Hello, a heavily hyped and funded Silicon Valley company focused on passive sleep monitoring, is shutting down according to multiple media reports and a medium post from founder James Proud. Hello's Sense device raised $2.4 million in a landmark crowdfunding campaign in 2014 and followed that with a total of $40 million in venture funds from Singapore investment firm Temasek and a slew of high profile angels: PayPal head David Marcus, Facebook executive Dan Rose, former Facebook designer Aaron Sittig, Spotify advisor Shakil Khan, and Hugo Barra, a Xiaomi executive.
"It’s with a heavy heart that I share with you the news that Hello will soon be shutting down. The past few weeks we have been working hard to find the right home for Sense and we are still focused on that," Proud wrote on Medium. "I am incredibly thankful of what the whole team built with Sense, but I am even more honored to have worked with the team that we built at Hello. I couldn’t have asked to have worked with a more talented group of people and will miss that more than anything. I am also eternally grateful for everyone who has ever used and loved Sense. It was my honour to be able to build something that you welcomed into your lives."
Axios broke the news of the shutdown. According to Axios, Hello was in talks with Fitbit about a possible asset acquisition, but the talks fell through.
Hello's Sense device was an attempt to create seamless sleep tracking, in the form of a wearable that didn't need to be worn. The device is a small orb-shaped device that sits on a bedside table and tracks the noise, light, humidity, and temperature in the user's bedroom. The device turns green when it senses the room is at an appropriate temperature, light level and noise level. Sense pings a user's app if it finds their room is not a proper atmosphere for sleeping yet. The system also includes a small clip, called Sleep Pill, that attaches to the user's pillow. After a night of sleep, the Sense app shows user's sleeping patterns detected by the Pill clip as well as environmental data tracked by the bedside device.
A lot of the company's early hype back in 2014 and 2015 was due to Proud, an at-the-time 23-year-old college dropout who was part of the inaugural class of Peter Thiel fellows. Proud had a big vision, strong Silicon Valley connections, and a lot of capital, so it is a little striking to see the startup fail. But the sleep space is also extremely hard, as is digital health hardware in general. In fact, one of the first startups in the space to shut down was sleep tracking startup Zeo, which closed its doors in 2013. On the other hand, Beddit, a sleep tracking company that, like Sense, was a crowdfunding sensation, was just acquired by Apple.
Proud is still searching for an acquirer that could even keep the device alive. In the meantime, he expressed appreciation for the growing recognition of the importance of sleep health.
"When we first launched Sense, sleep was one of the most neglected part of our lives," he wrote. "Three years later, for many, it is now rightly recognised as perhaps the most important pillar of our health and wellness, alongside exercise and diet. I am incredibly happy that we were able to play a small part in changing the conversation around sleep."