Dreem has just crossed a major milestone.
Today we have just announced that Dreem raised 31M€ from Johnson & Johnson — one of the world’s largest healthcare company, BPI France — one of Europe’s largest investment fund, and our historic investors MAIF Avenir and Laurent Alexandre — bringing total funding raised in the past four years to 53M€ ($60M). Today is a big milestone for us, not only because of this funding round, but also because our strategy to solve this critical and complex problem, is advancing rapidly. These past four years have been extremely demanding and intense for everyone on the team that dedicated themselves to building two incredibly complex products (first, our Dreem Beta and then our first version available just six months later) in such a short period of time. Now, Dreem is on its way to helping the world solve one of the biggest health and societal problems of our modern times. Today, I want to reflect on some of our key moments from the past four years, and clarify our strategy for the future — for the team, our investors, our customers and everyone that has been supporting and following us since the beginning.
The bad sleep curse
In the past four years, we have met thousands of people who struggle with sleep issues from all across the world — some of them haven’t benefited from a good night of sleep for decades. This gave us a great feeling of purpose and responsibility to help those who are troubled with sleep issues. And it also made us learn and better understand the huge complexity of sleep problems. Now, thanks to our thousands of customers, we learn more everyday about the mystery of sleep and sleep troubles, which is an incredible fuel for new discoveries and innovations.
From a global perspective, more than a third of the population struggles from not being able to sleep regularly, without effective solutions to help them on a daily basis. The easy solution — sleeping pills, prescribed heavily in France and United States because of their accessibility and ease of use, have terrible consequences and side effects on health and cognition, in addition to creating addiction. The technology solutions — 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 false. Understanding sleep is only possible with the true understanding of our physiological data, not our movements while we sleep.
Of course the landscape is wider, and I’m not mentioning solutions of treating apnea or narcolepsy, or innovation in the mattress and pillow industry. This is actually a good sign that the sleep industry has boomed so much in the past few years, as it will probably lead to interesting innovations in the field, but we should stay very careful about the magic claims of some of the players in this industry.
The big question is how did we come to this situation? My personal belief is that we have cultivated for decades and even centuries a profoundly wrong ideology about our sleep.It began with Thomas Edison who 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. At this specific moment, technology started to fight against our natural biological rhythms, and our circadian system. And it has been accelerated massively in the following decades, with industrialization and then 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 faculties, performances by merging technologies with our biological bodies is getting it wrong. The dream of building a superman that won’t need sleep and will be productive 24h/24h 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 terrifying, on the short term on our mood, productivity, but most importantly on our health on the long term. Cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative and mental disorders are highly correlated with bad sleep over the years. Sleeping poorly affects critical physiological and biological processes happening at night on cellular regeneration, waste removal, hormone release and regulation, memory consolidation.
One of the most striking consequences of bad sleep is the cost on our countries 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, because of the lack of productivity, absenteeism, accidents, and health costs caused by 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 at 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, complex. Everyone — doctors, scientists, institutions, countries, companies, insurances, sleepers — must participate to make this global journey successful.
Today is also another 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 we started Dreem four years ago with Quentin, our idea was simple: we wanted to bring to the consumer a recent discovery in neurosciences that showed how auditory stimulations, when sent at night at specific moment, were able to significantly enhance the quality of deep sleep. Why? Because it was effective, non-invasive, and offered 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.
Behind this simple idea, we have came through a long technological journey. 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 anecdotic 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 has been the first one to trust us. His first investment, our first investor was joined shortly after by 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 experts.
But this was not it. At this time, I 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 the hard way. Delivering an incredible product quality and experience, in an incredible short period of time, with limited budget and extremely complex industrial constraints, was no doubt a challenge 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 solutions, who trusted us, and who spent some time sending us feedback on the product.
At this specific period, we started to learn for the first time about sleep problems and consequences on people’s lives. Sleep medicine and research is a very recent field. EEG has been introduced broadly to the scientific community in the 1950s, and the first big works on sleep arrived in the late 1960s. Even though we learnt a lot these past years, the human brain is still a mystery. Almost immediately, we received sleep data from our opt-in users adding up to hundreds of thousands of nights, with further emails, messages, testimonies 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. You can complain about your sleep because it takes a lot of time to fall asleep, because you wake up frequently at night, because you wake up feeling tired even though you slept correctly, etc. There are many symptoms of bad sleep, and you have an even longer list of potential sources: pathologies, psychological causes, stress, anxiety, physiological disorders, 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 a good night 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 of solving complex electrical engineering problems to achieve better miniaturization. In parallel, with our scientific team and our community of researchers across the world we developed new concepts of features. In addition to deep sleep boost, we have 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.
One year after, we launched the new version of Dreem and opened for pre-orders. A few months later, we finally shipped the product to thousands of customers worldwide. 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 the foundation, the team has grown to 70 incredible people working daily with thousands of our users, by 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 testimonies and messages from our users.
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 tell more today, but stay in touch with us. We will announce before the end of the year some major product milestones.
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 at Dreem is to become the main entry door 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:
- On 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)
- On supporting those with chronic insomnia as much as possible — which is the largest part of those complaining about their sleep
- On 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 talents 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 more 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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