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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Leon Mueller, co-founder and CEO of Bloom, talks about Bloom's self-directed therapy app

Posted on: 12/31/2022

Leon Mueller

Leon Mueller

Co-founder and CEO - Bloom

Leon Mueller of Bloom - Podcast Summary

Leon Mueller, co-founder and CEO of Bloom, talks about Bloom’s self-directed therapy app that provides mental health assistance to people in need.

Leon Mueller of Bloom - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends Podcast. Before we get to our guests, special shout out to Kruze Consulting. We do all your startup accounting, startup taxes and tons of consulting work, kind of whatever comes up, like financial models, budget actuals, maybe some state registration, sales tax, VC due diligence support. Whatever comes up for your company, we’re there for you. 750 clients strong now, 10 billion in capital raised by our clients. I can’t believe it. 2 billion this year. It’s been a crazy awesome year. So, check us out at And now, onto our guest.
Singer: (singing) It’s Kruze Consulting. Founders and Friends with your host, Scotty Orn.
Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn, at Kruze Consulting. And today, my very special guest is Leon Mueller, of Bloom. Welcome Leon.
Leon: Hey, thanks so much for having me.
Scott: Oh, my pleasure. By the way, I should note I’m a small investor in the company because I love it and use it and that’s why I wanted to have you on the podcast. Maybe you can start the podcast just by retracing your career a little bit and tell everyone how you had the idea for Bloom.
Leon: So it all started in the summer of 2019. My co-founder and I had just moved to New York. We’re originally from Germany. I’m a product designer by trade, he’s an engineer. And we were building a different product before, actually. It was a video micro-learning app. So, we were already passionate about mobile content or mobile apps and always had this personal mission of how do we build tools to unlock human potential. How do we build and help people really actualize their full potential? When we came to New York, two things had happened. We had started launching different content. First, we focused a lot on professional education and we started launching new content around more mental health or self-care topics, stress and anxiety especially. And that got a lot more demand and engagement. And so, we went to the users and realized, or said like, “Hey, what’s going on? Why don’t you want to learn from these great people, from people and Uber teaching design, product entrepreneurship?” They were like, “No, I deal with stress and anxiety on a daily basis.” And we were like, “What do you do about it? Well, I can’t afford therapy or I don’t go, I don’t have the time. I’m not really doing anything about it.” And we were like, “Okay, interesting.” And at that time, we tried to find a therapist and we asked a couple of friends, “We are new to New York. Hey, do you know anyone?” And all the therapists we got recommended we’re booked out months in advance and we are like, “Okay, what’s going on?” And we were like [inaudible 00:02:50]. And then we said, but we can schedule you for in three months. And we were like, I have pay now. And there’s like-
Scott: And they’re expense, a therapist too, right?
Leon: Correct. Yeah. So, it’s like, “Okay, what’s the cost?” And they were like, “Well 350, 250,” whatever. We didn’t have health insurance. We had just come over and we’re like, okay, cool. That’s basically inaccessible. We can’t do it, mission impossible. And when we digged a little bit deeper, we realized, okay cool, 80% of Americans can’t afford therapy. There aren’t even enough therapists out there. So, 60% of American counties don’t even have a therapist near them.
Scott: I can’t believe that. That’s crazy. Wow.
Leon: And so obviously, the World Health Organization says they’re a billion people right now who suffer from a mental health disorder. A new study just came out just yesterday on CNN, 9 out of 10 say there’s a mental health crisis in the US. 9 out of 10. And that’s just insane numbers. And so how do we help them?
Scott: There’s one other thing I want to point out which people may not know, which is even if you have insurance, a lot of therapists do not take insurance.
Leon: Correct.
Scott: Especially, I live in the Bay Area. The therapists in the Bay Area don’t take insurance, you’re paying cash. Your insurance company is not going to be able to. It’s really tough. And so, there’s even that barrier that people encounter.
Leon: And I live in New York, same situation here. Because they don’t have to, right? It’s like, hey, I don’t want to, I don’t want to deal with it. You have to figure it out yourself. And it’s just such a pain. We had this amazing slide in our pitch deck, the ugly truth of therapy. And it’s all these mini fraction pain points that are from obviously reclaiming our money and or paying out of pocket and making it being super expensive and inaccessible, to also this whole opening up. We had one user, it was like, “My therapist tried to sell me their book.” And I was like, “That’s not cool, man.”
Scott: Not cool at all. Geez, I shouldn’t laugh at that.
