AYO: Keep Calm and Put Those Blue-Light Glasses On

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AYO, a Bulgarian-Serbian blue light therapy startup, which has so far attracted $700K investments, got accepted to the global network for high-impact entrepreneurs Endeavor. As the network admits only companies at the inflection point right before they start scaling exponentially, chances are to hear more often about AYO in the next years. Novalogy, the company behind AYO, has developed therapy glasses that improve sleep, beat jet lag and boost energy levels by radiating blue light, and sells the product in 100 countries.

A matter of science

The Blue light glasses might look like the next funky wearable on the market that pretends to help but it is actually the result of three years long extensive R&D based on Chronobiology- the science focused on the body clock. “It only takes 20-30 minutes a day to wear AYO and the innovative design of our product does not distract the user who can continue his/her daily routine”, Aleksandar Dimitrov, cofounder of Novalogy, told Trending Topics. He met Branislav Nikolic, his cofounder, a few years ago in the Netherlands, during their Masters in  Entrepreneurship at the Rotterdam School of Management. As both come from sunnier countries like Bulgaria and Serbia, they were experiencing troubles being fully active during the day, due to the predominantly dark and short winter days. So they did their homework and came up with a solution.

The blue-turquoise light that mimics the natural sunlight is a proven therapy method. It goes like this: the blue light enters the eyes and stimulates the sensory cells called photosensitive retinal ganglion cell;, this activates the cells, which send signals to the brain and adjust the production of sleep hormones. The exposure to blue light, however, when not controlled and timed, could have negative effects. Several studies, such as the Harvard Medical School one, suggest that too long exposure to blue light lengths (like the ones of monitors and displays) could cause the opposite effect – lead to insomnia and other diseases.

According to co-founders Nikolic and Dimitrov AYO provides a personalized therapy method via a mobile app, which eliminates the thread of blue-light overdose. The user groups of the product vary from peak performers, professional athletes and stressed users to people with insomnia or frequent travelers who need to beat jet lag. GoAYO, the mobile software solution that adjusts to the unique body clock of every user and to his needs in a particular moment is the USP of the company. Of course, the company is not alone on the market.

The bigger picture

The market AYO is operating on is not a small one indeed. The global sleeping aids market, which is currently at $70B is expected to grow to over $100B within the next five years, founders explain. Of course, there are many players and predominantly pharma companies on it. In addition, the light therapy market size is estimated around $2B and the jet lag one – another $1B.

On the light therapy market alone, there are products such as light boxes, which have existed for quite some time, focused on helping people mostly with winter blues and seasonal depression. There are a few light visors like early stage Austrian Pocket Sky and Belgian Luminette  entering the market with a similar technology, or at least at first sight.  The prices of this type of devices vary between €170 and €300. “They are actually very different from AYO when you analyze them. AYO is packed with sophisticated electronics and sensors for better user experience and special light diffusion technology which is easy on the eyes, UV and infrared free, and with low glare”, Dimitrov explained.  Moreover, the AYO wearable has one more proof for its quality – in 2018 the product won the prestigious design Red Dot Award for exceptional product design and quality.

Right before the exponential growth

AYO, being founded in 2015, has already a proven traction. One the one hand, the company has received an investment from local fund Eleven Ventures, then managed to raise $400K in an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and was backed by Bulgarian and US angel investors. It has also received support by the European Institute for Technology (EIT) through its Digital Accelerator program. The total amount of investments in the young company exceeds $700K.

Cofounders Branislav Nikolic and Aleksandar Dimtrov met during their Master Studies in Rotterdam. ©AYO
Cofounders Branislav Nikolic and Aleksandar Dimtrov met during their Master Studies in Rotterdam. ©AYO

The market itself is another proof for AYO – the company already has customers from over 100 countries, so the founders. “Our target markets include mainly North America, Western and Northern Europe, and Asia. We distribute AYO through numerous channels including our webstore, Amazon, Indiegogo, through luxury shopping malls in Europe, Middle East and Asia, through distribution partners as well as top airlines such as Singapore Airlines and others”, Dimitrov explained. “Our financial performance is growing threefold year over year and we expect it to grow at least fivefold next year”, he added, without revealing details.  

Entering the Endeavor network, the team of 10 scientists and business professionals, is a sign that the company might start exponentially. The programs within the network are tailored to companies in the turning point. Other entrepreneurs from Bulgaria selected to join the global network are Raicho Raichev, founder of cubical satellites startup Endurosat, Julian Sofroniev, founder of biometry venture Biodit, and the founders of HelloHungry, a food delivery startup, acquired by Takeaway for 10M in 2018 – Vladimir Davchev and Zornitsa Chugreeva.  



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