Soultime

How I Got Involved with Soultime

A year ago, Mark Wagner, who founded and runs Soultime was introduced to me by a mutual friend. Mark used to run his own hedge fund and also started a ministry focused on inner healing. So he has a strong business background with good domain expertise in the area of spiritual and emotional health. But he and the team didn’t have a strong tech background. That’s what Mark needed.

The Journey of Soultime

Mark launched Soultime in July 2018 after 9 months of development. So when I joined in May 2019, the app was 10 months old. Since I joined 10 months ago, we’ve about doubled the core metrics — downloads, monthly active users and number of paying users (a subscription is about £60 / year).

  • Acquisition costs (how much we pay to acquire a paying user)
  • Lifetime value (how much money we’ll get from a user over their lifetime)
  • Cashflows (what growth we can sustain with the cash we have and the amount we make back with immediate subscriptions revenue, paid about 45 days later from the app store)

Building a Better Picture

Mark and I first met over lunch at the start of May 2019. I remember being quite surprised by how far he and his small team had come, despite them not having a tech background. The most obvious gap though was a lack of understanding about how their users were using Soultime. They had some basic analytics in the app (provided through Firebase), but that only gave them indications of the number of active users. It didn’t tell them what those users were doing. And no-one had sat down with their users to see how they interacted with the app.

Working on an App Redesign

The team were about to embark on an app redesign and had mocked up how they envisaged the new version looking. The main focus was on building a better daily flow for users.

Qualitative Learnings with User Testing

Mocking up a Prototype

We then mocked up our best attempt at our new user flow using a tool called Marvel. This enabled us to build a prototype that users could try. Marvel is basically a series of screenshots that you can navigate between with clickable buttons. It’s much quicker to put together than building the functionality in the app. And it’s something we could do independently of the engineering team.

Finding the Right Users

We gave the prototype to users and observed how they behaved. Selecting the right users was really important. We needed Christians who had never used Soultime before so we could see how they behaved as new users. After quite a bit of thought and reaching out to a number of local churches and Christian organisations, we managed to secure a slot at a Christian conference the following week. It turned out to be perfect for what we needed …

Learnings & More User Tests

We learnt a lot from this day of user testing. Overall, the onboarding flow and new home screen worked really well. But we discovered that the introduction was unnecessary. It would be better to just direct new users straight into their first daily meditation.

Quantitative Learnings with Mixpanel

In addition to the qualitative learnings from user testing, we also implemented much better analytics in the app so we could learn more about our users’ behaviour using data.

Other Learnings

We also put together a Typeform survey to ask for people’s opinions on the meditations and their experience of using the app. This added further flavour to what we had already learnt from our user testing and Mixpanel data. This mostly validated that our insights were accurate. The comments that people wrote about the impact of Soultime on their lives were also really encouraging to us.

Soultime Product Direction

In addition to the changes in the app’s design and navigation, the learnings that we gleaned from the methods we employed informed our product roadmap for the next few months. We introduced a sleep timer for our music and bible readings as people often listened to these to help them get to sleep. We introduced ratings after each meditation so we could learn which meditations people preferred. And we started recording our own sleep stories so we could have more content to help people fall asleep.

Creating a Full Audio Version of the Bible Using AI

Using a Text-to-Audio Engine

Another piece of feedback we heard a few times was that people wanted to listen to the bible instead of just read it. We only had a few bible passages recorded and we estimated that it would cost at least £50k to have someone read through and record the whole bible.

Using Python to Pull It All Together

So I built a python script to take an entire textual copy of the bible and split out each book, chapter and verse. I then fed each verse through a text-to-audio engine using an API to generate synthetic recordings of each book of the bible. I proof listened to about 5% of the entire bible and corrected about 20 instances I noticed of incorrect readings. For example, “In His name’s sake” was pronouncing “sake” as “saké” (the Japanese beverage!). This led to humorous listening, but needed correcting! In this case, I spelled this word “sayk” and re-fed it through Wavenet, which produced an accurate pronunciation.

Building a Soultime Chatbot

Another project I worked on was a Soultime chatbot. The goal with this project was to see if we could get lower acquisition costs by engaging people first with a chatbot and then seeing if they installed the app and became a paying subscriber after.

Improved Working Practices with the Soultime Engineering Team

We also improved how we worked with the team in the Ukraine over the past few months. Historically, the team in Vauxhall worked with the Ukrainean team in a very transactional way. They would give them a detailed feature specification, the team would quote how many hours it would take to build, we would approve and the team would build it.

Fundraising & Hiring

We recently closed a round of funding. I helped a little with this with some preparation on the pitch and also some conversations with investors. I also spent some time exploring bringing engineering in-house into our London office, which would improve our speed of execution and agility.

Improved Paid Marketing

The biggest challenge we had on growth when I joined was not being able to scale our Facebook advertising spend. During the summer, we encountered an agency that specialises in Facebook ads, through a mutual friend of mine. They have enabled us to maintain a consistently low cost of acquisition that we’ve been able to scale. So we’ve increased our ad spend over the past couple of months. And we now have confidence that we can scale it further. This has been instrumental in our ability to grow and break even as a business.

Building a Soultime Business Dashboard

Challenges & App Figures

Over the past month I’ve been working on building an automated dashboard to display all of our key business metrics. This includes daily metrics on the number of subscribers, ad spend, cost per subscriber, revenue and costs per day including profit and our conversion rates. This is complicated as we offer a free 7-day trial for annual subscribers. So we need to use past conversions to predict how many of those will convert to paying subscribers for a fair comparison with new monthly subscribers on a given day.

A Healthy Business

The holy grail for any startup is to measure lifetime value (LTV) against customer acquisition cost (CAC) in real time. We’re very close to being able to do this. The hardest part is calculating churn, which you need in order to calculate LTV. The complexity lies in figuring out the churn curve in the future so we can estimate how long our users are likely to stick around for. As it’s a curve and not a straight line, the maths is quite complex. We’re close to figuring this out though. And then we can track LTV vs. CAC in real time.

My Future Commitment to Soultime

I’ve just reduced my time that I’ll be working on Soultime from two to one day a week. This is so that I can spend more time building my startup, Would You Rather Be. As I mentioned in my last blog post, it’s been quite stressful working on two projects at the same time. So I want to create more time and space to focus on Would You Rather Be.

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