Leon: And so it’s summer of 2019 and we couldn’t find a therapist. And a friend of ours recommends a CBT. And we’re like, “What the heck is CBT? We’re from Germany.” CBT isn’t really a big thing. It obviously exists in Germany, completely different name. But cognitive behavioral therapy, what CBD stands for, been around since the sixties invented by a man called Aaron Beck down at the UPenn. And the difference compared to traditional therapy or psychotherapy as we know from Sigmund Freud is it focused a lot more on the present moment and how you just interpret situations, right? So, CBT basically gives you tools and techniques and strategies to basically reframe your thinking, to activate your behaviors and really to help improve your mental health by just looking at the present moment. Psychotherapy goes a lot more into the past. Now, I’m not trained therapist. Obviously, read a lot about CBT, but this is high level. And the best thing is you can do it yourself. You can go to Barnes & Noble, anywhere, buy a couple of workbooks and practice CBT yourself. And that’s what we did and realized, hey, it’s quite simple to do, yet very effective. How can we turn this into a product? And so that’s when we started building Bloom. So, Bloom became then really the world’s first self-guided therapy platform. So, what makes Bloom so unique is we are building video micro-learning. So very short interactive video content on your phone that helps you teach and learn stuff. And so, we realized, okay, wow, so in CBT, it really makes sense to use video because that’s a really humanizing the experience. In therapy, the relationship you have with your therapist was often described as really the powerful thing. So, we brought that over, made it interactive and helped and taught people these exercises. But by practicing them in the moment, in a very guided experience. And officially launched in January, 2020 and really realized we’re creating this new category in the mental health space that sits in between mental wellness, the meditation, the journaling, the breath work apps and on the more severe end of things that one on one clinics and talk space and better help and so on. And so, it’s this feel of moderate mental health problems. You can still get out of bed but you deal with a lot more anxiety and stress and then usual. Yeah. But it may not be as severe that you say, “Okay, I have to pay $250 a session.”
Scott: Well, the thing I love about the app too is it’s a habit builder and so you get in the habit of doing it every day. I have a therapist, and right now I’m in the tune-up zone. So, I’ve done a lot of work. Many years, I was like every week and now I’m in every couple weeks zone. But even every week, the beauty of the app is you’re using the app every day and there’s a real power to that. You actually make progress faster and you don’t have those depths because… You talked about this, it’s something you can control yourself or you learn how to deal with the problem, whatever you’re facing that day. And so, you don’t have these big peaks and valleys as much because you’re catching the valley before you get down to the bottom. The accessibility of the app and the everyday nature of it, to me, is one of the coolest things about it.
Leon: Yeah. When we started building the app and designing the experience as a product designer who really cares about the user experience, we wanted to recreate and think what makes therapy so powerful? And one big element is obviously, track your mood, train your emotional awareness. So that’s the mood check in that you do yourself, on a daily basis. Based on that, we recommend you also sessions in case you need one, like, “Hey, you’re really stressed because of work” or “Hey, you’re really anxious because of your relationship. Did something happen? Hey, here’s a session.” And so, the sessions are like 10 minutes. And over time, people often realize a pattern, “Hey I’m dealing with a lot of ego, a lot of trauma from past relationships or I need to work on inner child work.” And so, we designed these programs that then go over a couple days or weeks that guide you, over time, through different exercise, helps you practice them. And then we also launched, just end of last year, what we call habits really maintain. Because sometimes, like you said, you go through these intensive periods, you do a couple programs, maybe you do it even with therapy or without. And sometimes, we just want to maintain and take it easy. And that’s where it’s sort of like gratitude practices and self-love practices and so on and so forth.
Scott: And you talked about how you feeling. It’s like such a Trojan horse. It’s one of the first things you see in the app. And I love that because it has you take a moment. You’re like, “How am I feeling today?” I don’t know if most people, but I don’t… Not that great at stopping and seeing, “How am I today?” I’m more get stuff done, I’m probably a super type A person. But just the simplicity and which button am I going to hit. And then the next part of the process flow is a small journaling exercise. It’s like a journaling exercise for the text messaging age. You’re just writing almost like a quick text message to yourself. But that’s really, really powerful too. And I didn’t even know that you guys were able to take the mood stuff, because there’s another question of what’s making you feel that way or build a program on it. That makes tons of sense. But I just get a lot of personal value out of just the stopping, determining how I’m feeling and then the quick text message, what’s driving it, is really valuable for me.
