Sleepkick grew out of the idea of using a good night’s sleep to kick-start a more productive day. Co-founder Tom Skarbek-Wazynski soon discovered the benefits of using Lancaster University’s digital expertise to help kick-start his business.
“I’d been a student at Lancaster,” he explains. “And I’d also worked as lead developer in their Innovation Hub, looking at emergent technologies and developing student ideas. Later, when two friends approached me with the idea for a company that helped people to sleep better - with me doing the technical side – it was an ex-colleague at the University who told me about this project to help businesses produce prototypes.”
As the University builds towards its world-class Health Innovation Campus (HIC), Lancashire businesses are able to work with dedicated teams including the School of Computing and Communications. Support is available to apply the latest digital skills and develop game-changing ideas for the health sector, with funding from the European Regional Development Fund. Tom saw the potential immediately:
“I went into InfoLab21 and told them how Sleepkick had been set up to share what we’d learned - how improving sleep patterns had improved our working lives and general wellbeing. Although we were already offering free information on our website and would be introducing paid plans in the future, one of the key ideas was to develop a mobile app, effectively a ‘sleep coach in your pocket’. Stewart, Dan and the team understood the problem very quickly and had good suggestions around the way to shape the app.”
Initially, Tom admits, he had envisaged the app as happening two or three years down the line. Instead, he and the team at Lancaster University signed off on a sprint to develop a small prototype within a 6-8 week timescale.
“Unlike the typical wearable sleep trackers on the market, the whole thing has been built around creating good habits, such as getting some daylight time, or exercise, or reducing caffeine intake,” he says. “So the team came up with this nice habit system, which also has what we’ve been calling the ‘SOS’ side, with breathing exercises and other actions to get you to sleep there and then.” He adds that the team at the University also did a fair amount of independent research into what could feasibly be done with the app.
The result is that Sleepkick now has a working prototype that provides a good demo of what the app could do. “Ideally we’d like to build it internally,” Tom says. “So we can use this to guide our development team, or to demonstrate the app to potential investors. We’re also looking at building an SOS-only version in the short term, to release for free.”
The pace of the project has energised the business, he says. “It’s sped the whole thing along. If I’d had to do it myself, alongside my normal work, it would have taken me six months. This has allowed us to move much more quickly and it was almost like Lancaster University were an extension of the Sleepkick team.”
To find out about opportunities for your business email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 01524 595005 to speak to the team.
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