How We've Grown 7x From Downloads To Monthly Active Users
This is a follow up story for Hallow Inc.. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hello! My name is Alex Jones and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Hallow, a Catholic meditation app. Think Headspace or Calm, but for prayer.
The short version of how it all got started is that I grew up Catholic, but fell away from my faith. I became fascinated with secular meditation but always felt like something was missing – like I was being pulled towards something deeper. I started asking everyone I knew if there was any sort of intersection between meditation and faith, and what I found changed my life. I discovered the beautiful world of Catholic contemplative meditation and prayer. A world that goes back thousands of years with a ton of different powerful techniques to find peace & purpose in God.
We began building Hallow and launched the app at the end of 2018, and have been working to make it better ever since. It now has over 1,000 meditations with everything from a Daily Gospel, Saint, Rosary, Meditation, a full Sleep section with Bible Stories to help you close your day, a Bible in a Year challenge, music like Gregorian Chant, meditations on stress or decision making, and a whole lot more.
We have been incredibly blessed and are now the #1 Catholic App in the world with over 10 million prayers completed through the app.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
We have been blown away by the amazing work that God has done through the app. When we started it we really thought we were building something mostly for ourselves and if it happened to help anyone else that’d be that much better, but we didn’t know what to expect.
Work on something bigger than yourself.
But God has done more with this app than we ever thought possible. From pre-COVID to now we’ve grown 7x in everything from downloads to monthly active users and we now have almost 700k downloads on the app across 150 countries.
We’ve launched a ton of new content including the Bible, Music, and Sleep content I referenced above, and a ton of prayers and Novenas. We’ve also added new community functionality to journey through content with your friends and family through the app. The majority of our growth still today has come through organic word-of-mouth sharing from our community members. The standard social media and influencer marketing have also been effective growth channels if we can find a way to get the LTV / CAC right (more on that below).
We have also been incredibly fortunate to be able to partner with some amazing investors through a Series A to continue scaling our reach. You can read more about that here.
Most importantly, though, God, through this app, has been able to make some miraculous impacts on folks’ lives. Many who had fallen away from their faith, many who were passing away, many who were stressed or anxious or depressed, were able to find peace in God by spending time with Him through the app.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The two biggest things we’ve learned are that content and the first experience are tremendously important. The content that we put on the app, how engaging it is, and how interested folks are in it, are by far the most important drivers of our success. Most VCs and the start-up world want to find some hit new feature or giant functionality unlock because it’s easier to repeat, but the content for us has always been the key. This has even been the case with ads and marketing. We would often experiment with the channel or the audience or targeting, but the most important lever was always finding the right message and the right creativity.
The second thing is that the first experience a user has with the app is enormously important. It is the biggest drop-off any app will have, and seemingly minor tweaks to the initial screens that they see can have a tremendous impact. Our prayer started % (the amount of folks who start a prayer after downloading) has increased more than 35% because of some of the experiments we ran with the initial onboarding.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We’ll continue to focus a ton on adding the world’s best content to the app. We’ll continue to expand our content to reach more folks, especially in our music, Bible, sleep, and meditation categories. We’ll be focused especially on content that is relevant for folks who may have fallen away from their faith or who don’t attend mass every week.
We’ll also be focused on expanding our language offerings. Even in the US, the Spanish Catholic population is enormous, and expanding languages will allow us to reach even more folks.
We’ll continue, of course, to partner very closely with the Catholic Church and to try and be a tool for Her in Her mission. We will be especially focused on reaching, not just folks who take their faith seriously, but those who may have fallen away. We already have a ton of folks on the app like this (see some quotes below), but will continue to stay focused on it as we scale.
“This app has been an answer for my weary soul. Tears pour as I try to impress on you how deeply I am impacted by the guidance into simply being with God. This is where my soul is finding peace for the very first time.”
“Hallow right now is bringing me back to my faith and I will see where it goes. I abandoned my Catholic upbringing because I struggle with religion being the root of so much division and war in our world. I have been meditating for the last five years and have a daily practice. I’ve just recently introduced Hallow into that daily practice and am taking great comfort in welcoming God back into my life. The last five years my meditation practice has brought great peace and purpose to my life but what I didn’t realize until I started meditating with Hallow is there was also a loneliness that I never notice or named until I started Hallow”
“I am not Catholic, but I have grown so much in my prayer life since using this app. The app guides me into the presence of God, teaching me to listen for His voice, expressing my heart to Him, and resting in His presence. It has added depth to my prayer life!”
“I made the move from Headspace to Hallow about three weeks ago, and I’ve used it every day since. I’m actually Episcopal, not Catholic, but it hasn’t mattered. I’ve prayed through different challenges, the rosary, daily gospels, and others. This app has all the benefits of any meditation app but has also improved my prayer life. The app is beautiful and works perfectly, and even the emails from the Hallow team are encouraging. I can’t recommend this enough. Also, if you are considering this as a Protestant, I think you’ll still like 90% of the prayers. Try it!"
"When I ran into Hallow, I wasn’t practicing Catholicism anymore. I had left the Church earlier last year for so many reasons. In any case, I was intrigued, and I began praying with the app. I wanted to say thank you because praying with this app has really been integral in my return to the Church, which I never thought I would be able to do."
Have you read any good books in the last year?
He Leadeth Me by Fr. Ciszek, S.J. It has, in no exaggeration, changed my life. It is a book about a priest who was imprisoned in a Soviet labor camp for 23 years during WWII. The big theme is how he learned to truly trust in God and to find His will in each moment of his life. It’s just an inspiration on the power of faith and how to bring the idea of listening for God’s will into each moment of every day.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I’m no expert, but the first thing I’d say is to work on something bigger than yourself. It just makes it so much easier to follow your gut, to take risks, and not feel like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders. I’m cheating. It’s especially easy for me because God is the real one in charge, but would highly recommend working on something with a bigger mission that gets you up in the morning. It just makes it a whole lot more fun.
More tactically, one piece would be to really understand unit economics. It is so important and can so easily get lost. But really understanding what LTV / CAC (lifetime value/customer acquisition cost) is the key to knowing if you have a financially viable start-up. It also helps you to understand the importance of things like retention and onboarding.
Lastly, and something I’m not super great at is to spend time building relationships before you need them. I am not a fan of networking for networking’s sake, but taking the time to get to know folks from potential partners, hires, or investors, before you ask them to work together makes the process of hiring or fundraising or seeking advice a whole lot easier.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Definitely! Please check out our website here for our open roles. Really focused on adding some world-class engineers, some growth folks, and some phenomenal operations folks to help us scale up.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hallow Inc. has provided an update on their business!
Almost 3 years ago, we followed up with Hallow Inc. to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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