How big companies benefit from spiritual guidance

Slick commercial websites promoting spiritual counselors — who can charge up to $50 a minute — are a booming business in the age of COVID. In a sign of websites’ success, a blockbuster merger in the industry took place in San Francisco on May 2.

Ingenio, a 140-person company headquartered near the Salesforce Tower, merged with adviqo, a 240-person Berlin-based company. Together, the two companies have facilitated over 180 million spiritual consultations.

Companies operate dozens of well-designed websites that provide excellent user experience and are well-targeted to different markets. It’s a small, booming tech sector with savvy investors.

The money to fund the deal came from Alpine Investors, an $8 billion private equity firm located at 1 California, a high-rise near the cable car bend at Market and California streets. Alpine paid Ingenio $232 million in August.

Ingenio says its customer base has grown 30% since the onset of the COVID pandemic, “as people – and millennials in particular – have increasingly turned to technology to connect in more meaningful and meaningful ways. more practical “.

Warren Heffelfinger, CEO of Ingenio, calls his company “eBay for advice” because it’s an online marketplace of websites where “independent people can buy things from other independent people.”

Advisors do not work for Ingenio. They do business on more than two dozen company websites aimed at different segments of the population. Heffelfinger said his company gets 40-50% of what spiritual advisors get for payment processing, advertising and other services.

Hundreds of thousands of people pay the New Combined Societies’ roughly 6,000 spirit guides each month for guidance.

I asked Heffelfinger how he knows if his clients pay a lot but get no real help.

“Consumers come back and get repeat engagements with advisors,” which he said was an indication that they were getting something of value. “The market is the ultimate arbiter of advisor success through ratings and reviews.”

I told Ingenio I wanted to try the platform and contacted a “spiritual intuitive” who, according to the website, had a 4.9 out of 5 star rating from 28,000 reviews.

“Greetings : ) What specific questions do you have for the toddlers on this beautiful day? the savvy texted me on the sharp.com website to start our session.

I identified myself as a journalist and asked what was meant by “little ones”.

“My fairies: ) They whisper to me what to tell you and other customers. : )”

The advice of the little ones was to “listen to your heart and let God, the angels and your guides” show me what to do.

It sounded harmless enough, but might not be worth the $10 I paid for seven minutes of texting. This is a very low price on the website, where rates go up to $49.99 per minute and generally seem to be between $10 and $20 per minute. I also wondered if a little pixie dust helped garner 28,000 high reviews.

Why? What are the qualifications of spirit guides?

“First and foremost, they’re great listeners,” Heffelfinger said. They provide the kind of conversation one might have with a friend or religious leader, and are more hands-on than a therapist, he said.

Ingenio says its advice is meant to be “bite-sized,” but even a short call or text conversation could cost hundreds of dollars, which worries Amy Nofziger, director of fraud programs for AARP. .

“Calling a place that has a one-minute meter charge and not a set price is something that can put you in debt and can cause more harm financially and emotionally,” she said. “If someone is reaching out in a crisis, I’d rather they call a crisis hotline.”

Nofziger’s advice is to use online mediums for entertainment purposes only, if at all, with a close watch on costs. She also advised checking her organization’s warnings about psychics on aarp.org.

Ingenio says its counselors tell a person in crisis to get medical or psychiatric help. The company says it has “numerous safeguards” in place to protect consumers. You ‘pay as you go’, deposit money before a consultation and top up the meter when it runs out. Thus, you are not hit with a huge bill that you did not expect at the end. The company will also give customers a credit of $25 per month if they feel a session hasn’t helped them.

Despite concerns from consumer advocates, Ingenio expects more success. The company says it continues to attract high quality investors.