Eli Lazar, co-founder at SNOOZ, creates products that allow users to design their sleep environment.
Heather: What’s your role on your team?
Eli: I am a Co-Founder of SNOOZ and lead engineering for hardware and software. Primarily, my role is to oversee production for existing products, develop new products, and keep the app running smoothly. One example would be that during the last two years there have been a lot of supply chain issues, so we have had to modify our electronics to make them more compatible with a wider range of components. Basically, my core responsibility is to take ownership of anything technical, but of course I am backed up by a great team of people so I am one of many important contributors.
Heather: What product are you building?
Eli: Our flagship product is a fabric-covered white noise machine that generates sound using a real fan. We launched this product in 2017, and now refer to it as SNOOZ Original. In 2019, we launched SNOOZ Go, which is a travel friendly white noise machine with a rechargeable battery, and that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. Then in the last few months we launched SNOOZ Button, which is a medium-sized white noise machine to compete at a different price point. Also, we also have a partnership with the mattress company, Tuft & Needle, and launched a co-branded white noise machine with them about a year ago.
For upcoming products, we are currently working on Breez, which is a bladeless tone-adjusting smart fan. Breez has two motors and two fan blades, one for airflow and one for sound generation. The purpose of the product is for users who want the SNOOZ signature sound, but also the cooling effects of an actual fan. We launched Breez on Kickstarter last year and expect it to be on the market in the next few months. After Breez, my hope is for us to focus more on optimizing temperature for the bedroom.
Heather: If you’re successful in your mission at Snooz, how will the world look different?
Eli: We're still a very small company, so we have a lot of work to do in terms of making the world look different. However, our goal is to build products that help people control sound, light, and temperature in the bedroom to optimize their sleep environment. It’s a bit odd, but homes aren’t designed for sleep. Walls and windows let through noise disturbances, it’s difficult to block outside light, and bedrooms are often too warm, or warm up throughout the night. This all negatively impacts sleep quality. With that said, perhaps our mission is not to directly change the world, but to help people get better sleep, so that they can better change the world.
Heather: How did you get into IoT?
Eli: I always slept with a fan pointed at the wall, and I knew a lot of people who did the same. However, this is a bit of a product-use mismatch, since fans are designed to move air with minimum sound, and people are using fans in the exact opposite way. This gave us the idea for SNOOZ.
Hardware ventures require a lot of upfront capital, so we launched the idea on Kickstarter to generate seed funding. Also, since Kickstarter is also a very tech-oriented platform, we felt we needed to have SNOOZ connect to an App to have a successful campaign. Nevertheless, over time the App has become a very strong driver of the product. When we first launched, it was just for remote control on/off of SNOOZ. Nevertheless, driven mostly by customer feedback, we have since added in a lot of automation functionality features. I believe the main idea we have learned is that sleep is very routine based, so products we build should fit into that mold. For example, when you step into your bedroom to go to sleep, you shouldn’t have to make adjustments to make it cold, dark, and free of noise disturbances. It should just automatically convert at your bedtime every night and self-adjust as needed to maintain an optimized sleep space. Moving forward, this is the type of automation you see more of from us.
Heather: What’s your greatest product achievement?
Eli: The greatest achievement is just making a product that people like and helps them sleep better. Amazon is a very competitive landscape, so I am grateful our products have so far survived what I would call the ecommerce gauntlet. Secondly, and perhaps an even greater achievement, is the team we put together at SNOOZ. When you start a company, you have very “broad shoulders” and try to carry a lot of the work. However, as you scale up you learn very quickly that you need other people to help.
Heather: What advice do you have for aspiring product leaders?
Eli: I am still an aspiring leader myself, so I probably don’t have the experience yet to give advice, but I’ll answer the best I can. If I was ever going to write a book about starting a company (and I am not) the title would be, “It's a Lonely Place.” I say that because when you are first starting it feels like you are the only one who really believes in what you are doing. For myself, I had to tell people I was working on building a white noise machine while they were working on getting promoted to leading teams of engineers. Most people thought I was wasting my time. Then when you get a little bit of traction so people can start to see what looks like a real company, a lot of people think you are stable and a success, when the reality is that you are really in the thick of the fight. In the end, I think it is helpful to connect with other entrepreneurs that are ahead of you, because their encouragement was invaluable to me. Another helpful thought is some advice that was given to me, which was “don’t step over nickels to pick up pennies”. It’s just so easy to get distracted by the wrong things.