Meditation app Calm hits unicorn status with fresh $88 million funding

Calm, the meditation and wellness app that launched back in 2012, has today announced the close of an $88 million Series B financing with a valuation of $1 billion. (We have not been able to clarify whether the valuation was post- or pre-money.)

The funding was led by TPG Growth, with participation from CAA and existing investors Insight Venture Partners and Sound Ventures.

As meditation grows in popularity across the U.S. — the CDC says it tripled from 4.1 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2017 — Calm has capitalized on the craze by offering a suite of mindfulness and wellness tools, from guided meditation sessions to a product called “Sleep Stories,” via a subscription.

But Calm is also meeting stress where it lives. For example, the company invested $3 million in XPresSpa late in 2018. XPresSpa is a chain of quick spa stores found in airports. Meanwhile, Calm partnered with American Airlines to offer Calm content within AA’s in-flight entertainment system.

The growth of Calm is hard to deny. The company says that it has topped 40 million downloads worldwide, with more than one million paying subscribers. Calm also says that it quadrupled its revenue in 2018 — the company is now profitable — and is on track to do $150 million in annual revenue.

With the new financing, Calm’s total amount raised comes to $116 million.

Moreover, Calm’s valuation has soared from $250 million at the beginning of 2018, on the heels of a $27 million Series A, to now hit $1 billion.

Here’s what cofounder and co-CEO Michael Acton Smith had to say in a prepared statement:

We started as a meditation app, but have grown far beyond that. Our vision is to build one of the most valuable and meaningful brands of the 21st century. Health and wellness is a $4 trillion industry and we believe there is a big opportunity to build the leading company in this fast growing and important space.

Cofounder and co-CEO Alex Tew said that the funding will predominantly go towards international growth and increased investment in content.

HouseMyDog and Gudog merge in European dog walking roll up

Two dog walking and sitting startups are merging: HouseMyDog, the U.K.-headquartered online community that enables dog owners to find and book local trusted dog walkers and sitters, has agreed to join forces with Gudog, a similar offering based in Spain.

I understand that HouseMyDog and Gudog will continue to operate under their existing brands for now, but will consolidate into a single brand in “early 2019”. The combined companies also say the roll up creates what they claim is the largest platform of its kind in Europe.

Specifically, the merger seeds the combined platform with more than 25,000 approved dog sitters and walkers in over 70 cities across eight European countries, including the U.K., Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium.

Gudog is said to be the market leader in Spain and “growing rapidly” in France and Germany, adding to HouseMyDog’s strong foothold in other parts of Europe (HouseMyDog has offices in London, Dublin and Berlin). I’m also told that Gudog founder’s Loly Garrido and Javier Cuevas are staying on, taking up the company-wide roles of CPO and CTO respectively.

Meanwhile, the combined entity has a current headcount of 21, but expects to more than double revenue in 2019 and plans to grow the team to 35 to drive further European growth.

James McElroy, co-founder of HouseMyDog, comments: “We’ve had a close relationship with the Gudog team since we met in 2016. We admire what they have achieved and their passion for the community they have built. While today’s announcement makes strategic sense in combining our market share to accelerate our growth, we are also delighted to be working with a team that shares the same values and vision for the future of pet services in Europe”.

Lunchr grabs $34 million for its corporate lunch card

French startup Lunchr is raising a $34 million funding round (€30 million) from Index Ventures, with existing investors Daphni, Idinvest and Kima Ventures also participating. The company had already raised $13 million 7 months ago (€11 million).

In France, companies of a certain size have to support employees in one way or another when it comes to their lunch break. Big companies usually build out a cafeteria while small companies hand out meal vouchers.

Lunchr focuses on meal vouchers. Originally, employees received paper vouchers at the beginning of each month. But meal voucher companies, such as Edenred or Sodexo, now also provide an alternative to paper vouchers. You can get a payment card to pay some or all of your food using a card reader.

While this is a a good idea on paper, many restaurants and supermarkets still don’t accept meal voucher cards as you have to update your card terminals. Apps also don’t work that well so it’s hard to know if you have money left on your account.

Lunchr wants to provide a better experience. And it starts with a card that works in more places. Restaurants don’t need to do anything as long as they already accept paper meal vouchers. Lunchr currently supports 200,000 places in France.

The company also takes advantage of the fact that a company is going to switch everyone to Lunchr, not just some employees. It means that everyone has a Lunchr account, the Lunchr app and a Lunchr card.

That’s why you can also use the Lunchr app to order food around your office. Other employees can add stuff to your order and one employee can pick up the order for everyone. Lunchr has negotiated discounts with restaurants — you unlock discount on big orders. On average, people who order food via the app get an 18 percent discount.

With today’s funding round, the company wants to attract 200,000 by the end of 2019. Redbull in France, LeLynx.fr, Spotify in France, Qonto and Payfit use Lunchr already.

While Lunchr is competing with bigger companies, 85 percent of meal vouchers in France are still paper vouchers. Companies will consider switching to payment cards in the coming years and it presents a big opportunity for Lunchr.