Not that long ago, the most innovative sleep product you’d be likely to find in a bedroom was an alarm clock with an FM radio.
Smart phones may have killed off the alarm clock, but the booming consumer sleep technology market has given rise to a dizzying variety of sleep products and services.
Sleep trackers, wearables, light therapy products, sleep masks, smart bedding, aromatherapy devices, sound machines are just a few categories of a new wave of innovation in the sleep industry.
Part of the reason for such a vibrant and inventive sleep industry are the new methods of funding and investment.
In the last ten years, startups, inventors, designers, and scientists have been able to pursue their commercial ideas via crowdfunding, a low risk, low barrier of entry investment model that has given birth to some of the most successful and original sleep products in recent years.
What is crowdfunding?
The modern concept of crowdfunding, synonymous with the big online platforms Kickstarter, IndieGogo and GoFundMe is only around 10 years old, but the roots go back hundreds of years to a model of patronage, where artists would go directly to their audiences to fund their work.
Crowdfunding allows creators (ie startups, inventors, artists, charities etc) to circumvent traditional avenues of investment, which means projects can be developed more quickly with minimal upfront cost.
This also speeds up the innovation cycle, allowing inventors and designers to pursue their original ideas without taking out huge business loans or going into debt.
Typically, fans will back a crowdfunding project by donating money in return for ‘rewards’. For a hardware product, the reward is usually a heavy price discount on the product when it eventually ships.
When this happens, backers can be left out of pocket, with faulty, or inferior products. Sometimes the project fails to deliver at all.
These types of failures are common. And there are many sleep products launched on Kickstarter and IndieGogo which are testament to the risks inherent in the crowdfunding model.
The million dollar crowd-funded sleep products
The good news is that there are also lots of success stories. Lots of small companies with a passion for bringing new, inventive sleep products to market, who, without platforms like Kickstarter may never have had the chance to shine.
So, here’s the first part of a two-piece round-up of 10 sleep products that broke the $1 million funding barrier by raising money on Kickstarter and IndieGogo. Each of these products has their own story to tell – not all of them have a happy ending.
Hopefully both businesses and consumers can learn from theses successes and failures, to continue the amazing amount of innovation and creativity in the sleep technology space, whilst guarding against the risks.
10) Smart Nora
Launched: October 14, 2015 Raised: $832,523 USD on Kickstarter + $600k (approx) in website pre-orders Price and Availabilty: Smart Nora website (from $299 -Finance available)
What is Smart Nora?
Smart Nora is a non-invasive anti-snoring device that sits alongside your bed, and doesn’t require you to wear a mouth guards, nose strip, chin strap.
Smart Nora consists of 3 components, a wireless sensor which sits on your bedside table, a small, silent air pump which goes underneath your bed, and an inflatable pad that you place inside your pillow case.
At night, the pebble, which contains a microphone, listens to your breathing, to try and detect the earliest signs of snoring. When it hears you snoring, it signals the pump to gently inflate and deflate the pillow pad. This movement is very slight, not enough to wake you, but enough to shift the position of your head and neck and open the airways to prevent snoring.
Nora was designed for people who snore and cause their partner to wake up multiple times in a week. Because the Pebble is adjustable you can set the sensitivity of the Pebble to trigger only at snoring volumes that wake your partner up.
The Smart Nora story
After several years gaining experience as a designer and consultant in Canada, USA and across the globe, Behrouz Hariri returned to his native Toronto with an eagerness to be involved in a more long term project, a shot at a startup.
Fortuitously, Ali Hariri, an engineer and serial inventor, who also happened to be Behrouz’s father, had been working on a new invention to prevent snoring. After a thorough round of testing, evaluation and prototyping, the father and son team, along with Behrouz’s brother as COO formed Smart Nora in 2014 to take the product to commercialization.
Deciding to eschew capital investment and retail channels, the family firm took their product to Kickstarter, raising more than $1MM in pre-orders via crowdfuning and their own website.
Having received many positive reviews, Nora was given a huge boost by appearing in the Dec 2017 edition O Magazine as Oprah’s Favorite Things.
Nora is a new and innovative solution to age old problem. Although snoring is a huge problem for millions, most solutions involve invasive products like chin or mouthguards.
Nora’s popularity stemmed from the fact that it freed snorers from having to wear an uncomfortable device on their face all night – all they need to do is lie down and sleep.
Whilst the 3-piece Nora setup may appear a little over engineered, and costly for some, the bottom is that there’s no other similar competing product that works as effectively to prevent snoring in such a non-invasive way.
The name says it all. FaceCradle is a unique twist on the traditional inflatable travel pillow that offers support for your whole face and neck. FaceCradle was originally conceived with air travel in mind, and features straps that fasten around your seat’s headrest.
