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Startup Spotlight: Circadian Positioning Systems

We sat down with Eliza Van Reen, founder & CEO of Circadian Positioning Systems, to talk about the journey to date and plans for the future of the business.

How did you come up with the idea for the business?

Our fatigue solutions have been vetted at some of the top laboratories environments in the world. After seeing the positive effects on testing, I left my position at Brown University and decided to start CPS.

We've developed a data-backed, circadian-targeted lighting system that works to help keep the body’s natural cycle aligned with work schedules. We use properly timed exposure to lights with certain spectral qualities and characteristics to align a user’s circadian rhythm with their work schedule.

A CPS app collects the user’s sleep-wake data using a watch-like wearable and that data is then put through proprietary algorithms to create “light recipes,” or schedules for light exposure, designed to align the user’s circadian rhythm with their desired schedule.

Why does the industry need the solution you're providing?

Sleep and circadian rhythm alignment are necessary for wellness, health, alertness, performance, and safety. Managing one's sleep, jet lag, shift work, etc is necessary for crew wellness, safety, and for guests to enjoy their experience on board the vessel. Every crew member who ever stepped foot on a yacht is familiar with the effects of a bad nights sleep.

When you switch to night watch or you travel from the U.S. to Europe to join a yacht, it disrupts the alignment between your internal circadian rhythms and the external environment. You can’t not sleep and have your brain work the way it’s supposed to work.

What have you enjoyed most about starting your own company?

We've worked with the Navy and NASA - so delivering a solution to individuals and groups that actually works and is backed by data has been an awesome feeling. We now hope to be able to deliver this solution to individuals who need it in additional customer segments, like yachting and shipping.

What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?

There are so many "sleep" or "circadian" products out there that don't work. They aren't tested, aren't backed by science and aren't developed by experts. So we need to educate potential customers on why our product is different from others on the market.

But we've been lucky because there are some industries that understand and won't accept products that don't work. Working with big names like NASA has helped to get us the validation and traction needed to now scale into different market segments.

Any bits of advice for entrepreneurs getting started in this space?

Make a product that actually works and you will gain traction. It might take a bit longer than the typical blitz-scale or hyper-growth model that's popular in startup culture, but it's worth it - and it's the responsible thing to do.

Where do you see the company in 3-5 years?

We hope to be delivering our sleep and circadian rhythms solutions to more and more markets. When you're starting a new company and developing technology for something that literally every person on the planet does (i.e. sleep) it can be a challenge to decide where to focus first. We started in the US Department of Defence, and developed an awesome solution. Now we are branching into other segments, so watch this space!


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