April 18, 2018

Sleep easy – Valpas squashes the bedbug problem

Valpas has designed a smart bed leg-set for premium hotels that eliminates bed bugs.
Valpas has designed a smart bed leg-set for premium hotels that eliminates bed bugs.
Valpas

Finnish startup Valpas has found a novel way to prevent bedbugs from contaminating hotel rooms, and is now setting its sight on beds worldwide.

Souvenirs are an integral part of the travel experience. Whether it’s a tee-shirt or trinket, there are myriad ways to bring a piece of your holiday home with you.

Bed bugs: the core focus of Valpas. The company is setting out to disrupt two industries at once with a team that has already proven themselves in the industry.

Bed bugs: the core focus of Valpas. The company is setting out to disrupt two industries at once with a team that has already proven themselves in the industry.

Istock.com/dblight

Then there are the not so nice reminders of your time away. Aside from whopping credit card bills, evidence of bedbugs is perhaps the least welcome takeaway from a trip.

Martim Gois can vouch for this. Returning from a dream trip to South-East Asia four-and-a-half years ago, he swiftly realised that some unwelcome stowaways had tagged along for the ride.

“My girlfriend had these bites and thought we had brought bed bugs with us,” he recalls. “She wouldn’t give me peace of mind until I got the pest controllers in.”

Once the company set to work fumigating their apartment, Gois quickly became frustrated with the pesticide solutions being utilised. Yet there was no non-chemical alternative available.

His irritation spurred him into action, leading to him establishing Finland’s first heat treatment system in 2013 with his fellow Aalto University classmates.

As the enterprise gathered momentum, the budding businessmen couldn’t shake a niggling truth that reared its head when tackling these unwelcome creepy crawlies.

“The issue of bedbugs has a stigma attached to it: it’s the biggest least talked about problem in the hospitality industry. We realised that the real issue is not extermination, but prevention. Valpas was born out of that insight.”

A leg-up on the competition

All of the company’s founders studied at Aalto University. “The idea of Aalto is when you combine business, engineering and design, you get great teams that create innovative and valuable concepts,” Martim Gois says. “We’re living proof of that.”

All of the company’s founders studied at Aalto University. “The idea of Aalto is when you combine business, engineering and design, you get great teams that create innovative and valuable concepts,” Martim Gois says. “We’re living proof of that.”

Screenshot/Aalto Venture Program

Currently, hotels’ bed bug detection is typically carried out manually, either by housekeepers or the guests themselves. According to Gois, Valpas’ solution hopes to leave this analogue approach without a leg to stand on.

“The hotel replaces its existing bed legs with our smart bed legs. If any bugs are introduced to the room, they are captured inside an integrated trap in the leg which prevents them from doing harm.”

All bed legs in the whole hotel are connected via a smart Bluetooth mesh network, the result of a collaboration with Finnish company Wirepas. This sends real-time room status updates and notifications of prevented incidents to the Valpas web app via a single gateway.

The low-energy Bluetooth network also means that batteries don’t need to be replaced on a regular basis, further facilitating ease-of-use for hotel managers.

“A battery’s lifetime is up to six years, and a hotel bed is replaced every 5-10 years,” Gois points out.

The solution provides 24-hour tracking, seven days a week. This constant state of alertness also informs the company’s name.

Valpas is a Finnish word which means being aware and being awake,” Gois explains. “The solution is built for those aware and awake travellers and hotels that want to make the most out of their travel experiences.”

Sleep carefree in future

Last year, the company raised a 120 000-euro pre-seed round from Reactor Ventures, Icebreaker.vc and an angel investor. “We pitched it as a completely out of the box idea,” Gois says.

Last year, the company raised a 120 000-euro pre-seed round from Reactor Ventures, Icebreaker.vc and an angel investor. “We pitched it as a completely out of the box idea,” Gois says.

Valpas

Now it’s time to eradicate bedbugs around the world. The company has established an office in Dubai and is set to collaborate with seven leading hotels in the city, seeking to capitalise on the luxurious range of accommodation in the world’s fourth most visited city destination.

Closer to home, Gois remains hopeful that Valpas’ fresh solution will enjoy rapid Europe-wide expansion.

“The hospitality industry is super conservative; there has really been nothing new since the minibar,” he observes. “Once someone introduces an innovative product to both hotels and guests, it can spread pretty quickly.”

Looking to the horizon, the company also foresees the solution being applied outside hotels. Whatever the accommodation type, student housing or otherwise, Gois underlines Valpas’ overall goal of improving public health.

“If someone chooses to work, then they might as well work on something that has a positive environmental or social impact,” he outlines. “If we manage to keep hotels safe and give travellers peace of mind, this is something super useful and valuable for the whole world. Our vision for the long term is to advance happier travel in a more holistic way.”

Text: James O’Sullivan

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