Meet the millennial master of meditation. Unlike typical mindfulness devotees, Yunha Kim didn’t decide to turn her life around after waking up in a gutter one morning following a night of unabated debauchery. She’s not a breatharian in loin cloth nor a stoic exile from a mountainous country.
In fact, the 28-year-old lost composure and got all emo while pitching her five-minute meditation app, Simple Habit, in the ninth-season premiere of Shark Tank Sunday night.
“I found out my grandma had cancer days before I went on the show,” Kim, founder and CEO of the San Francisco startup, said before the airing. “I couldn’t help but think about my grandmother and the stories of so many cancer patients who use Simple Habit.”
“We are making a positive, meaningful difference,” she added. “I can’t help but feel strong conviction for that work. There is an opportunity to bring mindfulness and meditation to the world.”
Unfortunately, the Sharks didn’t care for the opportunity at asking price of $600K for 5% equity, valuing the company at a whopping $12 million. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and FUBU founder Daymond John questioned her intention of going on the show after she told them she had raised $2.8 million from Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
“I would rather give money to someone who desperately needs it,” said John.
“She’s a gold digger,” said Cuban, insinuating Kim came on the show only for the publicity and not to cut a deal.
Laughs and gasps filled the tank when guest shark Sir Richard Branson dumped a glass of water on Cuban’s head. Calling the other sharks “rude,” Branson said she shouldn’t be embarrassed for having raised good money for her company. He countered Kim’s offer at $300K for 10%. But ‘Shark Tank’ dictates entrepreneurs must get all the money they ask for or walk away empty handed. Cybersecurity king Robert Herjavec offered to go in with Branson, also at $300K for 10%, imploring Kim about the value of having a shark on board.
Kim countered their counter offer at $600K for 6% equity, bringing down the valuation to $10 million. Herjavec and Branson countered the counter offer their initial counter offer with $600K for 15%. But Kim declined.
“I was grateful for the offer but ultimately had to turn it down out of respect for our current investors who took a chance on us at much higher valuation many months before this episode was filmed,” Kim said. “Richard Branson as interested in our product and growth potential. And I believe he would have raised his offer if I focused more on persuading him in the tank.”
There’s no need for Kim to stress about turning down a Shark Tank offer, given she’s secured investments from Y Combinator, New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and many other top Silicon Valley CEOs like Dropbox’s Drew Houston and Gusto’s Joshua Reeves. Luckily, she remains in contact with the billionaire founder of all things Virgin.
“I was really moved by Richard Branson’s kindness on and off stage,” Kim said. “I was reminded to always be kind. People will remember that and feel more inspired to pass that same kindness along to the next person. It’s a ripple effect.”
After Kim left the tank, the sharks argued over whether well-funded Silicon Valley companies should get to go on the show. They laughed at themselves for getting worked up over a meditation app and took a deep breath.
Netflix of Meditation
Billed as the Netflix of Meditation, Simple Habit offers a monster library of more than 1,000 guided meditations from more than 60 gurus including Google’s mindfulness teachers, former monks, authors and a Harvard psychologist.
“Our goal is to bring top meditation and mindfulness teachers from all over the world to a single platform,” Kim said. “We want to make mindfulness and meditation more accessible and approachable than ever before.”
Besides the usual meditations — for focus, sleep, stress — the app offers saucier deep-thought guidances to help you get over an ex, boost sex drive and overcome orgasm anxiety.
“Ultimately, we want to help people enjoy the things they care about most — their health, careers, relationships, plus so much more,” Kim said.
Simple Habit, launched in summer of 2016 to wild success. With 800,000 users, it hit the $1 million revenue milestone in August. The app offers a seven-day free trial and more than 50 free sessions. Premium content costs $11.99 a month or $95.99 a year. In-app purchases range from $4.99 to $131.99 each.
The company has spent little on advertising. Most users come to the app through word of mouth and news coverage. The Android version counts 100,000 to 500,000 downloads in Google Play and ranks 10th most popular in health and fitness. It has plenty of room to grow to catch up with the leaders: Headspace counts 5 million to 10 million Android installs, Calm and Insight Timer both have 1 million to 5 million Android downloads.
“We receive countless stories every day from individuals who have discovered Simple Habit and used our app to deal with divorce, cope with illness, discover self-worth,” Kim said. “These stories continue to inspire us to build a premium product that helps people to stress less, achieve more and live better.”
Although there are perhaps a dozen meditation apps for every chakra in the body, Kim decided to develop in response to her own needs — short five-minute meditations designed for busy people.
“I went through a period of serious stress in my early 20s,” she recalls. “I left my job in investment banking to build my first startup. I was working 16 hours days, seven days a week and often found it hard to relax, step away from work, and even fall asleep. My stress hit an all-time high and this burnout inspired me to try meditating.”
She majored in economics and Chinese at Duke University and graduated magna cum laude in 2011. She interned at McKinsey & Company and the United Nations during the summers. She worked as an investment banking analyst at Jefferies after college.
At age 23, she sold her first company, Locket, a smartphone lock screen app in July 2015. Locket raised $3.2 million from major investors including Tyra Banks, Turner Broadcasting Systems, and Great Oaks Venture Capital. Mobile shopping platform Wish acquired it in July 2015 for an undisclosed amount.
Kim dropped out after the first semester of business school at Stanford University to pursue Simple Habit. She made her way onto Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list this year and Business Insider’s list of “30 Most Creative Under 30” for advertising.
A Mission of Mindfulness
Fighting tears on Shark Tank, Kim is passionate about the power of mindfulness and meditation.
“Self-care is critical,” Kim said. “You will work long days, and stress is inevitable, so it’s important to take a little time each day to step away, breath and reset. I learned this the hard way with my first startup where I experienced burnout.”
At the office, she also kicks off every workday with a team meditation and starts every meeting with a gratitude ritual.
“As a boss, leader and team member, I am more alert, focused and equipped to handle the hundreds of unexpectancies that happen at a startup,” said Kim. “For other business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs, I recommend kickstarting your day with the Simple Habit Good Morning meditation or the Simple Habit 3-Minute Break is a super quick and easy way to step away when your day gets crazy.”
Most of the Simple Habit team started working there as a side hustle, passion project that became full-time.
“We have an amazing team at Simple Habit,” Kim said. “Find people who are mission-driven, overqualified and invest in them. Your company vision might change, your product might change. But the goal is to build a team that can remain the strong foundation through the type of dynamic growth that is commonplace for startups.”
Kim’s favorite Simple Habit meditations are Start Your Day With Purpose, Enhance Your Workflow, and Take A Deep Breath. She recommends the Simple Habit Starter series for newbies. Insomniacs should try the 7-day Deep Sleep Series.
“We’ve been surprised by how popular our sleep meditations are on Simple Habit,” Kim said. “People have found our sleep programs to be great for helping them decompress from busy days, cope with insomnia, enjoy better quality sleep and beyond.”
This story was initially published in Forbes.com in October 2017.