“If you are someone who is serious about starting a startup, read these 4 books in this order…” with Chris Crowley of EverSleep

Jason Malki
Authority Magazine
Published in
10 min readApr 9, 2019

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Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Crowley, CEO of EverSleep. Chris co-founded EverSleep after twenty years of medical device engineering design and management, releasing 29 FDA cleared medical monitoring and imaging devices. As a mechanical engineer by training, he is well positioned as CEO of EverSleep with a specialty in pulse oximetry, a six-year clinical background as an active EMT, in-hospital anesthesia training, 300+ surgeries attended, thousands of patient bedside visits, several project management certificates, CAD user 10+ years, six patents issued, and hundreds of plastic injection mold designs. He has designed products with over $1 billion in total sales, and managed large engineering teams and their medical products through concept, design, development, manufacture, and launch.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The three founders of SomnoHealth Inc. came together with a common goal…. bring our EverSleep hospital-grade advanced sleep monitoring directly to the consumer.

Myself and David Tobler and are medical device engineers with successful careers focussed on “pulse oximetry” blood oxygen monitoring technology. Dave is a senior medical device executive with more than 20 patents in the field. Our third founder is a successful sleep clinician and entrepreneur, who has built a chain of sleep laboratories throughout the US, treated over 30,000 patients, and has founded several sleep companies.

We realized that “fitness bracelet” sleep monitoring doesn’t tell the user WHY they are sleeping badly. Free “snore” apps only tell you something you already know, you are snoring! How can someone get real sleep data and interpretive coaching to improve their sleep?

The key to true clinical sleep lab monitoring is blood oxygen measurement — used to detect sleep apnea. Sleep apnea a medical diagnosis for interrupted breathing during sleep. Your body’s oxygen plummets and your pulse rate increases to compensate for the missing oxygen. These interruptions can be minor, or they can catastrophically “ruin” your sleep for the entire night.

So, the consumer has to choose between an ineffective $129 fitness bracelet, or an uncomfortable $2000 in-hospital sleep study prescribed by their doctor. Thus was born EverSleep! With clinical grade blood oxygen monitoring, pulse rate monitoring, snore detection, and extremely sensitive motion detection, EverSleep differentiates between many types of sleep problems. It’s a simple, comfortable, inexpensive consumer home health device that delivers much of the benefit of a true sleep lab in your bedroom.

But this isn’t the whole story!

The measurements mean nothing unless you have someone to interpret them for you. The EverSleep app is loaded with all of our clinical, physiologic, and engineering background related to sleep. Just like seeing a sleep specialist, EverSleep asks health history questions and nightly sleep factor questions. Then the EverSleep analysis engine correlates your answers to thousands of measurements aggregated from your second-by-second oxygen, pulse, snore, and movement data.

In the morning, EverSleep gives you specific coaching based on your sleep that night.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success?

First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Oh boy, I hope everyone can tolerate a bit of racy language… I’ve been telling people that running a startup is like waking up every morning and saying “I wonder if TODAY is the day that I will NOT get kicked in the nuts?” The answer is always a resounding “Nope!”

Just know that EVERYTHING is hard, every single day. Accept it. Quick example… we needed a UPC barcode for our exterior box. The artwork was ready, the box printer was ready, we were ready to ship, and we just needed the UPC code. A quick search revealed that you can only purchase Amazon accepted bar-codes from one online vendor. So I went there and registered… THREE DAYS WAIT while they “approve” you. Then you have to sit through 45 minutes of “UPC University” videos with a TEST! Then you can purchase a UPC code. THEN they send it to you a few days later. EVERY DAY is some problem like that.

My rule for startups is “Steady Hand”. That single tactic will get you through lots of disasters, big and small. It’s an old sailing cliche about keeping the boat steering on the same heading while a storm bashes you from all sides.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Here’s something I found on the internet years ago that’s helpful for thinking about drive, desire, motivation, and discipline. I don’t know who said it, but it rings true for me:

“Screw motivation. It’s fickle and unreliable and isn’t worth your time. It’s better to cultivate discipline than to rely on motivation. Force yourself to do things. Force yourself to get out of bed and practice. Force yourself to work. Motivation is fleeting and it’s easy to rely on because it requires no concentrated effort. Motivation comes to you, you don’t even have to chase it. Discipline is reliable, motivation is fleeting. The question isn’t how to keep yourself motivated, it’s how to train yourself to work without it.”

So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?

Things are GREAT — but still hard every day! EverSleep is helping people sleep in 38 countries, and we have several testimonials from people who say that EverSleep literally saved their lives. That makes it all worthwhile…

However, two weeks ago, we ordered a giant batch of color, glossy, quick-start guides, and then 3 days later the Android consortium changed several of the menu names! Ugh. Steady hand.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Funny now, wasn’t funny then… we hired a digital marketing firm for our crowdfunding campaign. Their billing terms were quite fair, but we were responsible to pay all of the social marketing ad spend. Later that month we found out that they had spent over $10,000 on Facebook ads doing A/B tests on minor wording changes. Yikes! Lesson Learned: NEVER let a contractor or supplier work “open loop” without a “Not To Exceed” clause.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re like lots of startups, unique in many ways, but in the end we’re still a startup. Everybody does every job, and we all work very hard and still have some fun. The REAL difference is in the product! EverSleep is different than all other consumer sleep monitors, and it shows in our customer success stories.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Startups are NOT for everyone. You have to have the mindset that you may be working for a year or more without pay. Can you really do that? That’s the first problem.

