Why you will be sleeping with a robot soon

EIT Health Bootcamp is an annual LaunchLab created by YES!Delft and EIT Health Partners and is designed to facilitate business-case development. One of the successful startups that came out of EIT Health LaunchLab in 2016 is Somnox.

Imagine a robot that can help you sleep better and wake up more energized. Now, imagine this was a reality. As a matter of fact, it soon will be. Julian Jagtenberg, founder of Somnox, and his team of fellow engineers-turned-entrepreneurs have developed a soft robotic that makes sure users end each day with a good night’s sleep.

Application deadline for EIT Health Bootcamp LaunchLab 2017 is July 17. For more info click here.

It all started in September 2015 when Julian and his co-founders, Job Engel, Stijn Antonisse and Wouter Kooyman van Guldener, got together to work on a class project with the goal to develop a robot: “We wanted to create a soft robotic – not the archetype robot that you would expect but one that would be cute and caring… We knew we wanted to build a robot that actually matters.”

The team started out by identifying the problem they could tackle, and after talking to people around them, including relatives, they came to realize that insomnia was the issue to focus on. “We’re all engineers, we’re kind of geeky, and since there was no proper solution out there, we decided to create a robot that can help people fall asleep and solve their insomnia problems,” Julian explains.

After considering their own experiences and reading up on pages and pages of academic literature, the team came to the conclusion that a slow and steady breathing rhythm is the key to people feeling peaceful at night. The main feature of their robot, thus, became its ability to register users’ breathing patterns and help them regulate those for a good night’s sleep.

For Julian and his teammates, developing the robot was initially just course work within the Robotics Institute of the TU Delft. They were unaware of their idea’s business potential until, after presenting their prototype at an open university event, they were featured in a local newspaper as one of the highlights of the day. “After that newspaper, a lot of other newspapers, even radio and TV, started talking about us.”

The coverage resulted in tens of emails from potential users who wanted to test the Somnox robot. It was this “surprising validation”, as Julian calls it, that encouraged the team of four to take some time off after finishing their Bachelors studies in the summer of 2016, and focus full time on starting a business.

They joined EIT Health’s LaunchLab, a program created by YES!Delft and EIT Health, where they spent several months developing their product and exploring the European market. “The EIT Health LaunchLab helped us transition from being engineers to being engineers and entrepreneurs at the same time,” Julian recalls.

They also got to meet relevant stakeholders from around Europe and see that there really was a market for their offering. “We got to speak to sleep disorder experts, [among others], and were able to define our customer base, value proposition and business model,” Julian says.

Since the LaunchLab, a lot has changed for Somnox. To start with, they are now a team of 12, including interns, graduates, part-timers and, of course, the original four co-founders. And the increase in manpower is certainly showing results.

Today, they have an official partnership with Dutch company Auping, which produces circular mattresses and beds of the highest quality, and in doing so, sells comfort and a good night’s sleep to its customers. Without a doubt, a perfect match for Somnox.

In addition, a 50.000-euro financing round from Rabobank’s Innovation Fund has supported the team in making iterations to their original prototypes and produce more for potential customers. In the past months, they have conducted tests with over 25 people, and especially for those with a stressful day-to-day, the Somnox robot has helped decrease their anxiety levels at night.

As a result, Julian and his team are planning a Kickstarter campaign for the end of the year, by which time they expect to have their manufacturing and distribution processes all set up. The goal for the first half of 2018 is 2,000 Somnox robots sold, which is both ambitious and sure to keep them busy.

As long as they get a good night’s sleep, though, staying busy should not really be a problem.

February 2016 – First working prototype ready
June 2016 – Team decides to commit full-time to developing Somnox
July 2016 – Admission to EIT Health LaunchLab and YES!Delft
October 2016 – Admission to Incubation Program of YES!Delft
February 2017 – Launched partnership with mattress producer Auping


Ear defender system for the heavy industries

EIT Health Bootcamp is an annual LaunchLab created by YES!Delft and EIT Health Partners and is designed to facilitate business-case development. One of the successful startups that came out of EIT Health LaunchLab in 2016 is EarTex.

Working in the heavy industries comes with a certain number of challenges, among which the need to balance health, safety and efficiency on the job. Yet, in an environment where there is excessive noise, a balance between those three is not always possible. Or at least it wasn’t until David Greenberg founded EarTex, a London-based startup developing intelligent ear defenders – originally ear-worn computers, now larger headsets – for workers in the heavy industries.

