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Ex-Atheist launches Catholic Prayer App, raises over $55m in funding



Alex Jones, a former atheist in 2018 launched Hallow, a Catholic prayer and meditation app, and has since raised over $55 million in funding from investors including Drive Capital and tech entrepreneur, Peter Thiel.

Narrating how he came about the idea of starting the company, Jones said it was September 2018, and he was living in Chicago and working gruelling hours as a consultant at McKinsey.

For most of his life, he had identified as an atheist, but over the past few years, he had found solace in contemplative prayer, the Christian analog to mindfulness meditation.

Jones said he was particularly fond of practicing Lectio Divina — a slow and contemplative way of reading the Bible — to take his mind off of work.

When he opened up the Bible one day, he said his eyes immediately landed on the word “hallow,” which means “to make holy” in the Christian tradition. As Jones began reflecting on the word, he said his mind was flooded with existential questions.

“It was this deep, ‘what am I doing with my life’ kind of wrestling,” Jones said. He wondered whether his life’s purpose was to help other people make their lives holy through God. 

Three months later, Jones quit his job and gathered a team to start a prayer app called Hallow. 

Hallow now bills itself as “The No. 1 Catholic App in the World” and has accrued 3 million downloads across 150 countries since its launch, according to the company. The app provides users with guided and timed meditations; podcast series with priests, bishops, and Catholic clergymen; daily prayers; and journal prompts for $8.99 a month.

So far, the app has raised more than $55 million in funding from investors like General Catalyst, Drive Capital, and Peter Thiel.

Its most recent round of fundraising was a $40 million Series B round in November 2021, led by Drive Capital with participation from Peter Thiel and Scott Malpass, the former chief investment officer at the University of Notre Dame and a board member of the Institute for the Works of Religion, according to the company. 

Jones said that some venture capitalists laughed at him for trying to launch a prayer app.

He said one VC he pitched to told him “to start a new religion” instead. But he believes the relative novelty of Hallow, amidst a sea of pitches for crypto and AI companies, helped him stand out with investors.

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