Last year, Julie and D Sharma founded Meditation.live, a platform that provides enterprise and consumer wellness solutions. Since then they have moved the company to South Florida and raised venture funding.
By Nancy Dahlberg
On a beautiful, balmy night in a garden lit by candlelight, encircled by a group of mostly female founders who also practice mindfulness, Julie Sharma shared her entrepreneurial journey leading up to creating Meditation.live. It was a fitting setting because she and her husband were attracted to Miami to launch their startup because of the rich mindful community they found here.
Julie and D Sharma founded Meditation.live, a platform that provides enterprise and consumer wellness solutions, in July of 2018, and launched its main app out of beta in April of this year followed by a consumer app in July. In September, they announced $3 million in venture funding to expand their subscription model globally.
Julie had been a yoga enthusiast for many years and started meditating about three years ago. D, because of his heritage, was always around that culture. In the summer of 2017, they took a nearly yearlong sabbatical, visiting yogis and gurus and spending time at some of the best mindful schools and retreats in the world. Among their stops: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Bali, Australia, Peru and the Caribbean to name a few.
After their return to the U.S. in May of 2018, “it became very clear we wanted to build meditation.live,” Julie said.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for us to go to all these locations … and having that time with different teachers all over the world gave us the ability to get feedback, a real-time interaction that we recreated in our app. That was when we were finally able to really see the impact of how meditation can change your life.”
The global, mindful company they envisioned, however, would have a key differentiator from the other apps on the market. Theirs would include live interactive classes, much like they were able to experience on their world journey.
“In these classes you can connect with our experts or doctors or teachers in our interactive setting. You can ask them any questions that you have – we can open up the mic — and you can also submit questions via text,” said Julie. “It’s the only app where you can get real-time feedback from experts at this caliber. There is no other platform like that in the mindful space.”
Building the team and the tech
Tech expertise and startup experience runs deep in this team.
D, a serial entrepreneur and investor, began his career at the Nokia Research Center as part of the team that created early access to internet on mobile phones. He went on to found startups, and previously created a speech recognition technology, receiving the first patent on multimodal technologies which is now commonplace with Siri, Alexa, etc. After that, he launched xAd, an advertising service that uses GPS technology and grew the business to more than $200 million in revenue. He is CEO of meditation.live.
Julie, co-founder and company evangelist, worked at a number of startups in her career as well, spearheading accounting and operations teams. She also was a senior business analyst for the American Museum of Natural History and Charity Amabassador for xAd. At Meditation.live, she is responsible for acquiring teachers, overseeing app content and overall company culture, finance and HR.
Rounding out the co-founding team is Bhartesh Chhibbar, who is their CTO and is based in India.
When the couple started planning where they wanted to locate, they considered LA but Miami won out. Sure, there was the weather and the usual business reasons – a business-friendly tax structure and cost of living – but the community sealed the deal, Julie said. Just the number of yoga studios per capita signaled the rich mindful community in Miami.
Today, the company offers about four to six live classes through their app on weekdays and have a couple of offerings on the weekend. In addition, Meditation.live offers a large library of on-demand courses. In addition to meditation, there are classes and talks on mindful eating, yoga and stretching, among others. With the growing interest in mindfulness at the corporate level, Meditation.live’s web application integrates with Slack, so employees can invite team members to join them in meditation sessions and take team building activities to the next level.
On the immediate radar is a new feature called Replay, in which live classes will be added to the on-demand library within days. In the coming year a big goal is to offer the app in multiple languages, starting with Spanish and Hindi, as well as growing the class offerings and adding more doctors, scientists, authors and teachers to their platform.
Here’s comes the investment
To fund all this, Meditation’live raised $3 million from SoftBank and other investors in September. SoftBank also invested in one of D’s previous ventures. Proceeds from the investment will be used to scale Meditation.live across thousands of businesses and millions of consumers, said D, when announcing the investment. “Our mission is to inspire 5 billion people to find their true purpose using meditation and mindful movements,” he said.
Today, Meditation.live has 20 full-time employees globally, with about 5 in the Miami area. The startup has made some hires in content generation and is currently looking for people for app development.
What’s ahead? “To continue to grow globally. We just closed our round with SoftBank as our lead investor and intend to use that to grow our sales team in Asia and continue to build out our content library.” Julie said.
But on this night in the garden at the Venture Women event led by Suzanne Jewell, Julie seemed pleased to join the group meditation and share her story with other entrepreneurs.
Headquarters: Miami Beach
Year founded: 2018
Co-founding team: D Sharma, CEO; Julie Sharma, chief evangelist, Bhartesh Chhibbar, CTO
Business model: subscription
No. of employees: 20 globally; 5 in Miami area.
Financing: Raised $3 million from Softbank in the third quarter of 2019. In total, the company has raised $5.5 million, according to Crunchbase.
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