Application deadline for EIT Health Bootcamp LaunchLab 2017 is July 17. For more info click here.

Ever since the age of 18, David Greenberg, now 31, has been working towards the goal of starting his own company one day. That day came in November 2015. With extensive background – both scientific and clinical, in hearing technology, he founded EarTex with the mission to help workers in the heavy industries protect their hearing, without having to compromise on workplace efficiency and communication.

“I started off working as a clinician in a hospital with people who had lost their hearing,” David says. There were two main reasons why people, who cam e to see me, had lost their hearing: They had either gotten old, or they had worked in very noisy environments when they were younger, or even currently.”

Getting to know many such stories, David realized that instead of producing something that attempts to fix a person’s hearing once they have lost it, like hearing aids, it would be better to try and prevent the hearing loss in the first place. And while hearing loss prevention products do exist, they often make it difficult for workers to communicate and even stay aware of their surroundings.

“There’s this conflict between health and safety regulations and the realities of working in a noisy environment,” David explains. “[That’s why] we’ve created a technology that allows for communication, hearing protection and monitoring of exposures. It’s an integrated solution.”

For David, starting EarTex was a gradual and well-planned process. While doing his Ph.D in audio engineering science, followed by a teaching and research fellowship, he made sure to simultaneously learn about running a business, building a team, prototyping and raising money.

Around the time he founded the company, David started looking for the core team, as until then, it had only been him. He is the kind of guy who comes up with solutions. He describes himself as an “ideas type of person. I’ve been a clinician, an academic, and now I’m an entrepreneur. I’m always trying to do different things and I have a natural desire to solve problems.”

Helping him and his team along the way has been EIT Health, whose LaunchLab program led them to their first customer in late 2016. While many startups look to the LaunchLab as a path to validation, David and EarTex had already passed that stage. “We already knew that we were dealing with a real problem and that we had a real solution. Our number-one objective was to secure a launching customer.”

Their first purchase came in December 2016 from none other than marine giant Van Oord. Since then, they have been in talks with a number of other international companies and have done a pilot project with French electric utility company Engie.

With a current team of 11, EarTex has grown quickly in just over a year, and they are looking to do so in the months to come as well. “Our next big goal is to scale up our manufacturing,” David says. “The idea is that as soon as one of our potential customers turns into a big one, with purchase orders in the hundreds or thousands, we want to be ready to execute and deliver quickly.”

Getting a big order is what David believes will push EarTex away from being a startup and closer to being an established player on the market. Based on their current growth, that may well happen sooner rather than later.

November 2015 – Company founded
May 2016 – First round of seed funding raised
July 2016 – Start of EIT Health LaunchLab
August 2016 – First prototype ready
December 2016 – First purchase from launching customer Van Oord

News Portable cooling system for medicines Meds2Go wins YES!Delft LaunchLab

From cameras for surgeons to fast-growing plants and a sustainable shower. Ten promising early stage startups joined the YES!Delft LaunchLab pressure cooker program three months ago. On Thursday, excited participants revealed their progress and ideas to almost 150 visitors during LaunchDay. And the winner is: Meds2Go. This all-female-founder startup develops a portable container that keeps medication safe and cool for up to seven days without the need to charge.

After a heated round of pitches at YES!Delft on Thursday (see all teams in the attachment) both the Launchlab jury and audience chose their winners. Kitepower was the audience favourite, developing kites that harness the sustainable power of the wind. “A renewable, cost-effective source of energy that is an alternative to wind turbines”, the team says.

Lots of exploring resulted in serious progress for all the teams though. From contacts with angel investors to pilot projects and finding the right coach. “The team of Crescent managed to speak to over one thousand possible customers, partners and other relevant sources, Arthur Tolsma, Program Manager LaunchLab says. “LaunchLab turned out to be a great way to explore the business opportunities, leading to a focus on the medical market.”

During LaunchLab, the teams tested the riskiest assumptions about their business models, validated solutions to problems and searched for the right product-market-fit. “LaunchLab is a tailored program developed by YES!Delft for (aspiring) entrepreneurs to explore business opportunities”, says Pieter Guldemond, Managing director of YES!Delft. “In just three months’ time, participants not only know whether their business model looks good on paper, but also if it responds to the needs of the market.”

The teams receive input and feedback from fellow participants, experienced trainers and personal mentors. Resulting in a validated technology and business model that responds to the actual needs of the customer and market.

The next edition of LaunchLab starts on February 9, apply here!

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