Core raises $4M for its handheld meditation training device

Steven Loeb · May 16, 2019 · Short URL:

It uses hardware and software to give users insights into how meditation is affecting their health

The conversation around mental health and wellness has changed a lot in a very short amount of time; where it was once a taboo subject for a lot of people to talk about, now many people are open and honest about their need to take care of the mental well-being as much as they are about their physical health.

The tech world has latched onto this shift, and has invested heavily in companies like Calm, which has raised $116 million in venture funding, and Headspace, which has raised $75.2 million. The problem is that those apps is that, while they are helping people, they can't provide tangible evidence that they are improving mental well-being.

That's the difference with Core; the company is a meditation experience and personalized wellness company that combines both software and hardware in order to give users insights into the effect that meditation has on their stress and anxiety levels.

On Thursday, the company announced a $4 million seed funding round led by Spero Ventures along with Bolt, Corigin Ventures and Stanford-StartX Fund. The company had previously raised a $1.6 pre-seed round, which was led by Bolt. 

The fact that both of Core's lead investors, Shripriya Mahesh of Spero Ventures and Kate McAndrew of Bolt, were both women is "both interesting and important," Sarah McDevitt, CEO and founder of Core, told me in an interview.

"It’s really important to me to increase the visibility of female founders and investors in Silicon Valley and more broadly, and that’s important to them as well. Overall, I felt extremely grateful just to work with really amazing investors and partners so far in our journey who really understand the long-term vision of Core and the depth of impact that we’re looking to have in society with our successful business. Shri and Kate, and certainly our other investors, really deeply get that and support that," she said.

That long-term goal behind Core "is to cement mental well-being as a pillar of modern life."

"For us, we really see taking care of your mind as an act of strength, so we want to support that movement with our customers. The way that we’re thinking about that meditation is a really effective practice to help people manage stress and anxiety, and just see the daily ups and downs that we go through in our professional and personal lives. So, we want to help people develop a meditation habit and, more broadly, really develop a tool set around mental wellness to help them achieve whatever goals they have in their daily lives," said McDevitt.

The typical customer for Core is anyone who believes meditation can benefit them, and the company strives to be an approachable solution for both beginners and people who are experienced with meditation.

"Core provides a really tangible way and to understand its effects on you personally."

As Core is both a hardward and software solution, customers can buy the device for $169, and, eventually, it will also be launching a subscription service to its app on top of that, though users will always be able to use Core without the subscription. Users hold the Core device with both hands during meditation and, by using both vibration and audio, it guides them through breathing exercises, while also offering reflective meditation classes and exercises. 

The Core device contains electrocardiogram sensors that allows the company to measure a person's stress level, particularly by looking at heart rate (HRV).

"HRV is a really important metric for looking at how your body is recovering from stress and how your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system is balanced," McDevitt explained. Based on the data it collects, Core is then able to provide users with a personalized system to help them understand how meditation is affecting them in the immediate term, as well as over the long-term.

While Core isn't sharing any hard ROI numbers just yet on how patients benefit, one thing that McDevitt would say is that its customers have so far really latched onto "the fact that having this kind of reflection of your nervous system helps each individual build that self knowledge and self awareness of the different things that are affecting their stress and their recovery each day."

"Ultimately, Core is all about building that self awareness that enabled really strong mental well-being, and having meaningful data and information empowers us to develop our own self awareness," she said. 

There are a few benefits for the patient that go beyond being able to measure the actual progress of the patient's health, one of which is that Core allows people to get meditation advice without the use of a screen. 

"One of the big benefits of having that Core device is you can actually disconnect from your phone screen and still have some guidance to help you meditate. All of the data and all of the intelligence will still be uploaded to your phone, or to the app, whenever it’s in range but you have the option without your phone screen, which I think is really helpful. Our phones and our wearables are often a source of our stress and so being able to have some guidance separate from those devices is really important for our users," McDevitt explained.

The other is that having a physical device actually helps people with developing a long-term meditation habit.

"By providing a physical experience it’s just a much different level of immersion into meditation that you can get to with Core. And, by closing the feedback loop for meditation, we can help you develop a really effective personal practice over time in a way that’s really unique to Core," said McDevitt.

"We have seen that, in our customer’s usage of Core, having the Core device is a really strong anchor for the overall practice. So, we deliver great content on top of that, that’s always important, but we found that having the device as the central anchor to your practice is incredibly sticky over time."

The company, which is currently in beta, released the first batch of its devices last year, and quickly sold out. With this round, the company plans to expanding its team from 12 to 20 people, growing its engineering, marketing, and product teams, as it prepares for a public launch later this year.

Core's short-term goal is to personalize wellness to each individual and their specific goals.

"Through our data, and through our brand and everything we do as a company over time, we really care about people’s individual goals and need and what’s most effective for them. So, serving that level of support and not making any assumptions that there’s a one size fits all solution to well-being," said McDevitt.

In the long-term, though, the vision is to provide users with mental wellness support in all aspects of their daily life.

"We’re starting with your mediation practice at home and at work but, beyond that, we are looking at how do we build mental wellness support into travel and into hospitality and into communities and relationships. We see mental wellness as needing to be woven into all of those space, just like how we think about movement and nutrition."

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Core introduced the first handheld guided meditation training device to the marketplace and is reinventing the mental wellness space. Core is committed to strengthening mental wellbeing worldwide and to connecting people with the tools they need to meditate and manage their stress levels. The company leverages data, and provides inspiration and personalized guidance, to enable its users to reach their goals. Founded in 2016, the handheld meditation device and experience company is headquartered in San Francisco, California. For more information, please visit


Sarah McDevitt

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CEO and Co-Founder of Core. Previously: Stanford MA in Ed, Engineering PM at Microsoft, Math and Computer Science and basketball at NYU.