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Falling asleep without counting sheep. Sova startup launches a health-tech solution on the US market

Monday, November 23, 2020

I think you know this feeling when you’re lying in bed but can’t fall asleep. You understand that you have to get up soon, you get irritated because of it and can’t fall asleep for even longer.

You’re not alone. More than a third of Americans have a similar sleep deficit. This is exactly the kind of pain that users are willing to pay first to get rid of it. The Sova startup has come up with its own way to help people fall asleep and is ready to make money from it. We talked with Anna Ogorodnikova, co-founder and CEO of Sova app, and found out what the main feature of the product is and what kind of investor the team is looking for.

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Exceptional approach

We’ve analyzed our competitors in the categories of Sleep, Fitness and Psychology, and came up with a seemingly extraordinary product. The logic was the following: “There are many ways to fall asleep but nobody does it through corporeal techniques. Let’s create exercises to fall asleep.”

Sova app startup
Click on the image to open startup's profile on the Rocket DAO platform

I was especially hooked on this idea, because I’m a huge fan of yoga, fitness, dancing and actively practice them by using mobile applications. From my own experience, I knew that a certain set of exercises can help you fall asleep better than somnolent stories, mantras, or counting sheep. When Nadezhda, a medical consultant, joined our team, she confirmed my opinion.

Certain practices release tension and clamps in the body, reduce stress hormone levels, and normalize heart rate. Many insomnia sufferers need this to start comfortably falling asleep. Nadezhda has been actively developing in yoga therapy for the last 11 years. We used her best practices and experience as the practices’ basis for Sova App.

You can download the app via this link in Google Play and App Store


Sova App startup

How Sova app works

As soon as the user opens the application, he is greeted with a mini-survey: “How much sleep do you want?”, “How good are you feeling physically?” “What’s your emotional state?” and “How well did you sleep last night?” You need to answer by choosing a degree from 0 to 5. Analyzing the user’s answers, the application selects the most effective practice for falling asleep and on the next screen offers a video training, where the trainer shows and tells how to perform the exercises correctly.

In the beginning, the user is greeted with a slight stretching of the muscles, then breathing exercises, and finally the practice of mental relaxation. After the end of the practice, the user sees a message that it is time to go to bed, all gadgets need to be put aside and go to sleep, without being distracted by anything. The body relaxed, the brain calmed down, which helps to fall asleep faster.

In the future, the application will automatically select the exercise difficulty and practice duration for the user’s situation, using for analysis objective data on his sleep, activity, heart rate, stress level and other parameters obtained from smartwatches and fitness bracelets in addition to the user’s subjective responses

Why is everything so complicated? Because the key of doing physical activity before bedtime is not to overdo it and choose the right loadtype, so as not to over excite the nervous system, but, on the contrary, to slow it down and calm down. This analysis and balance is our know-how.


How Sova app will develop in the future

There is already a list of 25+ product hypotheses for improving the application. Two months after launch, we will test them and change the product for more user engagement based on the collected data.

Those include integration with smartwatches and fitness bracelets to build the most effective practices for a specific user; new types of workouts to work out clamps and pain in certain places; experimenting with falling asleep techniques; as well as smaller ones — daily affirmations, words of support and motivation to make our user a happier person in general.


Sova App startup

Indirect competitors

Undoubtedly, our biggest indirect competitors are the manufacturers of sleeping pills and antidepressants. This is the easiest way to solve sleep problems — you just need to take a pill. But, gradually, many patients understand that without changes inside their head they will have to sit on pills all their lives — this is harmful and expensive.

Now, we can see a very large trend for awareness in the world, including awareness in relation to ourselves, our body, our health. People are actively looking for new, greener ways to tackle poor sleep. A large number of various mobile applications come to rescue them: from bedtime stories to coloring books and meditations. There are a few unicorns among them; for example, Calm. But in general, this is a very fragmented market.

We analyzed 100+ applications from this area with total revenue of more than $280 million over the last 12 month. All of them offer different approaches to solving this problem, but our falling asleep practices are actively standing out on their background.


Sova App startup

Start in the US and further development

Our target market is the USA. For Americans, the problem is more discernible and solvency is much higher than in the CIS or Asian markets. We have already carried out the first tests and based on their results we can say that our economy will converge. We will monetize the service according to the subscription model.

Facebook advertising is now our main channel of communication with the target audience. It has very good algorithms and targeting settings, so the customer acquisition cost is lower. On average, in our segment, one application installation costs $7, and a paying user — $25. In order to recover these costs, the user’s lifetime must be at least 3 months.

We rely on Nadezhda’s practical experience, a solid medical base and our data processing algorithms, which together prove why our practices are effective and increase user retention.

In addition to Facebook advertising, we plan to use other channels as well. For example, to work with somnologists and psychotherapists. This is a more targeted tool which we will connect when the global resources are exhausted, as well as for the castdev of a narrow group of users.


Hacker, hipster, doctor

My first startup I launched along with my other co-founders in 2013. Today, it is a profitable and fast-growing SaaS-service, that helps businesses to track the advertising effectiveness on different platforms. Last year, I understood that it was the time to move on. I wanted to have personal growth, experience in working at the US market and more global business scales. This is how I got out from the operational management in call tracking and started searching for something new.

Pavel Urban, my friend and colleague, has become my faithful co-founder and CTO of the project. He has 8 years experience of working as a full-stack developer and a delivery manager. Pasha writes on React Native, and we like to joke about it, as it makes him a perfect co-founder — he manages both front-end and back-end, as well as, iOS and Android. I’m a lucky one and scored a full cccombo!

Nadezhda Mogilevchik is responsible for the medical department. She’s a doctor with vast experience in the field of physiotherapy exercises and yoga therapy. She works with patients suffering from nervous disorders and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. We were encouraged to contact her for expertise and she happily agreed to work at Sova to help more people.


Sova App startup

Raising investments

Sova’s birthday is on July 21, 2020. And at the moment we already have different exercising systems and full-ledged mobile applications for iOS and Android. We designed pages in app stores, prepared ads and released into the world. Now is the high time to start our first sales.

From the start, the project exists on the personal savings of co-founders. Also in August, we won the Visa hackathon and received a nice bonus of $4000 in cash, which we also invested in the project. In order to reach the break-even point in 6–8 months, we need $200,000.

We raise angel investment in marketing to test hypotheses faster, improve product, find product market fit and become profitable. What partners are we looking for? An investor with experience in Health & Fitness, as well as expertise in app promotion.


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