2019 (Business of Apps)
- According to co-CEO Michael Acton Smith, one third of people who subscribe do so on the first day using the app (Mixergy)
- Smith also said they purchased the Calm.com domain name for a “six figure sum”
- The median age of a Calm user is 30 to 35 (Ivey Business Review)
- 60 percent of Calm users are female (TechCrunch)
- A survey of 200,000 iPhone users found Calm to be the “most happy” app (Humanetech)
- A study found Calm users who opened the app more regularly noticed changes in mental health, physical health or stress.
- People with sleeping difficulties spent the most time on Calm (Arizona State University)
- In another study, athletic and professional performance were the two key reasons for subscribing to Calm’s premium offering (AppInventiv)
- The sleep section has reached over 140 million listens (Hustle)
- Calm is one of 2,500 meditation apps launched since 2015
- It was voted iPhone App of the Year in 2017 and Google Play’s Editors’ Choice a year later (Calm)