Initiated by E52 and High Tech Campus, the 10 most promising startups-to-watch from the Brainport Eindhoven region have been announced for the fourth consecutive year. On July 12th they received a Gerard & Anton Award. The winning companies are highlighted one by one in an interview. Today part 3; read the whole series here.
A blanket for a baby that mimics the scent and heartbeat of the mother, that is the idea of Hugsy. This way (premature) babies still have the feeling that their mother is close by, even when she’s gone for a while. Jody van den Tillaart tells about the blanket and the company, but also about her experiences as a mother.
Hugsy was founded on March 9th, 2017, but already started a student project at the TU/e one and a half years before that.
Four people are permanently employed and about six people working on a project basis.
The past few months a limited edition was sold, which delivered the first revenue. “It doesn’t give us a lot of money, but it does provide more insight into how the product can be improved.”
The focus for selling the blanket is on Europe and North America. “But these days everyone can order one online from any country. It is, of course, important that the buyer’s way of taking care of a baby is in line with the idea of Hugsy.”
Why are you doing this?
“The idea is very noble. We want to do something for newborn babies and parents in settings in which it is more difficult to work on bonding. It is mostly about situations in the hospital where the baby is in an incubator. Parents do have some ‘tummy time’, but at a given moment they will have to go back home. That can be very stressful for babies and parents. In that area, we can make a lot of difference with Hugsy. It isn’t only for babies in the hospital, but it also comes in handy at home. It can be very heavy for parents when you have a newborn baby who is very sensitive or cries a lot and therefore wants to be around you a lot. As a person, you’re obviously also a person who wants to take a shower sometimes or something like that. In that case, it is nice if there’s something that can comfort your child and give it the feeling that you’re there while it has to lie in the cradle.”
“I do however sometimes ask myself why I’m doing this. In a start-up, you obviously have a limited number of people and with them, everything needs to be done. Because of the stress and responsibility I feel, it is sometimes hard to come back to the basis. I have children myself and they often really don’t like it that I’m working so much. At those moments it is nice to read all the reactions of parents or to look at the results we have already achieved. Then I remember why I’m doing this again.”
When did you think ‘I’m quitting’?
“One day I think that this is the best thing I have ever done and the next day I wonder why I’ve even started this. It’s always going from high peaks to deep valleys. That seems to be very normal when you start a startup, but I had to get used to it. I’ve fortunately never really thought about quitting, but I have thought about how to handle those peaks and valleys better for myself.”
“I also really have to pay attention to the balance between work and private. In a business perspective, I can always think of something to solve a problem. If something can’t won’t work through A or B, we think of C. You can be very creative in it. I also have some kind of constant alertness and adrenaline in my body. That was something to get used to, but on the other hand, it is very good. What I do find hard is when I have to leave in the weekend for example, and one of my children gets really upset or has to cry. Then my heart sinks into my boots. That is no reason to quit, but it is a reason to only do really important things outside my regular working hours. Which is difficult, because a lot of things are important, it is a very personal challenge for me.”
“The best moment is when I go into the hospital and there’s a calm baby in a Hugsy with a happy mother.”Jody van den Tillaart,
At what moment were you totally lyrical?
“I quite often have those moments. The first lyrical moment was when I decided to really step into Hugsy and quit my job. That was very scary, but at the same time, it gave me a lot of energy. After that, there are always waves of fun things. The presentation on the XL day of the accelerator program was a lot of fun. That was the completion of the program, which allowed us to continue on our way. A month ago we closed our first funding round. Then we were also thrilled that we had achieved the goal. We have also expanded our team with two other ladies. We are going to pay salaries, we employ people. That was also a really great moment. But the most important, fun and beautiful moment is when I come into the hospital and there’s really a baby with a mother in a Hugsy. The mother is happy, the baby looks very calm and the nurse likes working with us, then I am very happy that we’re doing this. That affects me the most, not just professionally. Every time I step into a nicu, I find it quite a heavy setting. I’m always very impressed with what’s going on here, what the nurses all do and what those parents are going through. So I hope we’ll be able to give the parents and babies more rest with Hugsy. All lights are on green, now we are really going to have to do it.”
What can we expect from you the next 12 months?
“The coming year we really want to launch the product. That is the version for people at home. From October, people can order a Hugsy for their baby up to three months old. That is a very important step for our company. The success of this will also partly determine how we can further expand it. The version that can be used in the hospital will have to be waited for a little longer. For that, we need to carry out more tests to have more scientific evidence. We have already completed one clinical test so far. Also, the product must be CE approved, which has to do with the safety requirements. We are working hard on it, but that’s a long process. At least the home version is going live.”