Inventing Noise Cancellation Earbuds for Sleeping – Janne Kyllönen of QuietOn

INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 32:14)

PODCAST AUDIO

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Intro

Janne Kyllönen of QuietOn shares the story of creating noise cancellation earbuds specifically built for sleeping and relaxation.

People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

What You’ll Learn

Interview with Janne Kyllönen of QuietOn

00:00Introduction
01:19What is the product
02:57How is this product different from regular earphones
03:45What motivated to start this business
05:25Product Development Process
08:09Founding Team
09:24Crowdfunding
12:18Patents
13:58Competing in Electronics category
15:17Which markets
17:14Manufacturing
20:10Marketing
23:13Shipping
25:40Using WooCommerce for E-commerce
26:35Team
27:53Mistakes, Failures
29:19Rapidfire

Rapid Fire

In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.

Janne Kyllönen of QuietOn

  1. One book that you would recommend to entrepreneurs/business professionals in 2021 and why? (Response: The Hard Things About Hard Things)
  2. An innovative product or idea in the current ecommerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Oura Ring)
  3. A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend (Response: Monday; WeTransfer)
  4. An entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Elon Musk)
  5. Best business advice you ever received (Response: When you’re showing your first prototype to others, if you don’t feel ashame a little bit how it looks, then you’re too late)

Interview Transcript

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Hey there entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to Trep talks. This is the show where I interview successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, business executives and thought leaders and ask them questions about their business story, and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses. And today, I’m really excited to welcome Jana dionan. to the show. Jana is the founder and Product Director of quiet on quiet on is a company that develops earplugs, which use active noise cancellation that assist with reducing background noises such as harm of airplane engines, snoring, and helps user to get better sleep. And today, I’m going to ask you a few questions about his entrepreneurial journey, and some of the strategies and tactics that he has used to start and grow his business. So thank you so much for joining us today. Trep talks.

Janne Kyllönen  

Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

I hope I hope I didn’t butcher your name too much

Janne Kyllönen  

actually it was quite well pronounced that first names aren’t that easy. Cool. Cool.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So very interested in Oh, can you share a little bit about your product? And how exactly it helps people.

Janne Kyllönen  

Yes, so this is the charging case. And there’s a really here, but actually this is. So I would show that if I put it in my ear, you can get the idea of how small it is. So it is really fitting in this area. So if your head is really not even touching that, and that is how small that nice device needs to be that was considered device that you can really sleep comfortably head on pillow. And that’s the that’s the key thing. And, and then there is Active Noise Cancelling insights similar, but what there is in the music listening device, so also, this is passive noise canceling device at the same time. Also, the higher frequencies are canceled quite well. Like what the X rays can’t do. So we have in the you know, best things of the both words active and passive.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So this is not really meant to like listen to music, or anything, the first few are really meant for sleep purpose.

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, exactly. So this doesn’t even have the connectivity. So we decided at the beginning that we are making the one use case to pursue perfection and no compromise on that. And that is the way how we are able to do it. So small size, because you know, no connectivity, and a no no, you know, DSP, the running and consuming a lot of energy, we can have this smaller battery and so on and so forth. So

