Chorus launched its online experience on March 16 of last year. It was fairly auspicious timing, as those things go, falling the same day seven public health departments launched a joint shelter-in-place order in its native California.
Like countless other companies, 2020 didn’t go according to plan for the meditation app. But the site scrambled to pivot the company’s “experiential” hybrid of in-person classes to a fully virtual interface, and ultimately it may be all the better for it.
Certainly there’s no shortage of meditation apps from which to choose. Calm and Headspace top the list, but the mindfulness category has proven to be an extremely popular one, as users look to technology to help alleviate some of the stresses for which it has been directly responsible.
But meditation is hard. It’s hard to start and it’s hard to maintain. Some apps do a better job than others of guiding a user through that process, but it can still feel like a solitary experience — one of many reasons people abandon practices before they’re able to start seeing the benefits.
Chorus was already seeing success with its early in-person events. “We thought that had to be the on-ramp for most users because it provided the most immersive first experience,” co-founder and CEO Ali Abramovitz tells TechCrunch. “We ran in-person pop-ups in San Francisco.”
The company also managed to raise a pre-seed round of around $1 million. More recently, the company has received additional funding as part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 batch of startups.
An official app is still forthcoming. For now, the experience uses a web portal for signups, while the actual classes are conducted live over Zoom and archived for on-demand viewing. It’s similar to the setup many gyms and personal trainers have utilized during the pandemic. And while it’s not the most sophisticated, Abramovitz says Chorus currently has user numbers in the “thousands,” largely by word of mouth, while not disclosing the actual figure.
Among the hundreds of users who pay the monthly $40 fee (versus the $10 a month drop-in pricing), around two-thirds are classified as “highly engaged,” which means they attend an average of a class every other day. The service draws people in with breathing exercises based on popular songs and keeps users engaged by offering a more communal experience than most meditation apps.
“The problem we’re solving is two parts,” says Abramovitz. “Originally we thought we were designing a new meditation experience specifically for people who found meditation challenging. What we’ve learned, after seeing our customers stay after class and talk to each other, is what keeps people coming back is a new way to connect with themselves and each other.”
The experience is kind of a virtual approximation of the experience you would get in an in-person class — namely the sorts of engagements you would get with fellow attendees after the class. In an era of social isolation, it’s clear why users would be particularly engaged with that aspect.
As for what that experience will look like in a post-pandemic world, the company plans to continue to adapt to meet users’ needs.
“We’re fundamentally an experience company,” says Abramovitz. “We’re a meditation experience company for people who found traditional meditation challenging. That is our core. We will deliver that over whatever platform or channel provides the best experience for our community. Right now that’s an app. In the future, it could be hardware devices like VR or strategic studios like Peloton has for the community. But right now, we’re focused on the digital experience.”