AYO’s Aleksandar Dimitrov Interview
NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION — AYO, A SleepTech® member of the National Sleep Foundation, has created a light-based wearable designed to boost energy, beat jetlag, and help you sleep better. Check out NSF’s interview with the company’s co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer Aleksandar Dimitrov to learn more about the product, how it all started, and what’s next for the wearable company.
NSF: Tell us a bit about your company.
Alex: AYO first came into existence when our co-founder Branislav Nikolić and I were studying together in the Netherlands, often during gloomy winter weather. Because of this, we had very low energy and became tired most of the time. We used different devices to help us with our energy levels such as traditional light boxes. However, they are not very convenient to use nor portable so you cannot take them with you while traveling or even to walk freely during the 40-50 min session. We wanted to create something smaller, mobile and more convenient, so we created a wearable, which uses the light technology to help people regulate their body clock and boost their energy levels. AYO is also fully connected to a mobile application, which is an important aspect of the product because every individual has a different body clock, and the app helps to understand the sleep-wake cycles of the user. The user receives personalized guidance and a schedule for using AYO based on the goals they want to achieve by using the device. We launched our Indiegogo campaign in mid-2015 and during the 40-day campaign we reached close to $100k in funding, when our goal was $50k. We stayed on the Indiegogo platform as part of the “InDemand” program and reached close to $400k in funding from over 2,000 backers across more than 80 countries.
NSF: Why did you get involved in NSF’s SleepTech program?
Alex: We wanted to be a part of the community because we are strong believers in collaboration and partnerships. We look at the sleep industry in general and think about how we can work together to focus on sleep science and technology, helping each other make progress. We are always open to new partnerships.
NSF: What opportunities are you seeing in the SleepTech industry right now?
Alex: We are seeing several exciting developments at the moment. There is a big movement towards using light for helping with sleep and adjusting circadian rhythm. For example, the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded last year to three researchers from the US studying circadian rhythm. We are learning more and more about why and how we sleep. Today’s sleep, activity, and even brainwave trackers represent an exciting era of technology and data being connected and used to improve people’s sleep.
NSF: What critical challenges in SleepTech still need to be overcome?
Alex: In general around the world, society tends to forget the importance of sleep. We value going to bed later and sleeping less in order to finish our work and achieve more, but that hurts us in the long run. Society doesn’t work on optimizing sleep to achieve better habits. It is important to educate people about the importance of sleep including the time of night we go to bed, which electronics we keep in the bedroom, and the need to pay attention to our biological clock and stay in tune with our own circadian rhythm cycles.
NSF: How are you spreading the word about the work you’re doing in SleepTech?
Alex: We go to universities focused on the science of sleep to see how we can help their students and athletes achieve better rest. We have also approached big corporations to talk to them about how our product can help enhance their employee’s sleep and productivity. Ambassadors and influencers are also important. They are people who can take our message and use it to raise awareness and spread the word to a larger audience. We also attend events to present our solution in person to interested parties. For example, we recently attended Vivatech in France. It was a very exciting and high-level conference and we had the chance to demo our product to a large number of people. After President Macron’s keynote speech at the conference, we had the honor to provide the French Head of State with an AYO pair to help him minimize jet lag during his travels.
NSF: What is the next big thing for AYO?
Alex: We are now trying to reach new target groups that have never been reached before with more customizable software. For example, people traveling frequently on business need software that caters to their needs in many different time zones. This will help traveling employees be more alert and shift into sleep more easily when it’s time to rest. Regulating the body’s clock is crucial for anyone traveling—including athletes. They can benefit from this technology when traveling back and forth from sporting events, and so can coaches and the fans. Shift workers are another population we believe can benefit from our technology. We see that light technology for regulating user’s circadian rhythms is becoming more and more important, and we are excited to be part of that journey.