One of the first times Ross Hoffman met Headspace CEO Rich Pierson when talking about a role running the company’s business, Pierson was not talking a lot about business. Instead, he was peppering Hoffman with questions about himself, telling stories about users, and talking about work ethos.
The business questions came later, of course, but that kind of introduction and vetting for a company built around a meditation app might not be all that surprising. and Headspace has now hired Hoffman to be its first chief business officer. Hoffman, who was most recently Twitter’s VP of global content partnerships, is joining the company at the beginning of July.
“What we spoke about was, revenue is important but not why Headspace exists — and the job is balancing those two things to make sure we’re upholding the culture and the product,” Hoffman said. ” It’s ensuring you can do that while building a business and not interfering with that mission.”
Headspace last raised $30 million in 2015 amid a big focus — at least, in Silicon Valley — on solving the problem of promoting mindfulness through an app. It’s a total Silicon Valley-ish thing to do, but Headspace recently revamped its app in order to help build those small meditation sessions into a daily habit. The company also recently hired a new chief scientist and head of growth in order to scale it up. Hoffman said those kinds of moves, plus the activity he saw online praising the app, were what finally wooed him.
“I’m on a 100 day run streak [in the app] myself,” Hoffman said. “There’s a cool thing in the office, a map of the world, and different quotes from different users It’s really incredible. I went on Twitter and saw what people are saying about Headspace. 99% of the Tweets are overwhelmingly positive. To have a [net promoter score] of a product that’s that high, I thought it was really special.”
There may be an opportunity here for Headspace — and Hoffman — if the company is able to convince large businesses that meditation can be a helpful and healthy activity for their employees. These kinds of companies, with “wellness” budgets and other kinds of funding, may see an opportunity to work with Headspace directly in order to keep their employees happy and performing. To do that, it’ll need someone with experience dealing with partnerships like Hoffman.
There’s plenty of competition for Headspace, including Calm and Aura Health, as well as your Apple Watch periodically telling you to breathe (whether that’s meditative or not is sort of subjective). But convincing users to carve out a part of their day every day can create a heavily engaged customer that will be willing to pay in order to keep and promote that habit if they think it’s healthy — something that could easily branch into larger and larger groups of people, like in corporations.
For Twitter, that’s another loss on the executive team, which has more or less become the norm these days (though it did bring on a new lead for its live video business in May). To be sure, Hoffman had been at Twitter since 2011, so a departure after that long a tenure doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary. And Hoffman, to his credit, has not fallen asleep during one of the meditation sessions.