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Calm App is ‘the Nike of the mind’: Co-Founder

Calm is partnering with HBO for ‘A World of Calm’, a series focused on relaxation and meditation. Calm Co-Founder & Co-CEO Michael Acton Smith joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.

Video Transcript

- Everything is woven together.


Now it's time to rest.

AKIKO FUJITA: You're looking at a clip there from HBO Max series, "A World of Calm," a show that brings you zen-like stories, we should say, narrated by celebrities like Nicole Kidman. It's part of a segment that we've seen really growing, especially in the streaming space. Let's bring in the co-founder and co-CEO of Calm, Michael Acton Smith. He's joining us today as part of a conversation for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Michael, it's great to talk to you today. A few months ago, we were talking to Headspace about their content on Netflix as well. It does feel like there's increasing demand for something like this. How much of this do you think was spurred on by what we have seen so many of us experience during the pandemic? How much of the ball was already set in motion prior to that?

MICHAEL ACTON SMITH: Well, the stigma around mental health has been fading for the last few years. But it really accelerated during this pandemic. I think everyone has realized how important it is to look after our minds, to get a good night's sleep, to reduce our stress and anxiety. But as I say, the last year, 2020, has dramatically increased all of that.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Michael, when you talk about that-- go ahead, Zack.

ZACK GUZMAN: I'm just talking about, you know, the shift that we've seen around maybe the reopening in the way that people have shifted back to normal life. Have you seen maybe an impact to user activity on the app now?

MICHAEL ACTON SMITH: Not yet, no, it's been as popular as ever. We grew to about 100 million downloads last year, 4 million paying subscribers. More than one person every second downloaded Calm last year. And we're still seeing those rapid growth rates this year. And I think it is part of the shift that's taking place in society, where we're treating our minds with the same care and respect we do our bodies. We're realizing that mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness. And we think harm could be one of the defining brands of the 21st century that helps people live happier and more joyful lives.

AKIKO FUJITA: So Michael, how do you grow the brand beyond the offerings you have right now? You started out with an app. You've got content now on HBO Max. What are other pieces, you think, that will help fill out your portfolio, if you will, when you look at the demand in the market?

MICHAEL ACTON SMITH: Yes, so we've been adding a lot to our content library. We just launched a new series with Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello sharing gratitude and experiences from their life, how to reduce anxiety. That's been incredibly popular. And we've worked with everyone from Harry Styles to Kate Winslet to Matthew McConaughey. So developing and broadening our connection with talent across the world is a growth area. Going international is key. We're now live in six different countries around the world and keen to expand that.

And then the third area is to go beyond the digital. How can we bring more calm into people's lives through physical products, through services and experiences? Because the world isn't getting any less stressful. So could we create a Calm Music Festival? Could there be Calm clothing, Calm hotels? Could one day there be a Calm Island? So we've got big ambitions.

ZACK GUZMAN: Those are big ambitions. And you're talking to a guy here who-- you know, we've talked to Deepak Chopra, we've talked to Headspace, we've talked to you there. We've talked to a lot of people in the kind of meditation space. It never seems to work. I haven't tried it. I haven't nailed it. I haven't figured it out. But this push into celebrities is very exciting for me because it seems like you could be doing this without the celebrity aspect tied into it also. So why maybe pursue that, rather than kind of where you guys started and just being focused squarely on maybe the techniques and methods here?

MICHAEL ACTON SMITH: Well, we're very passionate about mental health and the message of encouraging everyone to look after their minds. And one of the most powerful ways to spread that message to amplify it is to work with talent that have huge audiences that are respected around the world, like LeBron James. Now he uses Calm every day to help him nap and sleep. And that's a massive endorsement.

So we've often talked about being the Nike of the mind and taking a leaf out of their playbook. They worked with many celebrities during their growth phase. And we're keen to do the same. When someone that you respect and has hundreds of millions of fans around the world talks about a product that they use and love, then it really normalizes it and helps it spread and grow the popularity.

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, it's certainly been interesting to see the growth over the last year in this space. Michael Acton Smith, Calm co-founder and CEO, it's good to talk to you today.