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

this, is this product, like completely unique in the market? Or are there other electronic manufacturers? Like I would assume apple and you know, others also who are creating their ear earbuds? Do they also incorporate this kind of functionality in their product? Or is this like completely different?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, so I would say that this is total unique one in this category on the sleeping device, which have the Active Noise, cancelling their Active Noise Cancelling earmuffs and also earplugs for X airports Pro, they have the Active Noise Cancelling too. But the batter live is four hours, and they’re way too big for sleeping. And I said we are the size that we can really sleep at on pillow. And that makes a big difference.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And can you share a little bit about you know, what motivated you to start this business a little bit about your background? At what point did you get the idea and what motivated you to start business?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, so I am physicist, so as a background, what I studied, and then I went to Nokia to designing the mobile phones there. And I ended up leading this kind of innovation teams there. I have a product manager such as project manager and and we will, you know, spend a lot of time to thinking about what are the important things for people, what are the user experiences, what we could improve on and so on and made, I met quite many patterns on that time for Nokia. And so that was my background. And then once I was in the business trip, and I was testing this noise cancelling headphones in the airport, and I felt that how good it feels to have this silent bubble in the middle of the crowded airport. So that suggests that feeling that you can decide when you select the silence and this kind of feeling and that was actually the key driver for this product. So later on when I mobile phone development was ended and I was the Thinking about the next thing to do, I already decided that I will establish my own company. And I have a like, you know, list of innovations, what I was thinking that could be like beneficial or good stuff. But this was the most important if I can bring this Active Noise Cancelling in small, small size that you could sleep with it, that would be the best product. And there it started. That was the original thought.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Cool. So when you got this idea, what was the, you know, how much time What did you do next? Like? Did you think about starting doing product development? Did you think about funding? How did you start bringing your idea to reality?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, in my case, it started that I, I started to look into the right people who would help me and I ended up this month initial Lab, which was actually my old colleague from multimedia team from Nokia times. And I asked him from him that is it possible to make this Active Noise Cancelling so small size that you will sleep with it. And he said that I didn’t know. But but let’s try. And that is what we started, we together, just two of us started to, you know, Googling out that what are the smallest microphones and speakers and how the Active Noise Cancelling actually works, we have like a basic principles in our mind. But we started learning those and then started building the simulation models. And looking at the signal processing in the in the model level, and then ended up to making actual working prototypes. Marty’s really talented in electronics. And he was like manually soldering under the microscope that the first prototype spits them out to the circuit board, whereas like the size of the fingernail, or something like that. And then we have the small batteries and speakers, and we used to talk to you or nail polish to make it together. So it was looking I do, but this was functioning very well. So the most concerning performance was was really good. And then we started to making usability tests. Everybody was saying that this is just a great idea. And there it started. So actually, that was the prototype what we were introducing, for example, in Fiedler headquarters is finished airline, this head of marketing there. And I was introducing that and he was testing the device, I had this small speakers and so forth, or in the meeting room, making this aeroplane campaign noise. And he was testing that, okay, this is working really well that if you make it this look a little bit better. Let’s start to piece this together that we’re going to usability tests for you and they manifest perhaps this could be even sold in thinner planes and all that. There it started, then I call to back home and said that, yeah, we need to establish a company, it seems to be that we even have the customers and everybody’s loving it the idea. Yeah, that was the start.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So it seems like you are more of the product and marketing person. And the other gentleman is more of the engineer who designed the item. He also like a co founder of the company or

Janne Kyllönen  

Yes, yes, there was also a couple of other people, but we were like major stakeholders. And I would say that to me and the other founders. And I think that this is quite variational setup, but what is really in the tech and solving problems that not many people in the world can solve. And I’ve been more like, you know, product manager and also the project manager in that sense that are organizing things and making decision that how it looks and what other sales channels where they get the funding and these kind of things.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So how much time did it actually took you and your partners to come up with that initial prototype? Was it like a six month period from idea to prototype?

Janne Kyllönen  

I would say less was like two to three months or something that we have optional products. First ones.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Cool, cool. And I know that you had you did quite a successful crowdfunding campaign. Can you share a little bit about that? Did you like initially did you and the co founders invest some of your money also?

Janne Kyllönen  

Actually, it was that we started the company where we had a couple of people joining us and you know, $70,000, or something like really small amount of money. But in Finland, the government are supporting this kind of startups, if you have really good ID, it can go bigger. So that was the level that we ended up having this, enough money to get this first because here we are in in the level that there was like 50 pairs of really good looking devices. So we were able to do this usability tests with Finn. They’re getting great results from there. And, you know, evidence that now we have really good product there. But it wasn’t really ready for the mass production at that time. But we were able to do the design quite, quite well. And then we went through this Indiegogo campaign. And I would say that perhaps 110 1000 for the video, and some photos with a professional marketing pupil, and then we did the rest ourselves, breaking this campaign and writing out. So it was maybe less than $15,000 level what we were spending for the setting of the campaign. But it was it was quite, quite successful already that I was discussing with one of my friends, which have had, like, quite successful campaign early on, and he was giving the best tips on how to do it. And he was saying that the start is everything that you need to get it like a quick start, and then these algorithms start working for you. And that is actually what we did. We, we collected long email lists from our LinkedIn contacts, and both, so we have perhaps 2000 emails or 3000. And the launch day, we are sending emails to our colleagues and friends that please go and support us and buy the device. And it was like a first day sales, it was perhaps $10,000, or a little bit more. But that was already enough that Indiegogo algorithm set up as a front page, like a trending campaign. And then when people in California, so our idea it started the hitting in next day, it was like 50, then it’s day after that we are close to 100,000. It was going super fast start there. And the whole campaign. It lasted almost a year, but it was $1.3

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

million. Wow. That’s that’s that’s a pretty good boost to do any startup company. I guess.

