How Calm created a billion dollar wellness app

Apps have gone from digital curiosities to big business, and the market has never been more competitive. Calm creative director Andrew Schapiro tells CR how great design, user feedback and a sprinkling of ‘whimsy’ is key to the company’s success

There are now, literally, millions of apps for people to download. Think of a problem you’re having, and there’s most likely an app claiming to solve it – whether that’s helping to organise your life or entertaining you when you’re bored. Now, thanks to a rapidly expanding wellness industry, they can help us manage our mental health too. Calm, an app that launched in 2012, has had enormous success in this sphere.

The company’s mission is simply “to help you improve your health and happiness”, and it does so by offering users a mix of guided meditations, music, soundscapes and sleep stories – all designed to reduce people’s anxiety, help them focus, and boost their mental wellbeing.

The idea for Calm originally came from co-founder Alex Tew’s website, which prompted 100,000 people to sign up

Users can fall asleep listening to Laura Dern or David Walliams reading them a bedtime story, or tune into a LeBron James audio series that covers everything from managing emotions to creating a champion’s mindset. It’s a huge achievement for an idea that first emerged when co-founder Alex Tew built – a website that challenged users to sit still for two minutes and listen to wave sounds.