The second problem is that founders are often perfectionists, and thus never really celebrate the milestones… because there is always something that needs to be done better. We hit 1000 EverSleep shipments on the same day that our roof started leaking. So, we didn’t celebrate, we just took a photo of the team loading EverSleep #1000 onto the UPS truck and went back inside to deal with today’s minor disaster. So, celebrate the wins, even the little ones.

Lastly, keep a sense of humor. You’ll have to laugh at even the worst news. This fights burnout. There’s a saying in Finnish that mostly translates to “Eh, nobody died”. It’s a pretty standard reaction in Finland to even big business problems (well… problems where nobody dies!) What it says is that your GIANT problem will be a tiny memory in just a few weeks. Steady hand and you’ll sail through the storm.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Certainly our lead investor Jonathan Thorne of EdgePort Surgical. He’s been extremely helpful on all fronts. We signed him as an Advisor after he made his initial investment. But because we KNEW that there would be frustrating and trying times where we all disagreed — Jon suggested that we write the advisor-ship contract so that nobody could terminate for 3 years! So he can’t quit and we can’t fire him! That’s commitment. :-)

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Easy! Here are some quotes from EverSleep users:

“I had been feeling bad (headaches, tired, memory issues) for the last two years and even though the doctors did a lot of tests, they couldn’t find a problem. After purchasing EverSleep, I recorded data for 18 nights and was shocked to discover when the device over and over again indicated that I had severe Sleep Apnea. It showed 53 events per hour and anything over 30 is severe… I went to a sleep doctor who is a neurologist, he was very impressed with the information EverSleep provides…. I had two nights in a sleep center to confirm my sleep apnea… I got my CPAP machine and haven’t felt this good in years! Thank you EverSleep” [Editor’s note: EverSleep only measures breathing interruptions, NOT actual Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea is a diagnosis only a doctor can make.]

“It turns out I was being over-treated with blood pressure medication. My pulse rate was 18 during the night. My doctor literally said ‘EverSleep saved your life’. Apparently when your pulse rate gets that low, you can form a clot and have a stroke at night.”

“I was taking Ambien for 4 years, and I was still tired every day at work. EverSleep showed that I had an airway problem which I fixed by purchasing a simple mouthguard, based on the EverSleep coaching. I was off of my Ambien in just a few days!”

Can you share your “Five things I wish someone told me before I started my company”

CASH:

The survival of your company is all about cash. Cash, cash, cash. #1 reason for startup failures is cash, and cash flow. Think about it every day.

EVERY SINGLE DAY you should update a very simple spreadsheet that mathematically calculates “If things continue like this, we’ll be out of cash on X date” Set up the columns as months and each row with an individual expense (rent, salary, or ad spend) or and income (usually sales). Make the bottom row your “live” cash in the bank account. In what month does the cash go to zero?

Don’t do this in a complicated accounting package, just a simple spreadsheet. Seriously, look at it every day to adjust your individual expenses, sales, marketing costs, etc. What day do we run out of cash? You’ll need to know this, believe me!

BOOKS:

Someone who is really serious about starting a startup should read these books, in this order. If you can’t “do the homework” to make it through these five simple books, you cannot manage a startup… These books form the core of successful business management for me.

Rich Dad Poor Dad (1st book in the series only)

4-Hour Work Week

The Checklist Manifesto

The One Thing

Pitch Anything

HARDWARE IS HARD:

Designing electronic hardware is very hard. Multiplatform apps (iPhone and Android) in a single code-base are very hard. Bluetooth is very hard. If you’re doing a product like EverSleep with all three technologies, expect a tough road!

NEVER RUN OPEN LOOP WITH EXPENDITURES:

As described above, never never never let a contractor or vendor run “open loop” with your money. ALWAYS get a “not to exceed” clause with marketing firms, attorneys, engineers, sales teams, etc.

SELLING IS THE HARDEST THING FOR ENGINEERS:

Oh my gosh! During my medical device career, I always thought that the sales and marketing groups stood around and “clinked the ice in their martini” while sneering the engineers. Not true at all… I actually called my previous sales and marketing co-workers and apologized! Selling is SUPER hard — especially for technical founders. If you are a technical founder, surrounding yourself with technical people, you’ll NEED someone SOON who is experienced at actually SELLING. Do not ever believe that your product will “sell itself”. Selling is a rare skill, be ready BEFORE you need sales.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Well, we’re already doing that! Sleep is an absolute foundational pillar of health, along with food choices and exercise. You no longer have to live with poor sleep. It is important to note that 78% of heart attack victims have sleep apnea! Coincidence? Nope! Protect your sleep, measure your sleep, and NEVER take your sleep for granted. THAT is the way we can save lives.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Our website is www.GetEverSleep.com, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Jason, we’ve made a special EverSleep deal for your readers today… anybody using the AUTHORITY20 coupon code at checkout saves $20 off their EverSleep purchase! This code is only valid for a limited time and limited number of users, but it’s a good savings for your readers.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thanks so much for having me Jason, and sleep well!

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Jason Malki
Authority Magazine

Jason Malki is the Founder & CEO of SuperWarm AI + StrtupBoost, a 30K+ member startup ecosystem + agency that helps across fundraising, marketing, and design.