Janne Kyllönen  

That’s true. That’s true.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So what what do you do next? Like, do you have a patent on this product?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yes, we have actually quite strong one. So our product is the main claim is that if the product is smaller than certain diamond seats, I mean this length and height. And if it’s if the audio panel is in a certain direction, and if it has the Active Noise Cancelling, it’s depending on our patterns. So if you know Sony or Apple will make the music listening device a little bit smaller, but they have it today. And if there is active noise cancelling it is in our products. Okay, it’s covering those two. So it’s, I would say that this bowl asleep segment with active noise canceling this product categories, hours. Okay, well,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

so you haven’t seen any, like, Chinese copycats come up with like a similar kind of thing selling on Amazon or something?

Janne Kyllönen  

No, no, no, I haven’t seen that. It’s

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

okay. Okay.

Janne Kyllönen  

And actually, we launched the first device in Indiegogo was 2016. So they would have had died already. Okay.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

What? So I think you are the first electronics product, company founder that I’m interviewing. And it’s, it’s interesting, because to me, it seems like electronics category is not an easy category, like you really have to be very, very different. Can you share a little bit about what your experience is? Like? Do you think that you can continue having a unique position in the market like in this category? What are your thoughts on the whole electronics category and playing in this category?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, of course, like I said, competition, that the software that the scalability is not that fast that because when you when you crawl, you need to have money for the materials and you need to be working beforehand. And now when developing this Calafat the biggest crisis in manufacturing, all the electronics world that the components are missing. We have been doing that quite well and we haven’t been able to or needed to stop the factory but still there is some limitation. But at the same time i i feel that our mission is to be synonym for the sleep airports, the quiet on will mean that this new product category what what we just innovated, that will be named quiet only in the future. We have the strong patent for that and we are really good device and we will make even more good devices in the near the same segment and continue growing in this area. And the market segment itself is huge. It’s like, hundreds of millions people are struggling with snoring and other noises, it’s affecting for the sleep. So from room for growth,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

are you which markets are you selling? Are you selling globally? Or have you focused on like certain markets?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, we are selling globally from our webshop. But I would say that USA in Canada dominating perhaps 60% of the total sales, and, and then there’s like Australia, UK, Western Europe, those countries which are perhaps the price point and range, it’s little a bit like a limiting that, that for Africa is not that big, you

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

have your product. You know, when you see like company like Apple or something they they every year, like they come up with a new version of the product, even though it’s even a minor incremental change, have you been improving your product is there like a research and development part in your company where, you know, your your product has evolved? Since 2016?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yes, we are not making updates every year, because we don’t have the competition in the market, the mobile phones are doing that. But still, we have the third generation product out. Because we have been able to do better product learning from the customers. And I would say we look at fixing the flaws, what’s happening in the previous product. And then it has been always smaller and smaller and more comfortable. That has been the the how we are being improving the product. And for something that is third generation now we have also the battery in the charging case. So when you charge this case, you can use it like whole week, and you are always always full of battery and and those kinds of things what we have been improving on the run. But of course, we will continue also investigating that how the device could be even better in the future.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Are you manufacturing in China, I would assume like as an electronics device, that would be the least expensive way to manufacture.

Janne Kyllönen  

Actually, we are manufacturing in Poland in okay, you. So it’s a Finnish company, which has the factory there. Of course, we were also thinking about the China, but in our product there is like it’s it needs to be manufactured really precisely. I mean, it needs to be airtight. And there are many work phases, happens under the scope and and also we have the audio testing that we have this kind of automated test systems there that all the blocks will go this kind of certain processes, and we need to be able to follow those, like online. And also it’s good that we can fly it there in the factory and and fine tune things if needed.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

What was the process of finding the manufacturer for you? Did you already have contacts and you knew like which manufacturer you wanted to connect with? Or was there a search process?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, that the process actually started that we first hired people. So old, it was actually from the Nokia side that this handle left is set off. Somebody knew that from our networks that he had been working in lochia factories in Finland and in USA and in China, and also in the Huawei factory in China and that he would be our guy and we hired hired him and then started asking that, how we are selecting the factory and and he made sort of shortlisting the items that which other important ones and started contacting and getting these kind of preliminary prices. And then we started the traveling and I think that we went like four different factories, that’s really going to quality processes and thinking about how we would cooperate with them. And they were also factories from from China at that time in the game. But we then decided that let’s go with the Europe.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So I assume like there was definitely a cost to pay for that. Right. You may have maybe made a higher margin if you went to China. But I guess in terms of quality, maybe it’s kind of a trade off.

