Headspace might just be considered an app that plays back a soothing voice to help you meditate, but the company says it is increasingly carries a more difficult technology problem as it continues to grow — and it’s hiring on a few people today to tackle it.
Headspace said it has brought on both a head of data science and a new chief technology officer today as it tries to figure out how to continue scaling across new geographies without any hiccups, in addition to making sure it grows in its core markets. Paddy Hannon and Punnoose Isaac, previously at Edmunds.com as the chief technology officer and head of data and analytics respectively, will be joining Headspace to reprise similar roles for the startup that’s trying to become a daily habit for users.
“You can go through the dot-com bubble of the 90s, over all those years, and look at how many companies built great technologies that were solutions looking for problems,” Hannon said. “I think this is a different opportunity — we’re a product company. Technology and content are there to serve the aims and goals of the company. It’s all focused on that. The tech needs to be focused on that, and the product needs to be focused on that. We think about how to transform this company into one that has a global scale that [co-founders] Andy [Puddicombe] and Rich [Pierson] envision. Their vision isn’t Andy’s voice throughout the world, their vision is building products that help people.”
As startups start to take a deeper look at their products and what kinds of interactions users have, they have to actually think about where they can start tracking what their users are doing in sensitive ways in order to improve the experience. That might mean figuring out how often they are logging in, when they are checking their progress, how long they are listening, and other examples in a non-invasive way. But another big challenge is ensuring all that is wrapped up in a way where statisticians and product people can actually easily query all that data and start doing the math on it to figure out how to improve things, and building that out will be part of Isaac’s main jobs.
The rest of the technology problems are ones that startups will typically face as they start to scale, which includes getting on hardware around the world and making sure that all that content is available when necessary. Headspace has increasingly tried to tailor its services for the time that its users have, and not the other way around, and that means making sure it’s actually working right when a user is looking to check out of reality and into a Headspace meditation — especially if it’s only just for a few minutes. Hannon said the plan, currently, is not to move onto its own proprietary infrastructure.
Hannon stressed that the data that the company would be collecting as it tries to improve its products would not be sold or used in any way other than trying to make Headspace a better experience, as the company monetizes through different ways. “While data is an important aspect of what we do, we’re not incentivized to do things with that data that would violate the trust of our consumers because they’re paying us,” Hannon said.
All this is essentially continuing moves to try to make the service more palatable and easier to use — and actually working — as it faces an increasingly crowded space market of apps looking to help users take a minute to just chill and be a bit more mindful. Calm.com, for example, is reportedly hitting a $250 million valuation in an upcoming financing round, and the company that ends up with both the best experience and content may eventually be the one that wins out. That means bringing on the right talent in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly and keeps getting better.
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