With 6 different sleeping modes, FaceCradle can be used like a normal neck pillow, in snooze mode, on a table, or it can offer full face support with the use of the fastening straps.
When used in full ‘cradle mode’ the pillow allows your head to relax forward, preventing your head from slumping downwards.
The FaceCradle story
After a 15-year career in the hi-tech automotive industry, David Scrimshaw left the corporate world in 1993 to become an entrepreneur, founding two successful companies and winning several design awards in his native Australia. On a long-haul flight with his partner Roz, David noticed that the u-shaped inflatable neck pillow, so popular amongst travellers, was actually really bad at supporting the neck and head. The couple decided there must be a better solution, and the result was FaceCradle.
Whilst no doubt an innovative product, FaceCradle is, let’s say not for everyone. Apart from reminding us of a toilet seat, the pillow isn’t particularly compact, and many travellers would prefer to trade the space for a less comfortable inflatable pillow, than carry the bulkier FaceCradle.
The travel pillow market is a hyper-competitive one, with a plethora of competing designs and innovations and FaceCradle is obviously a great product, with lots of positive reviews, but perhaps one that’s suited to the hardcore long-haul traveller who doesn’t mind making space in their carry on luggage.
Eight is a mattress cover with embedded smart technology that can track your sleep, warm your bed and connect with other smart home devices. The cover creates a sensor layer that fits any standard mattress and can be controlled by your smartphone.
Eight’s mattress warming features can intelligently manage dual temperatures for each side of the bed. The built-in sleep tracking sensor monitors your sleep patterns allowing you to see both nightly sleep data and long term trends. Artificial intelligence allows Eight to learn about your sleep habits and program itself to create a personalized schedule for your ideal bed temperature and environmental conditions.
As a true IoT (Internet of Things) device, Eight can connect to hundreds of other smart home devices such as smart thermostats, door locks, light bulbs. Integrations include Amazon Alexa, IFTTT and an open API platform.
The Eight story
As a former lawyer and successful entrepreneur, CEO Matteo Franceschetti co-founded Eight in 2014 with a vision to redesign the traditional mattress with aid of cutting-edge technology.
Starting out small with his wife Alexandra Zatarain as the CMO, and good friend Max Bassi as CTO, Eight, formerly branded as Luna quickly surpassed their $100,000 goal at IndieGogo to become one of the most successful sleep technology startups, having since raised over $30 million from Silicon Valley investors including Khosla Ventures, Y Combinator, Stanford University’s StartX.
Eight’s team now includes a board including some of the world’s leading sleep scientists and as well as manufacturing their original smart cover, the firm also makes a range of mattresses which included their embedded smart technology.
Eight Sleep is a great example of a successful sleep technology company that combined great product vision with solid business acumen. At the time of their launch, nobody knew the world needed a ‘smart mattress’, but as the product grew in popularity, the company had the foresight to see the potential in bringing AI, machine learning and smart home integration to revolutionise the concept of what a 21st century mattress could be.
However, Eight sees themselves foremost as a technology firm, not a mattress company. Having tracked over 20 million hours of sleep, and with an impressive team of advisors and investors behind them, Eight is poised well to leverage their successes to become a major player in the future of sleep technology.
7) BedJet (V2)
Launched: August 5, 2015 Raised: $1,363,381 USD on Kickstarter Price and Availability: BedJet V2 is available on Amazon and the Bedjet Website from $299
What is BedJet?
Bedjet is a complete climate control system for your bed. Using an advanced microprocessor controlled air ventilation system, BedJet provides rapid heating and cooling for any bed, helping you to sleep more comfortably, whether you’re suffering hot summer nights, or the icy chill of winter.
The BedJet system comprises a whisper-quiet air pump that sits beside or underneath the bed, plus a hose attachment which you position under the bedsheets, or via BedJet’s CloudSheet – a 100% cotton temperature layer specially designed to fit the BedJet air nozzle.
BedJet can be controlled either with the supplied remote control or via your smartphone. The device is available either in single or dual zone configurations, so that both bed partners can set their ideal bed temperature.
The seed concept for BedJet was conceived over 15 years ago, but founder and inventor Mark Aramli only decided to pursue his idea after witnessing his mother who was stuck in bed after surgery for a few weeks. In her drafty 100-year-old Connecticut home, every contraption to keep here comfortable in bed -eclectric blankets, heating pads, space heaters – was either too hot or too cold.
So, Aramli, with his expertise in the energy industry, (plus a stint as an engineer designing the NASA spacesuit) set about inventing a brand new climate-control system that would fit any bed. 14 months later, BedJet LLC was formed, the prototype was ready, and in 2015 Aramli got to pitch his invention on ABC’s notorious business reality show Shark Tank.
