- Founders: Arjen de Jong, Raoul Valstar
- Founded in: 2020, New York
- Employees: 8
- Money raised: $300,000
- Ultimate goal: We want as many people as possible to breathe easily again
A full nose, puffy eyes, itchy skin. People with allergies recognize the symptoms that stand in the way of a good night’s sleep like no other. Indoor allergies, such as a house dust mite allergy, are extremely difficult to combat. At the start of the corona crisis, AirTulip, with a production location in Barneveld and an office in New York, first developed a ‘large tulip’ to purify the air. They also applied the technology they used for this to their new gadget: a headboard, which helps you sleep better. The company boldly claims to provide better air purification systems than other established brands such as Philips and Dyson. In this episode of start-up of the day, Arjen de Jong talks about his company from New York.
Let’s start right away with the great self-confidence you have. Where does this come from?
“I dare to make that statement because I have been in this sector for years. Our systems have been extensively tested by the TU/e and the results of our performance are really better than those of our competitors. It’s not about how clean your filter is, or how many particles a filter captures from the air. The air itself must be clean. We do not leave any particles in the air when using our air cleaning system. This is because our systems are ten times more cleaning power than other companies.”
What is the added value of no longer having particles in the air? Isn’t it good for our immune system?
“Due to the lack of those particles that trigger allergies or irritations, people can sleep much better. If you can choose between sleeping without a respiratory infection or with one, then the choice is easily made, isn’t it? People want to be able to sleep peacefully. Building immunity is important, but a clean bedroom doesn’t weaken your immune system. On average, you sleep a third of the day. The rest of the day you are among people, you are outside, in shops, that is how you maintain your immune system. In many cities, the air is very polluted and is more harmful than good for your immune system. The clean air you get from our air purification headboard is comparable to the clean air in the Swiss mountains where people go to recover, and where the quality of life is higher over the years.”
Is there already evidence that your headboard contributes to a better night’s sleep and health?
“We have already done technical tests to optimize our product, but not yet on human health. That’s what we’re working on now. We look at how children sleep with such a headboard in their room. We want to know whether it can also prevent the spread of disease. This also applies to the elderly. We now have a deal with an NFL (National Football League player) player. That player gets our headboard in his house for a while. We will then take measurements to see whether his performance on the field is also improving. We’re not just about clean air or helping allergy sufferers, we want to help everyone get the most out of life by offering them better sleep.
One of the people who was allowed to try it out for us at home went on holiday. He couldn’t take the headboard, of course. He did notice a difference. Despite being on vacation, he was unable to fully rest. After two nights at home, he was fully rested again. This is an anecdotal example that it works. Now we are going to prove that it really works.”
Everyone wants a good night’s sleep, but what is the price tag attached to this?
“Retail price will be $2,500, with filters to be replaced every few months. Those filters cost around two hundred dollars. For the early birds that go through our Kickstarter, which goes online August 30, there is a 40 percent discount. It’s a lot of money, and it’s definitely in the luxury segment, but it’s more than just a headboard. There is also a lamp behind it, a charging point for your phone or tablet and the most important: an air purifier. Making such a headboard, all the technology that goes into it, is simply very expensive. We have to pass this on to the user. We have consciously opted for certain materials that are more sustainable, but also for contracts with different suppliers from which we can choose so that we can always deliver.
In the Netherlands we are currently in talks with a well-known bed brand. They are already in the luxury segment. With such a partnership, the knife would cut both ways. They have an extra product that they can offer, we have good customers. We are aware that our product is not for every household. But compare it to Tesla. They first only built Teslas for the luxury segment, so that they could then make Teslas accessible to Jan Modaal.”
What was the biggest setback?
“The headboard is our newest line. But we have been working on air purification systems for some time. I can’t say that I really experienced anything as a setback. It was sometimes difficult to convince people that air purification systems are important. At the beginning of corona it was difficult to explain what exactly the effect was and what happened. We said that we had to measure immediately how many virus particles were in the air and that we had to bring them down. But it took a long time before there were parties with whom we could make contact and who wanted to participate.”
Where do you hope to be in five years?
“We are making investments through Kickstarter, among others, which is a start for our main board. We are now starting to master the trick with air purification systems. Dyson used a cyclone used in other industries in a vacuum cleaner to make it bagless. Then for air purifiers and even for hair dryers. That’s what we can do too. We have the technology, the innovation and want to discover what else we can do with it. We are open to collaborations in which we use our knowledge to create a new purification system. When companies with a lot of knowledge work together, a lot of magic is created.”