Dreem just crossed a major milestone.
Today, we just announced that Dreem raised 31M€ from Johnson & Johnson — the world’s leading healthcare company, BPI France — one of Europe’s largest investment fund, and our historic investors MAIF Avenir and Laurent Alexandre. This brings our total funding over 4 years to 53M€ (US $60M). This is a big milestone for us, not just because of this funding, but also because our strategy to solve the critical and complex problem of sleep, is progressing rapidly. The past four years have been very demanding and intense for everyone on the team. We dedicated ourselves to building two incredibly complex products. First, our Dreem Beta headband and then our consumer version, which was available just six months after the beta launch. Now, Dreem is on its way to help the world solve one of the biggest medical and societal problems of our modern times. I want to use this post to reflect on some of the key moments from the past four years, and clarify our future strategy — for the team, our investors, our customers, and everyone who has been supported and followed us from the beginning.
The curse of bad sleep
Over the past four years, we met thousands of people who struggle with sleep issues from all over the world — some of them haven’t gotten a night of good sleep for decades. This encouraged us and instilled a feeling of purpose and responsibility to help those who are troubled with sleep issues. It also made us learn and better understand the complexities associated with understanding and managing sleep problems. Now, we owe it to our thousands of customers, who’ve helped us learn and unravel the mysteries of sleep and sleep troubles. This research and validation has also fueled a series of incredible new discoveries and innovations within our team.
From a global perspective, more than a third of the population struggles from poor quality of sleep. They lack resources and treatment that can effectively help them on a regular basis. The easy and accessible solution — sleeping pills, are prescribed heavily in France and United States, have addictive properties and have dire side effects on overall health and cognition The technology solutions — like the one on your bed table, under your pillow, on your wrist, that claim that with light tracking they could help us solve our sleep problems are inaccurate and ineffective. Understanding sleep is only possible with the true understanding of our physiological data, not our movements while we sleep.
The landscape is wider than trackers or medication. Solutions that treat sleep apnea or narcolepsy, or recent developments in the mattress / pillow industry are a great sign for the sleep industry. We we will see some remarkable innovations in the field, but we should stay cognizant about the “magical” claims of some of the players in this industry.
The big question is how did we get here to begin with? My personal belief is that for decades, we have cultivated a profoundly wrong ideology about our sleep. Thomas Edison once claimed that sleep was an incredible loss of time. One of the reasons why he invented the light bulb to be able to work at night. This is when technology started to fight against our natural biological rhythms, and our natural circadian system. This phenomenon has accelerated in the following decades, with industrialization and various technological revolutions. Wall Street’s claim of “Money never sleeps” and testimonies from the biggest inventors, entrepreneurs, politicians, and leaders of the world made us think that the key to productivity and success was to sleep less and less, to do more during the day. This is complete nonsense from a biological standpoint.
The transhumanist theory on trying to expand our overall potential and performance by merging technologies with our biological bodies is getting it wrong. The dream of building a superhuman that won’t need sleep and will be productive 24/7 is a fantasy. We need to realize the importance of sleep and find ways to unlock the barriers to a good night of sleep.
The consequences of poor sleep on health are frightening., Short term, it affects our mood, productivity, and overall mindfulness. Long term impact is grave with cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative and mental disorders, which have shown strong correlation with bad sleep over the years. Sleeping poorly affects critical physiological and biological processes. This in turn negatively influences cellular regeneration, waste removal, hormone release and regulation, and memory consolidation.
One of the most striking consequences of bad sleep is the cost incurred on national economies. Approximately $1 trillion has been lost last year because of bad sleep, around $300b for Europe and $411b for the US (Rand Europe — Why sleep Matters, The economic impact of sleep, 2016). This is the GDP of Switzerland and Belgium combined. Lack of productivity, absenteeism, accidents, and various health costs are all attributed to poor sleep.
Bad sleep is definitely one of the most important healthcare and societal issues of our modern times, and the time has come to act. Technology and science have made incredible progress in the past years, and our mission with Dreem is to deliver solutions on the large scale to help everyone recover good sleep. We dream of a world where sleep is not a constraint nor the source of anguish and anxiety anymore. This journey will be challenging, long, and complex. Everyone — doctors, scientists, institutions, countries, companies, insurers, and most importantly, poor sleepers — must participate to make this global journey successful.
