The British Henry Costa, 35, says he spent four years in Africa working at a fintech that offered financial services to the low-income population in countries like Zambia. Married and the father of three small children, the ex-military man says that the family’s prayer routine was very busy.
“We tried daily to practice citing [leitura bíblica] and the devotional, which was something really important to us. But with a very busy day, each with their work, finding the time and resources was quite difficult, in addition to discipline in such a connected world. I remember turning to my wife and saying: why can’t technology help us do this?” Sheetby email.
Old-fashioned for many, the concern had already sparked similar investments in the Islamic world, where apps that tell the time for five daily prayers are common. In Christianity, she became an insight in 2019, when Costa founded, alongside fellow Briton Ed Beccle, the startup Glorify.
It is a mobile application that – in addition to the obvious pun on Spotify – works as a reminder of daily religious practice, providing Christian-inspired readings, poems and music, in order to combat the anxiety of the current times. If the idea seems simple, the execution is impressive: the app already has 10 million users worldwide.
Based in London and with operations in New York and San Francisco, the company was born with a pedigree: Henry is the son of Ken Costa, 73, a South African investment banker who has lived in the UK for decades. A well-known evangelical philanthropist and writer with four books on Christian work and leadership strategies, Ken presided over wealth manager Lazard, consulted with bigwigs such as billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed and maintains excellent relations in the Middle East – he was even a special envoy of the former president. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intensify talks with the Salman kingdom. It was in this environment that Henry emerged as a business-savvy Christian leader.
There were so many signs that the venture capital market has already given its blessings to Glorify’s perceived value. The startup obtained two investments of US$ 40 million (R$ 213 million): the first round took place in December 2021, with investments led by the venture capital company Andreesen Horowitz, with the participation of SoftBank and even the celebrity clan Kardashian and by singer Michael Buble. The second contribution of US$ 40 million took place in March this year, with a new entry from Softbank.
If there’s one country Glorify is grateful for, it’s Brazil. This year alone, the company celebrated the arrival of 4 million Brazilian users, including those who consume it for free and those who pay the monthly (R$ 12.49) or annual (R$ 149.90) plan. Today, around 5 million users are Brazilians, according to the company.
“Brazil is a very important country for us, an incredible population, with an incredible penetration in the Christian market. We see enormous growth in Brazil, so we are very excited to continue investing”, says Costa. According to the startup, 54% of users use the app between 6 and 7 times a week.
For those who care which translation of the “Bible” you are reading, the Portuguese version offers biblical excerpts taken only from the New International Version (NIV), an edition renowned among several denominations of the evangelical public for its clarity and good sound. In English, Glorify has two other translations, in addition to the NVI itself.
But it is in the approach to music that Glorify reveals its greatest Brazilianness. In the paid service, in addition to narration of the day’s reading, “complete daily worship” and access to exclusive content, a well-being music streaming also works. Part of the app’s publicity strategy has already involved sponsoring online music festivals and creating a podcast, presented by gospel singer and songwriter Lu Alone.
But there are challenges. How to stay broad enough without sounding too identified with a specific Christian denomination, which could scare away other believers?
“This is one of the hardest things when you get on board with what we’re doing, and it’s one of our strengths: building something non-denominational and non-political, with content regardless of church or affiliation,” says Costa. According to him, Glorify formed a theological council with people of different backgrounds and abilities, in order to be able to help the company create “something neutral”. “We structure everything for Christians, we don’t pretend to have an opinion. We have PhDs and a lot of committed people to help us create the best neutral content possible.”
An example of this neutrality is the preference for images of nature and serene landscapes instead of typically Christian iconography — there are no crosses in the app, for example. Since the presence of Catholic saints would displease evangelicals, the quotes that emerge come mainly from modern authors such as American evangelical coaches and pastors.
“I think we’ve just started. The faith sector still has a long way to go, many years ahead, with many products to be developed. It’s just begun.” asked by Sheet the transformation of Glorify as a means of payment is projected, a common ambition in attention economy startups, Costa does not rule out the application between churches and their faithful.
“Philanthropy, giving causes and charities are very important to Christians, and if Glorify can help them, it’s a step forward.”