The Calm Story: Building the World’s First $1B Mental Health Unicorn

Sam: So this next speaker is a good friend of mine. We actually covered him in Trends and I was floored by his story. His name is Michael Acton Smith and he’s the co-CEO of Calm. I’m a big user of Calm, so I love them for that reason. But I also really like this company because it’s one of the most efficient businesses I’ve ever really read about. Calm has 80 employees and they do about $2 million in revenue per employee. They’ve only been around for seven or eight years and they built a wonderful company that has a product that’s used by over 60 million people. And so Michael’s going to tell us their origin story and how they made it all happen. So let’s give it up for Michael Acton Smith.

M. Acton Smith: Thank you, Sam. Hey everybody. I’m Michael and I just love this space. Such a beautiful theater. Actually last time I was here I was sitting in the audience and I just moved to California and I came to Hustle Con. This is several years ago and I sat and I was so inspired by everything I heard. I was scribbling notes frantically throughout the day and the Headspace founders were up on stage and I was gritting my teeth, gnashing away saying, “One day I want to get up on that stage and tell the Calm story.” So pretty cool to be here and I think that’s part of the magic of this Hustle community. One year you’re in the audience, the next year you’re up on stage. So I’m telling the story. So without further ado, I’d love to share with you the Calm journey. It’s been a pretty extraordinary ride and I want to share a couple of lessons that we’ve learned along the way.

So Calm is simple. Our mission is pretty simple. We want to make the world happier and healthier and we’re based here in San Francisco. This is our team earlier this year and a extraordinary team of 10 X as Sam mentioned, very nimble, very efficient given the kind of scale of business we’ve grown to. And we were founded back in 2012 in London, in Soho on a sofa. And this is my co founder Alex Tew. And we used to spend hours every evening we shared a house playing video games. And while we were playing video games, particularly FIFA on the Xbox, that was our favorite, we would just talk about business and ideas. We so kind of love business and entrepreneurship and taking the crazy ideas bubbling around our head and putting them out there in the world. And we were both unemployable, so we kind of had to do this.