Today is also another major announcement for Dreem, as two additional prestigious scientists are officially joining our scientific advisory board: Pr. Russell Foster and Dr. Raphaël Heinzer. They are new, incredible assets for Dreem, and they will be of great support in defining and implementing our scientific roadmap for the coming years.
When I started Dreem four years ago with Quentin (CTO @ Rythm), our idea was simple: we wanted to build a consumer device that would take a recent discovery in neuroscience — one that showed how auditory stimulations, when sent at night at specific moment, is able to significantly enhance the quality of deep sleep. Why? Because it was effective, non-invasive, and offered a significant world-changing potential. We have made a long journey since our first prototypes in my dorm room at Ecole Polytechnique. Here is a brief summary.
Since day one, we had the conviction that the only way for Dreem to propose a valuable solution to people, was to effectively measure and analyze brain activity at scale. Without this critical information, only anecdotal data could be proposed to users. To be able to conceive a system that can measure EEG accurately with dry sensors, automatically and autonomously detect specific patterns in the brain activity, we had to build everything from scratch, and make significant innovations in several technological and scientific fields.
Laurent Alexandre was the first one to trust us. Shortly after, his initial investment, we were boosted by an investment from Xavier Niel — even though we had no technology and no experience at the foundation — we have since hired an incredible team of experts ranging from electrical engineering to chemical formulation, mechanical engineering, machine learning, software development, etc. We have made hundreds, even thousands of prototypes of the first headband. In 2015, only one year after the foundation of the company, we successfully executed our first night with automatic deep sleep stimulations. This was an incredible milestone when we looked back to where it started: a $15,000 device with a one-hour setup of 30 electrodes with gel and glue, with stimulations triggered manually by sleep experts.
But this was not it. I had clearly underestimated the complexity and the level of difficulty we would experience in the next stage. From a technological breakthrough to a mass consumer product, we had so much to build. We started to become a company driven by people and not by technology. It does not matter how beautiful is the scientific and technological journey, the end goal is not to just discover an innovation, but to solve our sleep crisis.
We learnt this the hard way. Delivering a high quality product and an incredible experience, in an short period of time, with limited budget and extremely complex industrial constraints, was a challenge that went beyond my wildest imagination. But one year later, in 2016, we finally shipped Dreem Beta version to 500 selected people on a list of several thousands of people. We can never be grateful and thankful enough to these people who purchased our initial solution, who trusted us, and who spent some time sending us feedback on the product.
During this specific period, we started to learn about sleep problems and its consequence on people’s lives. Sleep medicine and research is a very recent field. EEG was broadly introduced to the scientific community in the 1950s, and the first big advancements on sleep arrived in the late 1960s. Even though we learnt a lot these past decades, the human brain is still a mystery. By shipping Dreem Beta, we expedited our learnings exponentially. We received sleep data from our opt-in users adding up to hundreds of thousands of nights, with further emails, messages, testimonials, and qualitative data from our users.
At this time we understood that even though we had made an incredible technological leap, the design of Dreem was not yet ready for mass distribution. We also learned that the global sleep problem is not just one single problem. People have different kinds of sleep problems. You can share symptoms about taking a lot of time to fall asleep, or because you wake up frequently at night, or because you wake up feeling tired even though you slept correctly, etc. There are many faces of bad sleep, and you have an even longer list of potential sources: pathologies, psychological causes, stress, anxiety, physiological disorders, or environmental constraints. And you have another level of complexity added to this: everyone is different, there is not a gold standard for a night of sleep, defining good sleep objectively is as complex, sometimes you can feel tired but objectively your night was good, and everyone has very different habits or tastes. So something that could work for you, might not work for someone else.
We then immediately started to work on the next generation of Dreem. Our first objective was to try and create a headband that was even smaller and more comfortable. We teamed up with Yves Behar and his team at fuseproject and collaborated on hundreds of iterations of the new headband. In parallel to that we had our technical teams solving complex electrical engineering problems to achieve better miniaturization. Our scientific team and our community of researchers across the world we developed new concepts of features. Finally, in addition to deep sleep boost, we added a series of features to help people relax to fall asleep faster, a smart alarm clock, and individualized tips and recommendations. We tested that over tens of thousands of nights and published a white paper announcing our progress.