Leon: And that’s the key of therapy, training this emotional awareness. How am I feeling? How am I really feeling? And what we’ve also learned pretty early on is you can’t feel angry and grateful at the same time. I’m angry at the situation but I’m also grateful that it happened and I learned something. And so, emotions are a really interesting experience obviously. And taking note of that and understanding patterns, what triggers and that’s the first step to then go deeper with journaling and understanding, “Okay, cool, let’s unpack this.” And that’s where the guided CBT work comes into play, is asking the right questions and guiding you through different exercises. Cognitive restructuring is probably the biggest one where, we call it catch, check, change, where you catch a thought, you check it if it’s true and then you change it. And it’s sort of like you can apply this in so many different cases. And it’s simpe. Again, simple exercises. CBT is so simple but so powerful. It’s better than medication long term because it has lower relapse rates and it’s just more effective than many other forms. And for me, when we discovered this, is it’s really the game changer. I grew up in Germany as an only child with a mother who suffered from depression and alcohol addiction. I’ve dealt with my fair share of mental health problems. And so, seeing this very early on and trying many different techniques and having myself, trouble of opening up in front of a therapist and I’ve tried therapy for a while. For me, it was always this journaling piece that was so helpful and reflecting and working on myself on that. And that’s really what self-therapy is about, right?
Scott: Yeah.
Leon: Our philosophy behind Bloom is simply if we can give you the right tools and techniques, you can do most of the work yourself, which you’re doing anyway also in therapy. No one’s doing it for you. You got to do it yourself, but you can find a much simpler way of doing it. And it’s the same in sports. We love to draw that connection between mental fitness and physical fitness. When you think about it, 50 years ago in the ’70s, nobody knew what jogging was and people-
Scott: Yeah, and they smoked cigarettes. What’s also so cool about what you’re doing is that you talked about your childhood and your family situation, but this app is available to younger people. And I don’t know what the demographics are, but at the very least, young adults are accessing this. Because you guys have a lot of users, this is a pretty big app. And it’s like maybe those young adults wouldn’t be able to go to therapy or even be comfortable doing therapy or financial, whatever it is. But they’re getting in that zone. I’m a 45 years old person and I don’t think I start doing therapy, probably till four years ago. So, I was 41 probably about then, maybe 40. That’s like 20 years, maybe 25 years down the drain that I could have been living a happier, more productive life. And the people around me would’ve been happier in all that stuff too. You’re really democratizing this for a lot of people who are going to benefit and it also has this, having done therapy and it’s this healing or multiplier effect is what I’m trying to say, for all the relationships in your life. Every relationship gets better. It’s really powerful. So, I’m excited that Bloom is out there in an app that you can fire up every morning and use. It’s really cool.
Leon: Yeah. Thank you. And thank you for obviously using it and being an investor. Appreciate it.
Scott: Do you guys get those kind of stories all the time? You’re like, people come up to you and, “Oh my gosh, you’re the guy who does Bloom?”
Leon: Yeah.
Scott: And they spill their guts.
Leon: We get love letters every day and we have this Slack channel, Bloom Love, and people write, “Wow, this is the best app and this has changed my life. And I cried after two sessions.” We get some powerful stuff of like, “This prevented me from suicide and this helped me get out of hospitalization, out of hospital.” It’s like insane things where it’s like, wow, yeah, we’re actually saving lives. And with two and a half million users, we seem to be doing something right. I’m just excited about the future, all the opportunity we can still build. I just see self-therapy as category that would just be growing bigger and bigger over the next 10 years.
Scott: Hey, it’s Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting, taking a quick pit stop to give some of the groups at Kruze a big shout out. First up is our tax team, amazing. They can do your federal and state income tax returns, R&D tax credits, sales tax help, anything you need for state registrations, they do it all. And we’re so grateful for all their awesome work. Also, our finance team is doing amazing work now. They build financial models, budget actuals, and help your company navigate the VC due diligence process. I guess our tax team does that too on the tax side. But the finance team is doing great work. And then I think everyone knows our accounting team is pretty awesome, but want to give them a shout out too. Thanks, and back to the guest. Totally agee. And it’s a global audience, like you said. You said the one billion people, but this is applicable in the United States as it is in South America or Europe or Asia. You talked about the video stuff a little bit. I started seeing that popping up in the app. I can’t remember exactly when. But I actually like the videos too, because there is a humanizing thing about it. Or maybe to me it feels like the next level, like I’m doing another thing or something. I use the Apple fitness videos all the time now. I’m almost like maybe I’m an early adopter or a mid-adopter of these kind of video tutorials and video teachings. Are you seeing that too, where you can see the usage in the app and you can see the video stuff climbing?
Leon: Yeah. We see the rate of people starting three pieces of content in the first week has 7x’d in the last year.
Scott: Wow, that’s amazing.
