Computer science student Shivam Sharma, creator of Reflect, wins Concept $5K pitch competition

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The University of Waterloo’s first-ever virtual Concept $5K competition challenged entrepreneurs to pitch to an online audience instead of a packed auditorium. Confident in the value of their creation, the founders of Reflect rose to the occasion and walked away with $5,000 to invest in their growing business.

photo of Shivam SharmaShivam Sharma, a Cheriton School of Computer Science student (pictured at right), created Reflect to help people incorporate mindfulness practices into their everyday lives. The guided journal app, available on the App Store or Google Play, asks users daily reflection questions related to their thoughts and experiences. For $3 per month, a premium subscription plan includes features like mood-tracking analytics and customizable content.

Sharma developed the idea for Reflect during a stressful internship experience at a startup in the UK.

“Work consumed my entire life, and I lost focus on everything and everyone else,” he remembers. His mindset changed when a coworker suggested a simple daily exercise. Every day, Sharma would answer three questions in the notes app of his phone: What went well today? What would I do differently? What am I looking forward to tomorrow?

“This exercise brought incredible personal change,” Sharma attests. “I started drawing healthier work–life boundaries and doing the things I had been meaning to do.”

Nasr Mohamed, another Cheriton School of Computer Science student, was completing his own internship in California when he heard about Sharma’s experience. “For a while, the two of us had been going back and forth on ideas related to personal growth,” shares Mohamed. “We’ve always talked about living with greater purpose and drive, not just pursuing academic and career success in autopilot. Mindfulness is a tool to live every moment with purpose.”

After testing the concept of a guided journal on Reddit to enthusiastic feedback, the pair developed the Reflect app with the support of Mattias Eyram and Narayan Gupta, both Cheriton School of Computer Sciecne students, and Rosa Cruz, a student at Wilfrid Laurier University. While they initially envisioned a target market of university students, they expanded their focus to users from 11 to 24 years of age when it became clear that the Reflect app was striking a chord with a wider audience. “A lot of our feedback was from younger students who were dealing with the anxiety of finding their path in life, from navigating high school and choosing a university to entering a career and beyond,” shares Mohamed. “Our traction has been wild.”

Since it launched in August 2019, the Reflect app has racked up more than 8,000 downloads and enjoyed 15 to 30 percent growth month over month. “We hear so many stories from users about how mindfulness has helped them grow and navigate life,” says Sharma. He points to a recent review from a user who expressed gratitude for the way the Reflect app has helped her process the death of her mother. “It’s that kind of feedback that draws us to this mission.”

The Reflect team plans to use their prize money from the Concept $5K competition to conduct organic growth experiments on platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest. They will also pursue opportunities to alleviate the strain on the mental health system through collaboration with clinics and practitioners.

“We aim to make an impact at the societal level,” says Sharma. “If Reflect can help people think critically about their values and their purpose, that’s success.”

Watch a video of Shivam Sharma pitching Reflect, a guided journal app for mindfulness, for the Concept $5K Finals.

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