This Yoga Guru Turned Entrepreneur Wants You to Breathe Yourself Better

Simpleweb has recently been working with BreatheSync – a breathing and stress relief app that uses your iPhone’s camera and flash to monitor your pulse and works out the optimum breath cycle to match the rhythm of your heart – to co-brand the app with popular athletics clothing company, lululemon, in time for a Christmas marketing campaign.

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BreatheSync is the brainchild of Michael Townsend Williams, who began his career in advertising in the 1980s. After years of long hours at Saatchi & Saatchi and endless parties, Michael decided to change his ways when he found out he was going to become a father.

Michael Townsend Williams

Michael Townsend Williams

Off the booze, Michael’s perspective on life began to change. “When I was sober, I think I started to feel feel a lot more. If you’re an addict” he explains, “you tend to anaesthetise feelings and when they come back they’re a bit scary.” While going through the motions in a job he enjoyed but did not feel strongly about, Michael had a second wake up call when his brother died suddenly. “I had this deep nagging discomfort that I didn’t have a fucking clue what I wanted to do.”

It was this that triggered Michael to leave his last salaried job in 2002 to pursue his passion for yoga. You can hear more about Michael’s fascinating story in this Do Lecture from 2014.

Now 22 years sober and with 14 years experience in yoga and wellness practises, Michael has taken his first steps into entrepreneurship with BreatheSync.

After several years of mindfulness and productivity coaching, Michael partnered with old school friend Simon Wegerif, founder of ithlete, a company that creates heart rate monitoring tools for athletes.

Simon had noticed how adding a 3 minute breathing technique into his cycling and running training significantly improved his performance. “I said ‘of course it does’” says Michael, “breathing practices are at the heart of yoga.” Michael and Simon set about creating something fun and effective around breathing in 2012. “It was basically a side project between two old school friends who wanted to make something for themselves” says Michael.

BreatheSync uses your iPhone’s camera and flash to monitor your pulse and works out the optimum breath cycle to match the rhythm of your heart. This ‘biofeedback’ is great for reducing stress and aiding relaxation which can be really helpful when trying to sleep, preparing for a performance or stressful meeting and lowering blood pressure.

The app went into the App Store in early 2014 but it was to be Michael’s Do Lecture in the spring of that year that would see the app reaching a wider audience. When the talk went live, Michael decided to make the app free for a day as a thank you to the Do Lecture community.

“I was thinking that maybe a couple of hundred people would download it” says Michael “but 14,500 people did. I was in Soho Square and I looked at the stats on my phone and I thought ‘fuck’. That’s when I thought there’s a business, a demand.”

With no entrepreneurial background, Michael started thinking about how to go about turning his and Simon’s side project into a business. Michael spent around 6 months meeting with different tech companies and incubators to figure out a business model.

Michael ended up applying for Crowd10 – an IdeaSquares initiative supporting startups through their crowdfunding campaigns. Unfortunately, Michael’s main investor pulled out after a postponed deal as a result of Brexit uncertainty.

Recently, Michael was approached by yoga-athletics apparel brand lululemon and jointly created a campaign around ‘breathing yourself better this Christmas’.

Simpleweb have been working with BreatheSync to co-brand the app with lululemon for the month of December in time for the campaign. Michael has written content for ‘breathe yourself better’ booklets which lululemon will be distributing via their European stores and e-commerce customers as well as posters on the underground in London, and videos on their global blog. As a flagship store ambassador, he will also be involved in the launch of their biggest store in the world on Regent Street next January.

Over the coming months, BreatheSync will be seeking investment to build out a premium product with more features to help users relax and reduce stress.

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