There is money in mindfulness. Digital wellness company Urban health today announced a $3.4 million round of funding as it seeks to scale a company that has already seen 1 million people worldwide download its mindfulness app.
Urban Health was founded four years ago by three entrepreneurs from Bangalore, Kshitij Jaggi, Rishabh Sahu and Kumar Shivang. The company’s app tracks users’ sleep patterns and their activity level to recommend the most appropriate meditation and sleep sessions created by a panel of experts for the company.
“Just five minutes of mindfulness and meditation a day can improve your life through stress reduction and improved sleep,” says Jaggi. “In our daily lives we are surrounded by screens and they bombard us with negative feelings that can be overwhelming; heightened awareness can act like an antivirus for that.”
The trick, Jaggi argues, is to get users engaged and then keep them that way. “It’s all about taking small steps to improve your well-being, rather than setting unrealistic goals that seem unattainable,” he says. Urban Health starts by introducing very short exercises to new users, for example a two-minute sleep exercise, and then encourages users to do more demanding sessions over time.
“We want to be a part of people’s lives,” says Jaggi. “We think we can be the one thing users go to every day for their well-being — it’s about finding a way to make this a habit, something you do almost automatically.”
A growing subscriber base seems to be taking that message to heart. The app is available to users worldwide, but seems to have struck a chord in the US, where 100,000 people now use it. Subscribers pay a $100 annual membership for the service, although Urban Health charged reduced rates in the beginning to attract new users.
Jaggi believes that the number of subscribers will continue to grow, especially as Urban Health begins to partner with employers who wish to subscribe on behalf of their staff, as awareness of stress and mental health issues in the workplace continues. The company has already started testing group subscriptions with several large organizations.
It is certainly an attractive marketplace. Globally, the wellness market is estimated at $1.5 trillion per year. The National Institutes of Health says nearly one in three youth ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder, while statistics suggest that nearly half of the world’s population isn’t getting enough sleep. Yet every country struggles to deliver services to help people cope with these issues, with demand for mental health support outpacing global supply. Digital services, such as Urban Health, play a role in filling this gap.
Investors pay attention. Today’s fundraising is led by 3one4 Capital with participation from Venture Highway, RB Investments, Founder Bank Capital and Disney’s Ajay Arora.
“Urban healthcare adoption has boomed, downloads have increased and consumer spending has increased,” said Anurag Ramdasan, a partner at 3one4 capital. “We are seeing a shift in sentiment: Globally, people are prioritizing their health and are open to investing in their personal wellness needs.”
The $3.4 million investment brings the total funds raised by Urban Health to $3.8 million, with the company charting a path to an IPO over the next five or six years. The funding gives the company room to scale further, recruitment continues and product development, such as further personalization and the development of one-to-one coaching services, also continues.
As for distribution, Urban Health does some targeted social media advertising, with Jaggi pointing out that “this is where people are and also where they have problems”. The company also builds numbers through word of mouth. “For many of the people who use us, we’ve become a secret that they want to pass on to friends and family,” adds Jaggi.