As Medito Foundation’s mission resonates so well with our community, we constantly have offers of support from people who would like to volunteer with us. This is amazing and we’re deeply grateful to all of the people who give up their time to help us achieve our mission. This brought up a question of how we should best work with volunteers. Romain reached out to Jimmy Wales and he advised us that we should let people volunteer in their own way. Don’t be too prescriptive or restrictive about how they get involved. If they have a great idea, let them run with it and you’ll end up with some great results.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike, Romain, Gareth and Steven.
Mike, Romain, Gareth and Steven are four friends who co-founded a nonprofit startup called Medito Foundation. They’re dedicated to improving mental wellbeing by providing free meditation and wellbeing resources. Their main focus at the moment is a 100% free, ad-free meditation app called Medito.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
[Steven] Gareth and I are twin brothers and we grew up in Caerphilly, South Wales, where we were best friends, pretty much from birth, with Mike. We’re now a bit more spread out, with Gareth in Bristol (UK), Steven in Cardiff (UK) and Mike in Amsterdam (NL) along with Romain.
The four of us have a great interest in mindfulness and meditation and we’ve experienced the positive impact that it can have on our own mental health. We also recognized that the best meditation resources were behind a paywall, so access is restricted to some of the people who need it most. This made us question whether it was right for mental health resources to be commodified.
When Romain suggested that we set up a nonprofit organization and build a free meditation app, we were all on board from the get go. Our combined backgrounds of app development (Mike), UX/UI design (Romain), project management (Gareth) and communications in the nonprofit / SaaS sectors (Steven), on top of our combined interest in meditation made us the perfect team to get started. That’s how Medito Foundation was born.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Medito is disrupting the meditation app space by providing premium mindfulness content for free, created by a team of global experts and volunteers.
We believe mindfulness can have a profound impact on individuals and on society as a whole. But too many people are excluded from being able to access mindfulness resources due to the cost or not knowing where to find them. That’s why Medito is completely free. No subscriptions, no ads and no in-app purchases. It’s made for people, not for profit.
Our mission resonates strongly with our community, so we have built up a large base of supporters in a short time, who are helping us to develop the product. For example, we currently have volunteers translating the app into Spanish, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Dutch, Turkish, French, Hindi and Italian. We’re breaking the mould by including our community at the center of what we do and they are helping us to build Medito.
We have recruited a Scientific Advisory Board to help us produce mindfulness and mental health resources that are in line with the latest scientific thinking and we have recruited a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board, helping us to ensure that our content is relevant to all.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
For a short while, our App Store images contained an image with the word ‘meditatate’ in it! For a meditation app to misspell the word meditate is kind of funny! A news website even published a story about us and used the incorrect image, and even though we asked them to change it, it’s still there! A constant reminder to proofread things more carefully!
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
[Steven] I used to work at Cancer Research UK and the Head of Operations there was Jenny Woods. Jenny is an amazing leader — always calm and composed, incredibly intelligent and she fully places her trust in her team. I was lucky enough to continue working with her after she moved to Zurich and became VP of Operations at an app startup called Beekeeper. Jenny was looking for a Communications Manager to join her team and invited me to interview for the position. I joined Beekeeper and continued to be impressed by Jenny’s management style, where she was setting an example for great leadership in a male dominated company and focuses on flexibility and diversity & inclusion. Jenny’s a role model for anybody who aspires to be a good leader.
[Romain] One of my mentors has been Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. I volunteered to support one of his projects called WT.Social (a ‘non-toxic’ social media platform, where advertisers don’t call the shots, people’s data isn’t sold and fake news isn’t distributed) and I got the opportunity to discuss various ideas with him. I’ve always been really impressed with Wikipedia as it started as a side project for Jimmy and a few years later he decided it should be free of advertising and not-for-profit. He’s definitely an inspiration and I think the world would be a better place if more businesses followed his lead.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
We knew that the meditation app market needed to be disrupted in order to get important mental wellbeing resources into the hands of as many people as possible. At the same time, we knew that we wanted to set up an organisation that could present an example of how a good, socially-conscious organization operates.
