Religion-based apps, tools and communities aren’t brand new, including to investors. Pray.com, for example, an LA-based app for daily prayer and bedtime Bible stories that was founded in 2016, has raised at least $34 million from investors, including Kleiner Perkins. Ministry Brands, a nine-year-old, Knoxville, Tennessee-based outfit that now includes dozens of software and payments brands tailored to faith-based organizations, was acquired in 2016 for $1.4 billion by Insight Partners (which is reportedly now looking to flip it).
Still, fueled by a pandemic that drove churches to close, faith-based apps and communities are growing faster than ever — the most popular, Bible app, is now on more than 400 million devices worldwide — and getting more notice as a result.
The newest of these is Glorify, a two-year-old, 60-person, subscription-based “well-being” app that offers users guided meditation, along with audio bible passages and Christian music. The London-based outfit just raised $40 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from SoftBank Latin America Fund, K5 Global and a long string of famous individuals, including Kris Jenner, Corey Gamble, Michael Ovitz, Jason Derulo and Michael Bublé.
We talked yesterday with its 22-year-old co-founder and co-CEO, Ed Beccle, who says he spends up to a third of his time in São Paulo, and who recently sold his previous company for what he describes as a “multimillion-dollar” exit. Indeed, he says he dropped out of high school at age 16 to work on his startups.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, during our conversation, he laid out a vision that extends well beyond meditation and Bible readings. He also offered a peek into how wealthy celebrities and startup entrepreneurs are being brought together. Excerpts of that chat follow, edited lightly for length.
TC: You say this is your third or fourth startup. With Glorify, did you see an opportunity or are you a religious person or is it a combination of both things?
EB: I think definitely a combination of both. It’s hard not to get a little bit philosophical when you’re young, and you’re doing exciting things, [and] maybe you make more money than regular people your own age. For me, at least, I stopped and thought, ‘Well, I can afford all the Ubers and Uber Eats in the world, and I don’t really spend any other money. I don’t have a mortgage or dependents. What would I do if I could do anything?’
[The answer] has always been working on tech that changes the way people think and feel. That’s what I’m kind of obsessed with. . . Now I’ve never been more proud of anything in my life than this company because it is so much more than just a business. I’ve come at it from from a lot of different angles and one is very much on an emotional level and my own beliefs around faith. Then the other is: It’s the most incredible commercial opportunity. It’s going to be, I think, far bigger than people realize.
TC: You have a pretty interesting syndicate of investors. How did that come together?
EB: I think it came together a bit like everything that I’ve done, which is just, you know, by my continually trying and chatting to as many people as I can and putting myself in a lot of awkward situations sometimes to get in front of the right people. In terms of the celebrity elements, I have to say that that was a shock. [Former Hollywood agent turned founder of K5 Global] Michael Kives has been a complete hero on this front; he sent me a message that said, ‘Are you free’ on whatever the date was. ‘I want you to come to dinner with me and the Kardashians’ and there were probably 25 people on the guest list that he sent over, and I’m not sure there was a single person aside from myself and one other who wasn’t an A-lister. Like, it was crazy. I walk through the door, and there was Michael [Bublé] and Jason Derulo, and, I mean, what you see on the press release is literally the tip of the iceberg. We’ve only released some of the names.
It comes down to: Why have we done it? Why have I tried so hard to get a lot of these people involved? It’s because we’re trying to create a cultural movement around faith and making believing in God and something greater something that’s more than just okay [and into] something that can really change your life. My goal with all of these people is to get them to make Glorify the medium that they talk about their faith through.
TC: Can you talk about some of the business metrics that made these people decide to commit to the venture?
EB: We’re averaging at least 250,000 people daily and we’ve had now 2.5 million downloads over the last year or so. I think things have really kicked off in the last six months to be honest, and what’s so exciting is that a lot of this growth has been semi organic. It’s not from viral K factor that exists within the app. We always thought it was too early to start introducing stuff like that.
TC: Is the plan to evolve this into a full-fledged social network?
EB: When we talk about it being a social network, 100%. It’s just that trying to look at social very differently. We want to optimize for very different things. I want to be building tight-knit engaged communities that are really meaningful and purpose-led, rather than things that are mass, superficially engaged, which is really the trap of social today. We don’t monetize through ads; the user really isn’t the product. We want to bring people closer together and not necessarily in huge groups but through amazing micro interactions that can exist and bring you closer to a small group of people who you really care about.
TC: Are you close to break-even at this point?
EB: Definitely not, but it’s very intentional. We’ve proven paid conversion, which we’re really happy about . . . I believe the engaged audience that we will have will probably have a higher propensity to pay for all sorts of other products that we release. That cool daily worship product will [continue to] be in the Glorify app, although far improved, even in over the next few months, but [we think we can] take that audience and direct them to other products that we’ve created, where they’ll have high propensity to pay.
TC: Are you talking about virtual tithing? Bible study?
EB: An example would be in in Christian dating. It’s an amazing, huge space, but anyone who really tries to build within it has to become kind of a Christian Tinder, using visuals to be the primary way you match people. I don’t know if that’s really the right way to go about it. Instead, you know, if you’re a user of Glorify, we’ll be able to match you with people based on shared beliefs [and] your engagement with the Bible [and] all sorts of things where we have almost a competitive advantage over anyone else because of the product that we’ve begun with.
Pictured above: From left to right, Henry Costa and Ed Beccle, co-CEOs of Glorify. The two met at a co-working space when Costa was doing angel investing in London. According to Beccle, they instantly hit it off and he asked Costa if he would be his co-founder at their previous company. They later co-founded Glorify.