The pitch was a disaster, with all 5 entrepreneurs turning down the opportunity to take a 10% stake in the company for $250,000. But after being told that his product was doomed live on TV by some of America’s richest businessmen, Aramli had the last laugh.
After crushing its Kickstarter campaign, sales topped $3MM in the first 18 months. Customers who had bought BedJet loved it, and the positive reviews led to viral coverage in the media and continued success to this day.
BedJet is a unique well designed and solidly engineered product that solved a real problem like nothing else on the market. Although it’s a premium product and not everyone can afford one, its main competition is even more costly, ie installing an air conditioning system in your bedroom.
Many people suffering sleep problems such as night sweats, hot flashes often have to suffer in silence, so products like BedJet and some of its close competitors like the ChiliPad offer a lifeline and the opportunity for a better quality of life by improving their sleep.
Update: The latest version of BedJet technology, BedJet 3 has raised $882,692 on Oct 4th 2018 on Kickstarter. Pre-orders are available at IndieGogo
6) Silent Partner
Launched: Nov 11, 2015 Raised: $1,650,821 on IndieGogo Price and Availability: No longer available to buy. Product not yet shipped. Company website is is offline (quietlife.tech)
What is Silent Partner?
Silent Partner is billed as the world’s first smart patch to quiet snoring noise. Uniquely, unlike most snoring devices on the market, Silent Partner, doesn’t claim to stop you snoring in any way. Instead it’s designed to prevent the noise of your snoring from disturbing you or your partner.
Silent Partner employs active noise cancellation (ANC), the same technique used in high-end headphones like the Bose QC25. In simple terms, it uses a microphone and speaker setup to listen to your snores and emit a counter sound to suppress the snoring noise.
Silent Partner’s ANC is designed specifically to cancel out snoring noise by embedding all the electronic is a fabric eye mask. It’s claimed to reduce snoring noise by up to 17dB. Silent Partner comes in both a ‘smart patch’ and an eye mask.
The SilentPartner story
Silent Partner is the brainchild of Netanel Eyal, the CEO & Co-founder of Israel-based QuietLife Technologies. A physics and computer science graduate, With a background in bio-sensing, after university Eyal and his partner researched the snoring market to determine if there was a need for a noise cancelling snoring device. After realizing that there was nothing like this on the market, they set about designing Silent Partner.
Sadly, 2.5 years after securing over $1.6MM in pre-orders on IndieGogo, it seems that progress on Silent Partner has ironically gone…. a little quiet.
An update post on Jan 19th 2018 stated that Eyal and his co-founder Yoni Bozak had both resigned their respective positions as CEO and CTO, and asking backers to help them find replacements for their jobs. A further, update in March stated some technical implementation issues and that they were still seeking a CEO. In addition, the Quiet Technologies website, https://quietlife.tech is currently offline.
To top it all off, a quick scan of comments section on the IndieGogo page reads like a PR nightmare, with nearly 3000 messages from angry backers, most demanding refunds.
All in all, so far, not a happy ending. Watch this space….
Having covered a lot of new sleep technology products in the last few years, the tale of Silent Partner is not an unfamiliar one.
The potential for platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGogo to whip up a viral frenzy via tech blogs and gadget websites means that oftentimes, consumer demand outpaces the ability of startups to deliver.
In the case of Silent Partner, this has so far resulted in over 17k backers paying $99 for a product that in all likelihood will never see the light of day. I would love to see this situation turn around, but all the signs are pointing to this being just another failed startup.
Launched: May 11 2015 Raised: $1,936,825 on Kickstarter Price and Availability: Kokoon website (from €299)
What is Kokoon?
Kokoon is a pair of headphones designed specifically to help improve your sleep. These noise-cancelling sleeping headphones combine EEG (brain activity) and movement sensors with an intelligent audio library to offer a wide range of smart functions based around sleep and relaxation.
The headphones’ comfort features include FlexmouldTM technology which moulds to the shape of your head and breathable, machine washable natural fabrics.
To prevent you from being disturbed, Kokoon features a triple layer of protection; active noise cancellation, a patent-pending audio seal, and active white noise to mask external sounds.
The audio library includes CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) exercises, active white noise and custom designed soundscapes and spoken word scripts.
Stay tuned for Part 2
Join us for the next instalment as we meet the most successful sleep products ever marketed on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo
Jeff is the founder and editor-in-chief at Sleep Junkies . A passionate sleep advocate, he started the site in 2012, reaching millions of readers across the globe. Jeff also runs the product curation platform SleepGadgets.io . He is often asked to speak at about current trends in consumer sleep technology at various events.