The MVP for a multi-million dollar product built on Google Sheets and Iterable

In April 2020, I helped launch Calm Sleep School, which was an early prototype of the coaching product that later became Calm Sleep Coaching (Sept 2020-2021) and continued to grow into what we now know as Calm Health.

In late 2019 Calm hired a Chief Medical Officer to spearhead the company’s initiative to move into the mental health realm. The Chief Medical Officer-slash-head-of-sales came to us from a mental health platform that sold as a business-to-business product for large companies to offer therapy as an employee benefit. His Big Idea was for us to create a similar product that wasn’t quite therapy-level help but would address broad problems that affect mental health (i.e. sleep, diet, physical health, stress, anxiety, etc.). Leadership settled on sleep coaching in part because our CEO admitted that he was having trouble sleeping at night so he could be the Founder AND a customer.

The idea was simple: professional sleep therapists would conduct a series of 6 one-on-one video coaching calls with individual students to identify issues that were causing poor sleep and to provide a personalized sleep plan for the clients to follow. An example sleep plan might be to stop drinking caffeine after 3pm, turn off the TV at 9pm, and go to bed consistently each night.

The design concept was beautiful (see the Launch Email). Our product designers contracted a professional illustrator to create one-of-a-kind art with everything in a deep sleepy purple. Design was top-notch.

Calm Sleep School had some serious challenges. Engineering would commit near-zero resources to building the system. Since this was only going to be prototype with unknown value, leadership would not commit significant development time because the engineering team was already stretched thinner than a spider’s web.

Engineering worked on these components:

  • One backend engineer to create the SKU and hook up the Stripe billing mechanism. I believe she accomplished this within one sprint.
  • Frontend web team built a landing page
  • Frontend web team built the checkout page for customers (students) to pay via Stripe (via the billing backend)

Lifecycle (my team) was responsible for all of the onboarding and this is where I am quite proud of our achievement because I was able to build the onboarding AND a coaching management system using Google Sheets, Google App Script, and Iterable. (My equivalent of duct tape and paper clips.)

Launch Email

Sleep School Onboarding

Before onboarding could begin people would arrive on the landing pages and checkout built by engineering.

Upon successful purchase, a Welcome email to explain the product and inform the new student the details of Sleep School.

Using Google App Script I scripted the user intake form to take several actions:

The Welcome email pointed to a user intake form (Google Form) which asked a series of questions to understand why the new student needed help sleeping.

(1) It emitted an event to Iterable so that we would have a record of user’s progress.

(2) It sent an email and logged a row to our internal teams to know a new student signed up.

The coaching team would manually match the new student to one of six Sleep Coaches. The match of sleep coach to student was logged on the sheet. With the match made we would send an email with the introduction of the coach with name, picture, and bio.

(3) The script had to copy a Google Drive folder filled with a handful of assets that coaches used for taking notes and sharing reports with the students.

Since each student needed to have a unique Sleep Journal I logged the folder, Sleep Journal Google Form, and other things into the Google Sheet as well as Iterable. By saving the Sleep Journal Google Form ID we could send an email to each student that had a link to their personal Sleep Journal.

After students’ 7 days of journaling they would have a one-on-one Zoom call with their Sleep Coach and the coaches would then carryout delivering the remainder of the Sleep School experience.

Sleep coach match

We launched Sleep School slowly by sending batches of 10,000 emails to existing Calm Subscribers so that we could pace the flow of student enrollment and not overwhelm the coaching staff. Our goal was to sign up roughly 100 students to complete the 6-week course which we were able to accomplish. Students were satisfied with the program! I don’t think we had to issue any refunds related to the quality of the course. Some folks canceled because they didn’t realize the program cost around $600 USD. In further sales development our Head of Sales had inked a deal with some corporate clients to

As I said before, this was an early prototype. Leadership was encouraged by the product so they decided to build Calm Sleep Coaching product which was staffed by 1-2 full-time engineers. As of 2022 that product further evolved into Calm Health which has a full staff of 12+ full-time engineers dedicated to bringing mental wellness as an employee benefit for thousands of companies and tens of thousands of employees!