The 2016 Innovation Fund: Wakeable

The Innovation Fund is a four-week crowdfunding competition that gives VFA Fellows the opportunity to launch their business ideas and projects. Eleven Fellow-led teams are off to the races sharing their new ventures with the world and hustling to raise as much money as possible on Indiegogo between now and March 16th. Between now and August 4th, the team that raises the most money will receive additional funding to launch their venture.

Amanda graduated from Columbia University in 2014 with a degree in Creative Writing. She spent a year working in corporate advertising before starting her fellowship with Venture for America doing marketing and design work for the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education. As an Army Brat, she grew up on the move with a love of service and adventure. She is on a three-Fellow team with Evan Snyder and Charlie Weikert for their Innovation Fund Project, the Wakeable.


Rise and shine – or not?

Waking up is something that everyone does every single day, and it is an experience that is often given the same attention and care as taking the garbage out. It’s just something we have to do, probably delaying it as much as possible, and when it happens, it is done begrudgingly. Why can’t this process be more enjoyable? Why don’t we all get to have a Cinderella wake up with singing birds, perfect hair, inside a sunny bedroom?

Our team pinpointed the definitive ugh moment of waking up – the snooze button.

We hit the snooze button several times, leading us to lose valuable minutes that we had planned to spend on a luxurious shower or breakfast. It causes fragmented sleep, which science researchers say can mess with your whole day. According to USA Today, 50% of all American adults say they need an alarm clock to wake up, and 1/3 of them hit the snooze at least once every day. While these numbers highlight a nationally shared problem, for our team, it was a much more obvious (and perhaps self-motivated) struggle.

Introducing the Wakeable

wakeable_graphics_v6_how it worksI’m on a three-Fellow team creating what we call the anti-snooze alarm clock. Wakeable is a remote off-switch to your alarm, wirelessly connected via Bluetooth to your smartphone. By removing the potential of hitting snooze, Wakeable forces you to get out of bed on the first try.

This idea was born out of our own complicated relationship with the snooze button.

Charlie Weikert has been a self-proclaimed alarm clock enthusiast for years, and has been researching ways of improving the waking experience (this is actually his third project exploring the subject). Evan Snyder snoozes an average of three times per week day morning, and I have to plan out rewards for myself like “splurge on a latte from the indie coffee shop” to get myself out of bed on time. We all met as part of the Venture for America Class of 2015, and when Charlie reached out with his idea for the Innovation Fund, Evan and I were sold on just the premise alone.

I remember saying to him, “Even if I don’t work with you on this, I’m still 100% buying one of those.”

And I am so glad that I decided to say yes.

The Innovation Fund

It started off with an email from Charlie with the subject line, “Avengers Assemble Alarm Alliteration.” That quickly turned into a flurry of texts, a shared Trello board, Skype calls, and a running (intermittently intense) group IM. We are all located in different places (Charlie=New York, Evan=Ann Arbor, me=Providence), and yet it felt like we were working together out of the same room.

Our entire process was a series of on-the-go decisions and action items. Our video was a group effort from across the country. Charlie crunched out a development budget. I think Wakeable was name suggestion #24 and we picked something largely just because it was go time. When we sent out our campaign, I think we hoped we’d raise enough money for one or two. Maybe our parents would buy one if they felt bad for us. 

Instead, we got an overwhelming positive response from Fellows, friends, family, and people that discovered us from who knows where. We kept our budget and expectations low, and were amazed to meet our goal a few days after launching. As of now, we’ve raised 239% of our $500 goal (and that includes 9 “good morning” phone calls to supportive backers who chose our $5 contribution perk).

From Day 1, we treated the Innovation Fund as a learning experiment. Charlie asked Evan and I to articulate exactly what it was we were hoping to learn, and he shared his own personal goals with us. We figured, even if we didn’t raise enough money, that we would all have had the opportunity to build upon current skill sets and explore new ones. Over the last few weeks, we’ve all learned about crowdfunding, the process of app development, industrial design, and more.

Every morning that I hit snooze these days, I’ve thought about Wakeable and realized how incredible it is that we have the opportunity now to make it happen.

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