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Calm, Led by a “Natural Leader,” as Matt Cheng Describes, Becomes the First Mental Health Unicorn

Calm Press Kit

Raising $88 million in Series B funding in February, the meditation and sleep app Calm has taken its place in the line-up of unicorn startups.

On July 2, Lightspeed Venture Partners added $27 million as extension funding to this round.

The capital will help this app further expand its services, from guided meditations to stretching routines, stories for children, bedtime readings by celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, and much more.

With these features, it aims to tackle with insomnia problems that haunt more than 40 percent of the world population.

In fact, after Calm introduced sleep stories last year, it has witnessed a fivefold rise in revenue. Now, it is the first unicorn focused on mental health.

How does Calm end up here?

At this year’s annual conference of AAMA Cradle Program in Taipei, Matt Cheng, founder and managing partner for Cherubic Ventures, said he didn't really feel like investing when he came across the app, now valued at over $1 billion.

Matt Chang at Annual Conference of AAMA Taipei cradle Program
Business Next Media

Founded in 2013, Cherubic Ventures is an early stage VC originating from a well-known Taiwanese angel investment company.

At first, Cheng was simply curious about how it managed to acquire the domain name Calm.com.

But during the conversation with the team, he discovered that the founder, Alex Tew, was the student who conceived The Million Dollar Homepage in 2005, a fundraising project for his university education.

The page consists of a million pixels, each priced at $1. The purchasers can display an image, a URL, and a slogan on the space they buy for advertising.

Tew said meditation is the way he dealt with his mental problems that arose after he finished developing the page. He also went abroad to learn about this topic.

“He is a natural leader,” Cheng describes. He believes Tew is able to gather smarter and more capable partners to work with him.

Eventually, Cherubic Ventures offered half a million dollars in its seed round funding.

Matt Cheng's investing secret

Until now, on Cherubic Ventures’ list of investment, six startups have gone public and 13 have been merged or acquired. The former includes Liulishuo, now on New York Stock Exchange, and the latter includes Ring, bought by Amazon at $1 billion.

Among them, none is centered around hyped technologies or ideas such as blockchain, P2P, and sharing economy.

“Trend is not what I first consider before investing because it can change in three months,” he said. Instead, he looks at the market potential of startups.

Speaking of Calm, as one of its early investors, Cheng said good luck is what paves the way for his investment journey.

“But sometimes it is in the palm of your hands,” he added. “My luck comes from the fact that I am willing to trust people.”

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Bryan Chou
Journalist & Global PR

Bryan Chou is a writer, a translator, and a journalist for Business Next. The year he spent in NTU student press as an editor is the beginning of his writing journey. After the internship experience in a Taipei-based startup, he started to write about innovative tech and entrepreneurship while keeping abreast of the changing social and political landscape on a global scale.

He has a BA in Foreign languages and literatures from NTU. During his one-year stay in Prague, he traveled extensively around Europe, learning about the history and culture of the region from local people. Currently based in Taipei, he hopes to present the best of Taiwan to the world.