Leon: People just love the content. Our conversion rate is just insane because people see the value in the content and we are now investing more and more in the content experience and that’s what’s going to drive the future. Videos is really powerful because you can rebuild the connection with the user. We’ve designed a new way of doing videos. We call it conversational design. You’re watching a webinar or something, you’re in a conversation with yourself or with-
Scott: Say more about that because you’re blowing my mind a little bit.
Leon: Yeah. I built a company before in the voice field. So, we built Alexa and Google Home actions and stuff. Just when it came out and we had a small company, we were building cool stuff, me and another guy. And there, it’s like you need to understand what the user’s going to ask next. You want to build this conversation in. And so, we apply the same in Bloom. And so, Bloom is the guide asks you question and then reacts to it and goes deeper into the experience, asks you another question. And so, we get to reflect a little bit and then as we digged up something, we’re like, cool, so what are we doing with this? Now let’s unpack this. And then you apply the exercise. So, it’s a very uniquely designed experience that is not just you’re watching content like Netflix or whatever. You’re in an experience. And so that’s, for us, what makes Bloom very unique.
Scott: It’s funny, I’m smiling because for anyone who’s done therapy, a lot of it is your therapist is really just asking you questions. And it’s like you think they’re taking you on this journey, but really, you’re taking yourself on this journey.
Leon: Yeah, they’re just poking.
Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But that’s amazing that you’ve been able to replicate that aspect of it. Because I think I just didn’t really understand. I think that’s maybe almost at a subconscious level or something like that, that’s happening to the user. I didn’t know that I was doing that, basically. It’s kind of interesting.
Leon: Another thing, how we design content, is what we call of the emotional delta. Someone comes into this session being super stressed, anxious, depressed, angry, frustrated. Very tense, negative emotions. And so over time, we’re bringing this person into a better state of mind through also a breathing exercise to calm the person’s the nervous system. We’re doing a bunch of different exercises in one session over a period of five to 10 minutes. That can really change your state of mind.
Scott: Oh, big time.
Leon: And so that I think is the powerful part. You jump into Bloom no matter what situation, and you come out and be like, you feel better.
Scott: It’s the equivalent of pulling a fire alarm if you want it to be. But it can also just be a daily habit that you’re checking in when you’re not in crisis. To me, I think maybe when I’m in crisis, I’m not thinking as clearly as I should be. I might not even realize that I need to jump in or something because the reptile brain takes over sometimes. But if you can make it a habit, a daily habit, and you guys have notifications set up so that pings you in the morning and things like that, then you’re just like… You used the analogy of exercising. It’s just like I go on a morning walk every day and I do yoga for 10 minutes every morning and not huge triathlete kind of stuff, but the habit is all the power in that and the Bloom’s the same exact way. You’re realy onto something. And said two and a half million users. It’s a pretty gigantic app. Can you see different pockets of the world using it, like big in Asia, big in Europe, kind of thing?
Leon: Yeah. We’re mostly, 60% is US, 20% is the US, and then it’s kind of like you see it in Australia, Canada. Germany’s actually fifth biggest market, interestingly enough. Maybe that’s sort of the home turf advantage or something. But yeah, we are going to roll out more languages in the future and that’s when it becomes really interesting, diving into different cultures, different mindsets, what has shaped their thinking. When you think about someone growing up in Colombia is totally different than someone growing up in Canada or Montenegro or Kombucha. And so that’s when it becomes interesting. And I really, really like making a global impact. Our mission is to help a billion people improve their mental health and we’re not going to stop until we achieve that.
Scott: I love it. I love the big goals like that too. Well, this is amazing and just keep doing the good work. Not just the engineering team, but the content team, the people who are building a lot of stuff and those insights, give them my best. And then maybe you could just tell everyone how to find Bloom in the App Store, on the website and how to reach out.
Leon: Yeah, amazing. So, Bloom is available only in iOS right now. So, go to the App Store and search for Bloom, Bloom CBT. It’s a green icon. Otherwise, go to and sign up for the Android list. We are launching that in the next six to 12 months at least. And reach out to me if you want to talk to me, and you find us also on Instagram, @enjoyBloom.
Scott: I love it. And I love the Bloom Love channel you have internally at Slack. We have something like that too. And there’s nothing better than getting notes of appreciation. So, if you’re using Bloom, send in a couple notes of appreciation too. When you’re building a startup, you’re getting paid and you have a job and all that kind of stuff, but there’s nothing better than the emotional satisfaction of people who are using what you’re doing and appreciate you. So, Bloom love would be great. Well, Leon, thanks so much, man. I really appreciate it and take care.
Leon: Thank you so much for having me Scott.
Scott: All right buddy.
Singer: (singing) It’s Kruze Consulting. Founders and Friends with your host, Scotty Orn.

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