How I Started an
Audio Journaling App
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Lamia Pardo, Co-Founder and CEO of Journify – a new audio journaling app. With 7 in 10 millennials already suffering from burnout before the pandemic, Journify’s mainstream approach to burnout prevention incorporates audio journaling into our daily routines.
The app is built around a mobile and voice-first user experience, with tight encryption standards to offer full privacy. Users can tap to record at any time, organize their timeline with tags and notes, and replay or share the voice recordings via text, Whatsapp or email.
Our vision is to incorporate mental wellness habits into our lifestyle and daily routines. Maybe even make mental wellness more social. Audio journaling is our first step, but there are many more evidence-based methods we’re also considering for the future.
Our first version of Journify is mainly focused on audio journaling. Users can tap to record on the app, organise voice notes with tags and comments, and revisit or share recordings via text, Whatsapp or email. All voice notes are encrypted so think of an off-the-record judgement-free option for venting. Journify also lets users track their mental wellness journey with quick sleep, energy and motivation check-ins, and a burnout assessment.
Journaling has many benefits similar to meditation, such as improving mindfulness, reducing tension, and counteracting the effects of stress. Due to its ability to help us slow down, journaling has also been linked to higher IQ, a boost in creativity, and better cognitive skills. Audio journaling is an easier way to leverage those benefits on the go with a more intuitive behavior. We already consume our content on audio, so it only makes sense we start producing content in the same way.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I’m a millennial in a busy city, with a busy lifestyle, so my friends inspired me to focus on mental wellness. Everyone is always stressed and burnt out, but many of them cannot get into the habit of meditating. Meditation isn’t for everyone, so what else is out there?
The goal-setting apps are very hard to use more than once and the mental health apps are strictly focusing on mental health illnesses. When I started researching the space in early 2019, I noticed a big opportunity for a go-to app for mental wellness on the go.
Now with COVID-19, I believe this opportunity has grown faster. We spoke to over 100 millennials to design the app, but also got really important inspiration from in depth conversations with therapists and coaches. Our initial approach included sessions with mental wellness specialists in addition to the tools, but a few months into it we pivoted to only focus on the app. I still think coaches and therapists are great partners for Journify.
As a marketer, I couldn’t just do interviews, so I also ran some digital tests with the pricing front and centre. I wanted to make sure that this time we were also testing for willingness to pay.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
We’re hustling our way to at least 5000 users before we raise around, so we face challenges every day. But the response has been great, so those challenges give me adrenaline and makes the journey equally satisfying.
A real much bigger challenge we had to overcome was prior to our pivot. When we were still trying to find pricing-market fit. There is a very unique behavior to the wellness industry that I wasn’t aware of before. Everyone believes they have to react positively to wellness ideas and at least most people are willing to try new options when they’re free, but willingness to pay was really hard to measure. I think we still have a long way ahead on pricing optimization.
Our goal is to still offer a free version so we can reach anyone that would like to start working on their mental wellness, but as we add more features we are also incurring more costs. That’s why I’m very aware that we will also need to evolve pricing options as we evolve our offering.
Who is your target market?
We spoke with over 100 millennials to design the experience for them/us, so that’s our first market. Specifically, millennials that live in busy cities and have a very active lifestyle. For now only in English speaking countries, but we want to change that soon.
This is a group we understand really well (in addition to all the interviews), we love audio, we love wellness, and we love making our lives more convenient through technology. Also, we’ve also been called the burnout generation, with 7 in 10 of us suffering from burnout (according to Gallup). We need mental wellness in our lives. We need Journify!
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We started working on social and content marketing in parallel to building the product, seeing an opportunity to develop a more relevant content hub for millennials with practical advice and audio experiences. We call our hub The Burnout Lab, and through adding value we built an audience of waitlisters.
We’re not spending any marketing dollars, so every day is a hustle. I think the discipline we built around content marketing for lead generation pays off. We have a baseline of daily users we can get, but then to accelerate that growth we’re constantly experimenting with new ideas. I’m not going to lie, I also spend every moment I have left messaging on random groups and Slack channels 🙂
We’re also announcing soon the launch of our audio livestream podcast. We decided not to launch a typical interview model podcast, but instead follow the life of 4 millennials audio journaling their hectic lives. It’s fun, it’s addictive, and it’s so relatable. Halfway through the journey, COVID-19 happens and lockdown also spirals their lives in different ways (sometimes for the better, sometimes they go crazy). For the following seasons, we’ll take castings from real users of the app.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
I think for now the product is speaking for itself, but we’re working on a better communication flow post using the app. We’re also working on newer utility-focused features that users asked for. We started a poll on our second week live and we’re letting users decide what comes next for Journify.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We’ve built the company during lockdown, so our culture is evolving as we learn how to socialize better within this new normal. None of us have ever met each other in person! We make sure we take time to check-in our mental health and also crack a laugh before, during or after meetings.
What I think we’ve done really well is setting boundaries and respecting them, and creating a system around accountability and results. I have no idea when my team is actually working or not, and we don’t expect real-time responses for every Slack message. During our meetings, everyone shares their progress (backed by data) so I think that’s the baseline that has worked for us so far.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
Probably too many? Slack, Slack, Slack. We barely email each other. Calendly, Google Meet (I don’t like the UI of Zoom), Whereby, Squarespace, Flodesk, Firebase, Google Analytics, Hotjar, Collect Chat, Promo (for marketing videos), Canva, Later, Hootsuite and Gust Launch.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
I would encourage every entrepreneur to think about pivoting when the signs are clear. If people aren’t talking about your brand or sharing your product, you’re not there yet. No matter how much people smile at you or say positive things when you ask, the dynamics are different when they actually want what you have to offer. They’ll be looking for you instead.
That’s both my biggest proud moment (when I finally did it) and biggest mistake (because I didn’t do it fast enough).
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I love working without filter, letting my creativity flow, being analytical when I want to, and impulsive when I get the urge to focus on growth hacking. I’m a bit addicted to performance adrenaline, so when I can focus on building things and making the magic happen I’m the happiest.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The financial stress is really hard for me. Even marketing without a budget is super challenging, but a positive challenge at last. But uncertainty around my personal finances has caused me a lot of stress (at least if you’re building a mental wellness business you have the knowledge to manage that a bit better).
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Laurie Santos, the Yale Professor that created the Science of Wellbeing course said she was inspired by her own needs. She was studying happiness and teaching about happiness not because she was the ultimate example of a happy person, but because she wanted to go through that journey.
I had a similar path to building Journify. I had been wanting to focus on mental wellness for some time but was suffering from imposter syndrome at first. My background was mostly in Fintech and I’m not a wellness icon. So if I’m not an example to follow, can I still build a wellness company? I debated a lot about that, but I wanted to build a product that would be helpful to me – essentially wanting to be a user of my own app.
I personally don’t like to read books about entrepreneurship. A few years ago when I was still working for an early-stage startup I went through so many of the popular ones. They offer very valuable lessons and frameworks for scaling a company, building a culture, thinking about multiplying enterprise value.
At this stage, the advice that is the most valuable to me is only from entrepreneurs that didn’t have a valuable network nor a budget, and still built something valuable and amazing. I’m hyper-focused on getting to the next stage, so all the content I consume now is relevant to my reality.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I picture myself going on my daily audio journaling walk, taking a pause, and realizing that more people on the streets are doing the same thing.