Interview: Founder & CEO of DreamOn - Juan Sanabria
Today, I am sitting down with Juan Sanabria, founder, and CEO of DreamOn, a New York-based Sleep-tech startup. I mentioned DreamOn in a previous article that spoke about what DreamOn is doing to change how people experience sleep. In today’s interview, I talk to Juan about being an entrepreneur in New York City, the difficulties in being in a startup, and any advice he has for future entrepreneurs as well.
Jackson Fordyce: Juan, thank you for sitting down and talking with me today. To start things off, when did you create DreamOn?
Juan Sanabria: DreamOn started about more than 10 years ago with psychiatrist Dr. Sunnen creating some prototype devices that were based on the principle of entrainment, which is this scientific principle that when you are exposed to a regular frequency your body will start to copy that frequency. Our technology works to calm your brainwaves via entrainment. I got involved about 5 years ago to take some of the earlier prototypes and make them smaller. Then a couple of years ago, I went to a hardware workshop in the Navy Yard and this workshop answered a lot of questions about the hardware of the tech. After that, we started looking for an industrial designer for the shape of the product. In that process, we had some trial and error but we ultimately knew we wanted the bracelet, as well as an app and website. We then realized we needed a lot more money to make the product so a lot of last year was focused on building a crowdfunding campaign that would run on Indiegogo. The launch date kept getting pushed back due to writing content for the campaign, getting photos for the product, and making videos. But, we ran the campaign and it was successful. We finished our designs, we are working with a factory, and here we are, about to ship out.
JF: How did you come up with the original target on your Indiegogo? How did you surpass your funding goal by 746%?
JS: Well, we needed to set a public target and private target. If you set a public target that is too low you don’t seem as ambitious. But, it will be easier to hit that target. So, you want to find the sweet spot. We thought about our private goal was and used that as a guide. The other factor is you want to hit a percent of your target within a day or two. So, you want your goal to be big enough where people think you’re real and ambitious. But you also need to have confidence that within the first 48 hours you’ll get about 50% of the way there. We set that target keeping in mind that we wanted to get at least halfway there in the first 48 hours because it’s critical for crowdfunding and exposure to gain traction and momentum.
JF: What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur in New York City? What are some of the difficulties that come with that?
JS: That’s a great question. New York is a great place for entrepreneurs. It seems like everybody is an entrepreneur in New York in some ways because there are so many freelancers. Everybody has some skill to sell themselves. It’s a city where everybody is talking about what they’re doing next. But, there is historically not a lot of hardware entrepreneurship in New York. So, the challenge has been finding people to work in that area as opposed to a place like San Francisco. But, there are a lot of great resources in New York. I happen to have kids so it’s hard to get out at night, but there are a lot of networking options and meet-ups. But, that being said, it depends on what you’re trying to do. If you have a software product, New York is great for that since there is Silicon Alley and something that is still seen as an attractive investment. But, in general, there are a lot of amazing resources in the city as well as entrepreneurs.
JF: What do you think is next for the Sleep-tech industry?
JS: I wish I had a crystal ball for that one. It’s kind of funny because in Sleep-tech there’s no one size fits all. I think the Sleep-tech is going to be intricately bound with general hardware-tech where your phone really lets you know that you need to put it down. Sleep-tech to me is where your phone says “Hey, I’m shutting off. You need to go to sleep -- you’ve been working too much.” I think that’s the ultimate Holy Grail of Sleep-tech because a lot of times these devices are the ones keeping people from getting the rest they need. But, you never know what’s around the next corner.
JF: Most of our audience are millennials, what kind of advice would you give them since many of them are entrepreneurial.
JS: There are several things. Let’s start from the sleep side. Burning out and working 18-hours a day is not a sign of success and it’s not the smart way to work. Follow your passion but don’t forget to turn it off to go do other things and completely change your environment so that you can get back feeling refreshed and ready to go. Also, seek out mentors who are outside of your environment who have some wisdom and advice to give you. You never know what you’ll learn from someone who worked on products or services. Finally, look for great partners. If you have a great idea and the people you’re working with aren’t right, don’t stay there.
JF: So, what is next for Juan? What is next for DreamOn?
JS: DreamOn is a new product and we’re going to have some bumps to smooth out. As we smooth those out, we will make a much better project. We’re looking forward to getting feedback from our customers and creating a very fast cycle to integrate feedback to see what’s important to them and update the product. We have a great product and we know it works. We just have to make sure people know how to use it and also create a platform for them to be able to use our meditations.