Our guiding principles include being absolutely transparent, respectful of users privacy, community-led and totally inclusive. The Medito app is open source and anybody can join us in our community of volunteers on our Slack channel. As mentioned earlier, we’ve set up a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board, to make sure we’re not limiting our content to certain groups of people. We’re also keen to use our platform for social good and are, for example, amplifying the voices of the Black Lives Matter movement, with anti-racism meditations.
An example of a disruptor that we admire is Wikimedia Foundation. With Wikipedia, they completely changed the way people access knowledge. Wikimedia Foundation is a nonprofit and Wikipedia is created and edited by volunteers around the world. What Wikipedia has done for access to knowledge, we hope Medito will do for access to meditation resources.
Disruptors can of course also have a negative impact on the world. When organizations are not guided by principles of transparency, privacy, inclusivity and social-good, and rather are only concerned with profit and satisfying shareholders, people will inevitably be negatively impacted.
An example is Facebook. Facebook has clearly been game-changing as a disruptor to not only the social media sector, but also to people’s online lives around the world. You only have to look up their ever-growing list of scandals to know that they are having a not so positive impact on privacy and even on democracy.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- As Medito Foundation’s mission resonates so well with our community, we constantly have offers of support from people who would like to volunteer with us. This is amazing and we’re deeply grateful to all of the people who give up their time to help us achieve our mission. This brought up a question of how we should best work with volunteers. Romain reached out to Jimmy Wales and he advised us that we should let people volunteer in their own way. Don’t be too prescriptive or restrictive about how they get involved. If they have a great idea, let them run with it and you’ll end up with some great results.
- Vanessa Landry has recently joined Medito Foundation’s board and one piece of advice that she gave us is to always follow our ‘Why’. Vanessa told us that firstly, it’s very important to clearly define our mission. Then whenever we’re making an important decision, we should ask ourselves ‘will this directly or indirectly help us achieve our mission?’. We should always ask ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing, and if it doesn’t lead back to our mission, then we should leave it behind.
- When first setting up Medito Foundation, we found communities online where we could get advice and support. One piece of advice that we were given right at the beginning was to always put the user first and get feedback and suggestions from them about the meditations, content and features. We always knew that user feedback was important, but this helped us to engrain it into our philosophy. We know that it is a fundamental piece of advice for any tech startup. Before creating any new content or developing any new features for the app, we take our users opinions into consideration. We have a backlog of ideas that have been suggested by users and we regularly reach out to our user base for feedback and ideas. We’ve made it as easy as possible for users to give input on everything that we do by having a completely open Slack community.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We can’t give too much away yet, but we’re currently working on a new structure for the meditations within Medito, which will allow the user to learn and grow as they move along their custom meditation journey. Watch this space!
We’re also planning to work with our Scientific Advisory Board and partner with other scientific organizations to carry out research around mindfulness and meditation.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
Ted Talk — Everything is Connected by Tom Chi. In this talk, Tom explains the science of how everything is connected, using three stories about the heart, the breath and the mind.
Tom goes on to talk about how the way that we are in our lives can affect our friends, family and wider communities, then our communities affect society, our society affects the biosphere, and the biosphere can affect the planet.
This concept can be seen in one of the pillars of Medito Foundation’s mission: Improving society as a whole by improving the mental wellbeing of individuals.
When you view the world in this way, you can realize that each individual plays an important role as part of the whole. You can recognize that you are in fact a part of society and a part of nature itself. In this way, it’s possible to find a profound sense of peace and connection.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One thing that we often return to is ‘Let it go’. Meditation helps you to become more mindful, allowing you to recognize emotions as they arise and not become too attached to them. The more you do this, the easier it becomes to let go of the things that don’t serve you.
Of course, we are not perfect and we sometimes become frustrated or demotivated if things aren’t going quite to plan with Medito. One of us is apt to remind the others to ‘let it go’ and we laugh, but we know that it is a skill that we should always try to foster — just letting things go
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The Dalai Lama once said, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” This sums up the power that meditation can have on society as a whole and we would love to inspire a movement that makes meditation mainstream and widely recognized as being just as important as getting daily exercise or eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!