August 21, 2014

LeeLuu shines a light on children’s fear of the dark

LeeLuu was born when its founders met each other at Aalto University in Helsinki.
LeeLuu was born when its founders met each other at Aalto University in Helsinki.
George Atanassov

Monsters hide under the bed and lurk in dark corners. That is what a fear of the dark makes us believe and most of us have experienced it in some form. Now Helsinki-based hardware startup LeeLuu is helping children fight these fears with soft, interactive nightlights.

The antithesis of monsters, LeeLuu nightlights look like cute, animal-shaped plush toys and they can be stroked to change the intensity of the light or squeezed to switch the light on and off.  The nightlights communicate with each other wirelessly and one can be used to control other nightlights in the room.

Moreover, they are designed to be played with. Even throwing them around won’t damage the sensor inside the textile case. It is this combination of touch, durability and interactivity which makes LeeLuu’s nightlights unique.

“Textile sensors, which we have developed from the scratch, are the core of our products,” says Emmi Pouta, co-founder of LeeLuu. “When it comes to smart textiles, we haven’t seen anything similar in the market.”

Entrepreneurial skills needed

The interactive nightlights were born about a year ago when the founders of LeeLuu, Emmi PoutaHanna MarkgrenLisa Gerkens and Sagn-Hyun Ryu, all participated in the same design course at the Aalto University of Arts in Finland.

“I myself have two kids and one of my co-founders remembers being really scared of the dark as a child,” Pouta explains. “We realised that fear of the dark is a real problem for many kids and it can affect the quality of sleep for both the kids and their parents.”

Leeluu hopes that in the future all kids who are afraid of the dark will have their own LeeLuu nightlight.

LeeLuu hopes that in the future all kids who are afraid of the dark will have their own LeeLuu nightlight.

George Atanassov

“We started building our first prototype and have tested it with over 100 first graders and pre-schoolers. Their feedback has been great. We can say our target users have proved that our concept works.”

“We have learnt valuable business development skills, but even more importantly we have built a precious network during the summer,” says Pouta.

Stepping into the world of entrepreneurship has meant learning new skills for the team of designers. Rolling into the Summer of Startups programme for promising startups has helped LeeLuu to develop the business side of the company.

“All the teams supported each other and the coaches have continued to help us even after the programme. It has been a positive surprise how open and supportive the startup scene in Helsinki is.”

Market entry in 2015

At the moment LeeLuu is focusing on finalising its manufacturing prototype. It will be showcased in October at the TechCruch Disrupt technology event in London. LeeLuu was awarded with a booth at the event after the company won the TechCrunch pitching competition in Helsinki.

LeeLuu has also started preliminarily discussions with potential manufacturers, but extra funding is needed before the actual production process can be started. If everything goes well, the company aims to bring its first products into the European markets in December 2015.

LeeLuu’s vision is to grow into an innovative company producing interactive textile products. But children will stay as their core target group.

“Working with kids has been one of the best parts of the process,” Pouta says. “They are honest with their feedback but also challenging as users.”

“Our aim is to build a whole family of textile products targeted at kids.

LeeLuu nightlights are designed to endure cuddles and games.

LeeLuu nightlights are designed to endure cuddles and games.

George Atanassov

Text: Eeva Haaramo

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