Tell us about Hallow. What inspired you to found this company?
Hallow is a smartphone application that features Christian audio guided prayers and Meditations. The app allows users to reconnect with or grow deeper in their spiritual lives. It offers a unique combination of a modern interface and content that has existed for thousands of years. The app is currently being used in over 150 different countries and has been downloaded over 2,600,000 times.
We founded Hallow out of a need in our own lives. Our CEO, Alex Brett Jones (not the infowars guy) was my roommate in college and he would have considered himself Agnostic or openly Atheist in college. After graduating he quickly found himself in the stressful world of management consulting. To cope, he turned to meditation. It was through these meditation sessions that Alex was prompted to learn more about God and what he really believed. He began asking me and our other roommate Alessandro questions about what we believed.
In the ensuing months, we debated over the phone, Alex read spiritual books, we even started an online blog (now defunct) to chronicle our spiritual growth. Eventually, Alex had a reconversion and came back to his faith. He called me one day and said “How did you learn to pray? No one ever taught me these powerful techniques. Why don’t we make an app that helps people learn this stuff?”
I always considered myself a Christian, but I didn’t have a deep understanding of the power of spiritual prayer and meditation. I immediately saw the power that could come from making the faith based content more accessible in the digital age. From that conversation we were determined to start an app to help people along in their spiritual journeys. The founding team ended up being 6 of us who were friends from college and we launched the first version of the app in December of 2018.
What entrepreneurial resources did you utilize during your time at Yale?
I had a background in strategy consulting in the government and while it was helpful for understanding some elements of building a startup, (problem solving, communication, analyzing data, etc.) I lacked some of the foundational elements needed to be a leader at such an early stage startup. So for me the foundational elements I learned in class of marketing, pricing & competitive strategy, consumer behavior, and accounting were invaluable.
Specifically, the startup classes I took at SOM offered by Kyle Jensen and Jennifer McFadden (Managing Software Development and Startup Founder Practicum respectively) were very helpful. Both professors are great mentors and have helped give me the confidence I needed to grow in my role at Hallow overseeing our customer operations department which includes our global community program, in person events, user research, and customer support.
In the government, there weren’t too many people trying to create a startup, so I didn’t have a peer network that could support me. One of the most helpful things I got from Yale was being admitted into the Tsai City accelerator program. It gave me the opportunity to learn about a wide range of startup topics while also connecting me with other founders.
What is your favorite part of being a founder, and what is the most challenging?
The relationship I have with our users is my favorite part and also the most challenging. I recently had the privilege of speaking with a user named Robyn. She told me and Alex her story using the app. Robyn had for years felt spiritually isolated. She didn’t have the support of her family when she decided to become Catholic and she lost the rest of her support system when she moved to a new town. Robyn felt like she didn’t know how to engage with God in her spiritual life. She felt lost and alone so she turned to alcohol. Thankfully that changed when she discovered the Hallow app. She sent me a message that she wanted to share her story. We scheduled a Zoom and she began to share her experiences. When I asked her if Hallow had a role in her life, tears immediately began falling down her cheeks. She said “The app has been.... I can’t explain it, I has given me confidence in prayer, helped me quit drinking, which was very hard to do. If I were to tell you the app saved my life, it would be an understatement.” Robyn is now 80 days sober. Hearing someone’s story like Robyn’s is powerful, it brings you to tears. It is such a gift to be invited so intimately into our users’ lives. At the same time it is a reminder the level of excellence we need to bring every day to make the experience in the app worthy of our users’ trust. We are talking about people’s spiritual journeys: people wrestle with questions about the existence of God, their faith, what happens to them when they are no longer here, how to deal with the loss of a loved one, how to be grateful for blessings in this life, etc. Faith is such an intimate part of our users’ lives. Being a member of the founding team gives me joy that we created something that people are finding helpful and at the same time pushes me to give 110% to the app’s development since they deserve the best.
What has been going on with Hallow in the last year, and what are you looking forward to in the future?
A lot of good things thankfully! We have grown the team to just under 50 full time and successfully raised a Series B round of funding last year. We have launched content in Spanish and Portuguese and got to work with stars like Jim Caviezel, Jonathan Roumie, and Mark Wahlberg. It’s been such a wonderful experience and am incredibly excited for the future. We hope to launch the app in more languages as well as bringing on more talent that is passionate about our mission to expand our content offerings. I am working on creating our first large scale retreat experience where we hope to scale it into an annual flagship event at Hallow. We are also continuing to hire, so if you’re reading this and you or someone you know is interested in working at Hallow, you can message me directly firstname.lastname@example.org!