Exactly a year from our Dreem Beta release, we launched the new version of Dreem and opened for pre-orders for all consumers in the European Union and United States. Our user base grew faster than expected and again we are so incredibly thankful to everyone who has trusted us to be their better sleep solution.
Today, four years after we started, the team has grown to 70 incredible people working daily with thousands of our users, collecting incredibly rich and novel (anonymized) data. We have learned so much. We are so happy and proud to see the thousands cases of bad sleep that we have been able to solve, and all the nice testimonials and messages from our users make it all worth the hardwork.
But now our focus is on understanding why some of our users did not get the experience and the results they were hoping for. Thanks to incredible work from the team and the relentless obsession on the data and feedback analysis, we have now a solid war plan for the next years. I can’t share everything today, but stay in touch with us. We will announce some major product milestones by the end of 2018.
And now, what?
What I can say without a doubt, is that after four years, we have the most complete, results-based and accurate sleep product for the consumer. But this does not mean that we have a solution that can help everyone for now. Our vision with Dreem is to become the main entry point for everyone on the planet suffering from poor sleep quality. Dreem won’t solve everything but we want it to bring significant value to everyone by:
- Understanding where bad sleep comes from and know when it is caused by a pathology (we currently have promising research on predictive diagnosis through data analysis)
- Supporting those with chronic insomnia as much as possible — which is by far, the largest group of those complaining about their sleep
- Supporting people constrained by their lifestyle to achieve their sleep objectives
To do so, we will be extremely focused in the coming years on:
- Making the product affordable to the largest population possible. We believe in making partnerships with companies for their employees, and insurances for their insurers, will allow people to get the product at a much lower price
- Working on new technological breakthroughs to significantly improve the experience — we want technology to disappear or at least to be as transparent and small as possible
- Developing new concepts and new methods to support as many sleep challenges as possible by covering a larger and larger portion of causes of bad sleep
- Improving the quality of Dreem experience continuously — this is not only about the product itself, but about how as a company we provide the best experience possible, in helping our users and making them happy and proud to use our products
- Pursuing our scientific journey to advance sleep research — we believe that our technology in partnership with thousands of our users can bring incredible value to science, and we have been signing new research partnerships every year since the beginning of the company
- Finally, making Dreem the best company to work for in Europe, and maybe in the world, because nothing of this would have been possible without the incredible talent and individuals that we have today — and we will need many more in the coming years.
In this quest, with our investors Johnson & Johnson and Bpifrance, who will be extremely useful, we will be able to move rapidly and effectively navigate the challenges ahead — while improving our innovation through partnerships with some of the most renowned experts on these topics.
Frequently, people ask me about the 10–20 years vision for the company. As I don’t have a crystal ball, and as what we will do in 5 years will be conditioned by discoveries resulting from our collective hard work, I believe that the most important elements are our purpose (why we exist?) and our core values (what we value in people working with us).
We founded the company on the idea to help people in a profound way. How? By empowering them to live brighter and healthier lives. While this is certainly aspirational, it’s our north star that guides everything we do on a daily basis. Helping people to recover good sleep after years of horrible rest, is helping them to improve their health and how they feel. We believe this is the most important mission.
This purpose is a filter for all of the product innovation we execute. What we know for sure is that while Dreem’s near focus is on improving and understanding sleep — but our long-term vision could be something even bigger. Only continued hard work and dedication will get us there. That’s why we have an exploratory lab, and scientific projects looking at some other topics. We will continue expanding our vision, pushing the bar further and aiming higher — while always staying true to our mission of empowering people to live brighter and healthier lives.
The second element that guides what we do and who we are are our core values. These are the values we are looking for when we hire people, this is what we use during our annual reviews as a framework, and this is what we value on our daily work.
- Human — we look for people obsessed by people, user satisfaction and improving their lives
- Ambitious — we look for people extremely ambitious for themselves, and for our common goal, proposing radical solutions, pushing continuously the boundaries, and driven by a very high level of quality for her outputs and results
- Creative — we look for people who develop creative ideas on their own, but are also open to collaboration with teams. By associating in a same place creative people from different fields, we come frequently with new approaches to solve problems
- Smart — we look for smart people because at Dreem we have a wide range of very complex problems in very different fields, and we expect from people to master a wide range of knowledge
- Humble — we look for humble people in the sense that the person is deeply interested in executing, doing and imagining for the greater good.
So if you think we are aligned, feel free to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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