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, that’s true. I would say that. You know, labor cost is perhaps almost apple in Poland compared to China. But of course we tried to do a lot of like automatic system and this kind of and we couldn’t afford to fail. That was also something that when your startup, if you want the bad product out and you need to call it back. I think that yes, it’s

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

definitely yeah. In terms of marketing, can you share a little bit like right now, as you have grown, how has your marketing changed? What is your A customer acquisition strategy what channels work best in terms of acquiring new customers and, and helping them to activate and buy?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, if looking back that in the first product, we realized that that was a little bit too big. Firstly, I think the customer feedback is not that good for that use case. And then we ended up like people think the whole marketing story for traveler that time and started to conduct with the airlines. And we managed to get it in flight sales for really big airlines like the Lufthansa, Air France, there was a Singapore Airlines. And actually it was selling really well. They’re like a best selling identity for airlines. So that was our third too long time. And we were not like selecting the use case that much because it was working well in many occasions. But now when we had this church in Harrisonburg out, and it’s excellent for the sleeping and solving the original, the problem was, this company was established. Now we are focusing on the sleep use case selling in our own webshop. And, and if people know that there is the Active Noise Cancelling, or the good solutions for them sleeping use case, if people go and write in Google that best earbuds for sleeping or best earplugs for sleeping, they will find the quiet. And when and if that happens, they will come to our web page, we are selling really well. So the conversion rates are excellent even in the in the first visit. Because this is so unique and well matching product. But the thing is that people don’t know that this kind of new product category exists. So that’s why I need to somehow raise the interest and information and there’s like a two tracks what we are doing. The one is a fourth variation of that we have the PR agency, which is conducting the reporters for tech reporters, but also lifestyle, because those are typically we’re just sending the devices they’re testing they like, right nice article as they get to new customers coming in. But other thing is, which is even more important are the influencers. So people who are interested about the sleep and health and well being and not like, you know, Kim Kardashian 100 million followers, but something that have 10,000 or 100,000 followers, but the followers are really looking up to that what they are doing. And those has been really successful for us. And typically our funding devices to like until about that is how it goes.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Very interesting. So you said that you’re shipping globally. So you get the order, it’s direct to consumer, you get the order on your webshop you’re shipping it out to your own warehouses in Finland. Can you share a little bit about that fulfillment process shipping process? And are there any challenges to fulfilling internationally?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, so nowadays, the system is actually that, when we are making people make an order in our webshop, it’s automatically integrated our factory and we have the delivery center there. So it comes straight out of the delivery center, and then we’re using the DHL and those other logistics when they’re with us. And then additionally, we have also our delivery center in USA. So we have our own warehouse system there that we are sending, you know, some 1000s of units there. And then it’s like a fast delivery inside the USA. So those two things is how we are we are doing. Of course at the beginning, when we started the first Indiegogo campaign, we have three persons in the company, we managed to sell them for 120 different countries and we did figure out that it might be quite difficult to sell the devices but but it wasn’t then that bad. We started to calling this DHL and started of course you know it’s normal webshop they are systems and people have sold before us it’s more like just finding the best deal but perhaps the problem is is something that they’re like, you know, Brexit and and those kinds of things that how the Easter egg the extra expenses, for example, if you’re sending do Brasil or those that there’s like extra taxes, which are really significant. It might be like that 60 to 70% taxes added added to price that it’s supposed to be that customers are not happy after that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Yeah, I think I think that’s a big challenge where you know, an international customer receives the item and they’re hit with a big import Duty customs charge. And then that’s kind of so do you like inform the international customers beforehand that there may be international costs that your company or country is going to measure? Then those kinds of things or?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, that’s true. That is what we need to cover. Although people who are living in those countries, they know, they have been ordering stuff online.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

