Mental wellness startup Flow has completed a multimillion-dollar angel investment round. The round was co-led by Evolve Ventures and Lightspeed China Partners. Flow said it will use the funds to upgrade its app, develop new content, recruit new talent, and perform other business operations.
Flow launched in 2021 and is available on iOS and Android app stores. The company also rolled out a WeChat mini program. Flow’s online content includes introductory and advanced meditation courses, as well as audio and video content for emotion management, anxiety alleviation, sleep quality improvement, sound healing, and yoga. Flow is also developing its online community by releasing meditation journals and organizing themed group discussions to encourage user-generated content.
Bridging online content and offline experiences is key to Flow’s operations. Founder Wu Zan told 36Kr that Flow has held over 30 in-person events. It has established partnerships with brands including Banyan Tree, Kerry Center, China Resources, running shoe brand On, L’Oréal, Nio, Well, and WeWork to build up its membership numbers. Flow has plans to collaborate with BrainCo, which develops brainwave detection wearables, and Fiture, an at-home workout platform, to promote and popularize meditation as an activity that improves mental health.
Like the sports and fitness industry, the mental wellness sector involves non-clinical, health-related solutions that are not available in the public health system. According to the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people in the US who meditate tripled between 2012 and 2017. There are now more than 30 million meditation practitioners in the country, surpassing the number of Americans who do yoga.
In Wu’s view, meditation is more than the act of sitting in deep thought. Rather, he sees meditation as a form of exercise that hones one’s awareness and brain. To match this philosophy, Flow offers music that induces calm sleep, sound therapy yoga, and other content to cultivate a mind-body balance.
Calm and Headspace are two leading meditation apps in the US and Western Europe. The former carries a USD 2 billion valuation. Wu told 36Kr that there are more than 1,000 mental health apps in the US. However, the China market remains untapped. Meditation, presented via an app, has significant potential to thrive.
The “Chinese Epidemiological Survey on Mental Disorders” shows that the prevalence of anxiety disorders is highest among adults in China, while a growing number of young people suffer from anxiety and depression. Meditation has the potential to be a low-cost and effective way for some people to manage their mental health.
Flow services both corporate and private customers. Individual clients are typically 20 to 45 years old, and use the app’s 10-minute “Daily Flow” program, which is released at 7:00 a.m. every day, to develop meditation habits.
The company’s strategy for enterprise clients references the way Silicon Valley companies like Google and Apple incorporate meditation into their wellness programs. According to Wu, 70% of the Fortune 500 companies in the United States have offered meditation sessions to their employees. This influenced Flow’s growth strategy, which aims to serve several key clients and then broaden its customer base.
Han Yan, founding partner of Lightspeed China, commented on the investment and said, “With the rapid development of society and the fast pace of work and life, people are seeking spiritual tranquility. This provides fertile opportunities for the meditation market. We see Flow as an outstanding team deeply engaged in this field.” Lightspeed Capital is also an investor in Calm, and led its latest USD 75 million funding.
“I have known Wu Zan for many years, and I’m glad to have been the first to support him when he started Flow,” said Shao Yibo, founder of Evolve Ventures. “Combining the ancient wisdom of the East and modern brain science, I believe Flow will benefit many people in their daily lives,” he said. Shao is also the chairman of Insight Timer, a US-based app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation.
36Kr Connection features translated and adapted content published by 36Kr. This article was originally written by Guo Jiajia for 36Kr. It was translated and adapted by Mengyuan Ge.