Hush Begins Crowdfunding to Produce Noise-Masking “Smart Earplugs”
Hush, a San Diego startup that has developed “smart earbuds” to minimize the distractions of a noisy world, is beginning a crowdfunding campaign today that would enable the year-old company to produce as many as 10,000 units by spring.
Founded by three UC San Diego engineering students (all named Daniel), Hush has set a goal of raising at least $100,000 on Kickstarter to produce wireless, noise-masking earplugs with a Bluetooth link that enables a user to connect with a smartphone.
By downloading the Hush mobile app, users can set their notifications to allow important phone calls, calendar alerts, and wakeup alarms to go through—without disturbing sleeping partners. The app also enables users to fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves, rainfall, and other types of white noise, and a Hush tracker enables users to find missing earplugs.
Each pair of Hush earplugs also comes with a charging dock that doubles as a travel case.
CEO Daniel “Ewok” Lee says Hush created the Kickstarter campaign after raising $150,000 from angel investors over the past two months in the culmination of what might be described as a seed-stage “pitchfest” strategy for the hardware startup.
Lee says the idea for Hush came out of a senior-level undergraduate class for entrepreneurial-minded engineers. Loud neighbors and roommates kept him awake at night. Conventional earplugs worked OK, but then he started worrying that he wouldn’t be able to hear his wakeup alarm, and would be late for work. The result was an earplug that would block out the world, yet allow users to hear what they needed to hear.
With friends Daniel Chesong Lee and Daniel Synn, “Ewok” Lee says the Hush team won a $2,000 prize in a student contest. The experience led him to enter other business plan and elevator pitch competitions, including contests held by UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management, the Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship, San Diego Tech Coast Angels, and San Diego Venture Group.
“I think the pitchfest contests were the most valuable thing I could have done,” Lee says. “As a college grad just coming out with a startup, nobody was paying attention.” By participating in pitchfests, though, Lee says he gained exposure among angel investors and mentors, and the networking proved to be “super valuable.”
The Kickstarter campaign will enable the Hush development team to finalize their design of the charging dock, order injection mold tooling, and pay for the initial cost of goods. The company intends to ship its first 2,000 orders by May.
Of course, it remains to be seen if sleep-deprived consumers will be willing to pay the $149 retail price for Hush wireless noise-masking earplugs when audiophiles can buy conventional earbuds for $10 at retailers like Target and Office Depot.
Hush also may face challenges in making headway against an explosion of investor interest in wireless health “wearables.”
But Lee contends that wearables have an Achilles heel because all they do is track sleep data. “They tell you that you had poor sleep quality, and stop there. That’s a disconnect because none of them actually solve the problem. They just tell you that you have a problem.”
In contrast, Lee says, Hush earplugs are designed to solve the problem.
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