And one interesting thing I noticed about your site, you’re using WooCommerce. So I was curious. Why not? Something like Shopify, which seems more scalable, easily scalable. What are your thoughts on that?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, that’s a little bit like, its history, in that sense that it was like, three years ago, when we were updating the web pages in that time. And I think one of the key drivers was that we need to have the webshop in the credit, well, in the web pages, that you don’t need to jump for the one page to other and totally different experience, but it feels like a natural flow there. And in that time, WordPress and WooCommerce were the, you know, you know, word of God in that sense that that was, how things were done. I think that nowadays, Shopify would be even better in many senses, and we should perhaps, rethink that are also what is best for the customer experience.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

What does your team look like right now? How many people

Janne Kyllönen  

team we have around 1213 People now. And we have a randy which is, I would say three person three and a half, I’m jumping between the and marketing side. And then we have four people marketing team, I would say two is proposing to the customer care at that point. And then one is mostly PR, and this kind of communications, and one person is just looking at our online machinery works. You know, the, the Google ads and Facebook ads, and those projects are in the correct level, and everything is working and running smoothly. And then we have a little bit like management, for looking at the CEO and financial direction directors looking about the money?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Cool. Final question. You know, as an entrepreneur, everyone, in every entrepreneurs journey, there’s always mistakes made, there’s failures, there’s lessons learn. Can you share, like your biggest mistake or failure as you were building your company? And what can other founders learn from it?

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, I think that, let’s say what are the biggest failures, perhaps, is that we have been launching the new production narration, even though they haven’t been ready yet. So we have been estimating that they will come like within a couple of months, but then we have ended up you know, technical difficulties. And, and by solving those out, it has been like, really difficult to wait, because people have repurchase it like, already and and also it kills the previous product sales when you’re selling the new version. Yeah, a bit beforehand. So but also like, it has been, like mortal, my personal failure that I have been so excited about the new products and experiences I’ve been using the robot biopsy at that time already, somehow just didn’t think it through.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

What’s what what would you do differently? Like in the future? Would you would you would you do it or

Janne Kyllönen  

I think in the future that we need to have the mass production up and running, we need to be sure that we are able to ship it right away when we start selling.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Okay, so now we’re going to move on to our rapid fire round. And in this round, I’m going to ask you a few quick questions, and you have to answer them maybe in one word or two words. So the first one is a book recommendation for entrepreneurs or business people in 2022. And why?

Janne Kyllönen  

The hard things about hard things, I think that’s just like, excellent book.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

School, an innovative product or idea and the current e commerce retail or tech landscape that you

Janne Kyllönen  

feel excited about. Yeah, I think this ordering is really, really cool. You know, this heartrate monitor and sleep tracker. Oh, excellent. I know the guys who bought this company and they’re also coming from all this. It’s cool, like a unicorn level.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

So is that also a Finnish company? Yes,

Janne Kyllönen  

it’s actually coming from the same city. You know, what is the name nowadays?

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Oh, rough order the order order, okay.

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, cool

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

a business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or productivity tip

Janne Kyllönen  

maybe I would say like we transfer is helping me most working with them on the meeting

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

a startup or business that you think is currently doing great things I know you already mentioned this, this company but any other startup or business that you think is doing great. Yeah, I think this

Janne Kyllönen  

company has nailed us and also coming from this area, they are making this kind of relaxing relaxation bed, not massaging but giving this kind of signal for your nervous system and relaxing you that excellent product. Just we were in the CES at the same exhibition with

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

a P appear entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who’s inspires you.

Janne Kyllönen  

Yeah, I think that the Elon Musk is something

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

Yeah, I think Elon Musk is therefore for every every entrepreneur living. Final, final question, best business advice you ever received, or you would give to other entrepreneurs? I think

Janne Kyllönen  

in the text of that, when you’re showing your first prototype to others, if you don’t feel ashame a little bit how it looks, then you’re too late. Okay.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

That’s not a good advice. Well, those were all the questions I had. Thank you, Jana, for, for coming on, for sharing your story for sharing your product and some of the strategies and tactics that you have used to start and grow your business. If people want to buy your product to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

Janne Kyllönen  

Just go or webpage wired.com. And there you can find the webshop and also a lot of more information about the product. And thank you for having me it was pretty nice to be

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks  

with you. Very good. Thank you. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Janne Kyllönen  

Okay, thank you. Bye bye.

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