With its blackout audio mask, curated music, Breathonics meditation technology and ‘nappiness’ factor, Hong-Kong-based startup Silentmode aims to give you the best nap ever, boosting your productivity and success.
Everyone loves a nap, but more importantly, it turns out, everyone actually needs one. Studies have shown that even a short sleep can significantly improve both cognitive and motor performance. But, amid the hustle and bustle of city life, a quality nap can seem at best out of reach. Bradley Dowding-Young and his wellness startup Silentmode aimed to change that when it launched on Kickstarter on 1st November 2017, reaching its target of USD 40k in just five hours. To date, it has raised USD 170k, selling 3000 kits worldwide. With their specially-designed power-nap mask and ultimate relaxation toolkit, Silentmode has already helped many high-achievers, including professionals, NBA basketball players, and NFL athletes, to recharge and recover from stress and burn-out. We sat down with Bradley at the Hive Kennedy Town, Hong Kong, to try out his products and find out how he managed to bring Silentmode to life and help the world relax.
To explain the origins of Silentmode, Bradley traces back to a personal experience he had during a business trip in 2015. Working as a marketer at the time, the young professional was constantly on the move, and the excessive travel had taken its toll. “I was desperate for a nap. I had a pair of headphones and a night mask, but they were really uncomfortable,” Bradley begins. “And, as I looked around, I saw people on the plane with t-shirts wrapped around their head, wearing earphones and legs up. And I thought, ‘this is ridiculous, there’s got to be a better way. If having a good nap was impossible given the current technology, why couldn’t I invent something that made napping a better experience than this?”
Bradley has always had a burning ambition to create something, or in his words, “an entrepreneurial bug.” The Londoner had his first bite at the cherry in 2005 when he built a text messaging platform as a case study for his university dissertation which later turned into a half a million-dollar business. After graduation, he established an accomplished career in the mobile tech field, managing mobile technology at The Guardian before developing his own mobile application after stumbling upon Hong Kong five years ago. Although not all of his creations scaled successfully in the end, disappointed but not disheartened, he remained on the constant lookout for the idea he could make fly. “Entrepreneurship is about understanding opportunities, timing and learning on your experience to make the best of it,” Bradley says of his journey.
Silentmode began life in October 2016 before launching in April 2017. Partnering with his tech-savvy friend Jens H. Nielsen who takes care of product development and a creative designer, the team of three began to work on the prototype alongside their full-time jobs. But, whilst the lightbulb moment of an idea may come finger-snappingly fast, they soon discovered that the process of executing it is far from simple, and it wasn’t long before the team bumped into their first roadblock.
“Financing these projects is difficult,” says Bradley. “We bootstrapped this, so we put all our life savings into it. Fundraising is always the most time-consuming part, and it draws your attention away from what you should actually be doing,” he states. And, whilst fundraising is one painstaking process, building the product is another. “As a creator, you always want to make changes to perfect a product. Yet, it involves a lot of unknowns. The journey is always tough,” Bradley continues.
Ironically – it took countless sleepless nights – as well as thousands of hours of research and a wide range of technical problems to bring the Silentmode power-nap audio mask to life. “This is mask version 10,” Bradley laughs, holding up a sleek, minimalist band. Comprising 36 components, it is a combination of an eye mask and earphones. Inside the mask is a layer of high-quality memory foam made out of Japanese Microfiber and Bamboo Cotton Foam, which feels feathery-soft on your skin, but thick enough to eliminate all sorts of visual distractions. Featuring an inbuilt proprietary audio system that is still comfortable to lie on, and leveraging their passive noise cancelling technology, the mask promises to tune you out of your surroundings and into a beneficial sleep, instantly secluding you from the mad world around you.
But the crux of Silentmode lies in its napping ecosystem. Complementing the hardware is the patented sonic content ‘Breathonics,’ available on Silentmode’s app. Developed by the team, it aims to offer users an immersive relaxation experience by teaching you how to control your breathing rhythm. Breathing is scientifically proven to have a potent influence on sleep quality. It enables the control of anxiety and emotion, which oftentimes contribute to sleep dysfunction. “Growing up, I was taught the importance of breathwork. It helps you switch off and manage your stress,” explains Bradley, whose mother is a yoga teacher. “Breathing is the first thing we do when we’re born and the last thing we do before we die. It is also where a quality rest begins.”
To supplement these breathing guidelines, Silentmode also compiled a selection of frequency-based, therapeutic music in collaboration with leading neurologists and psycho-musicologists, such as legendary producer and psycho-acoustic researcher Tom Middleton, who helped to design the music content. “We want to make meditation easy for those who can’t meditate. Music is some frequencies that help you let your guard down and eventually, help your brain shut down, without you realising it,” explains Bradley the sonic design major. In order to cater to different needs, Silentmode’s app provides three types of nap and meditation sessions for users to choose from, whether it is FOCUS, a five-minute micro-nap that helps to sharpen your mind; RELAX, to ease your mind before bedtime; or POWERNAP, if you need a rejuvenating sleep after a long day. On top of that, Silentmode also developed a ‘nappiness algorithm’ to calculate and personalise a napping plan for you, based on the human circadian rhythm and your biometric data as seen on Apple HealthKit and Google Fit. In the near future, a jet-lag feature will be added to the app for those travelling across time-zone and looking to reset their body clocks.
Born with the undertaking to render you the best napping experience, Silentmode carries Bradley’s dream to empower the world. As he sees it, whilst many are aware of the fact that sleep deprivation lowers productivity and adversely impacts well-being, only a few have taken the matter seriously. With Silentmode’s audio mask and scientifically curated content, Bradley hopes to encourage people to really invest in napping, helping to boost their all-around performance and enhance their wellness. As he urges us, “unwind to unlock the power within, nap to be better at you.”
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