somerville

Sleepbox launching nap spots around hub

By CHARLOTTE EMSLIE
@char_emslie

BOSTON—Sleepbox is revolutionizing the way the city’s work force gets its beauty rest.

“We’re focusing on that work-life integration,” explains co-founder Peter Chambers. “This new millennial wave of workers really love what they do. They define themselves by that. But that can sometimes lead to overextension. That’s why we’ve loved working with startups: They have a growing number of employees, people that are really passionate and throwing themselves into the work. They respect their jobs, and they expect to get that respect back.”

Shifting the emphasis to balanced, healthy living is key. That’s where Sleepbox, the Russian-designed tiny cabin allowing total privacy, comes in. Enclosed, soundproof, 45-square-foot spaces, they are available in either single (one bed) or double (two bed) compositions. They can be installed in numerous public spaces—offices, hotels, airports, etc. Beyond nap accommodations, there are easy plug-and-play installations, speakers and different colored lighting, enabling the user to tailor the experience to fit their needs. The boxes even come in 20 different colors.

“It’s completely private and modular,” Chambers says. “It’s really a place to relax, meditate, sleep, and refocus yourself during your day. You can go in there and just separate yourself from everything else going on. Recharge.”

Check out Sleepbox’s features HERE.

The Sleepbox founders came up with the idea of sleep cabins in public places during a business trip from hell. “We were stuck in a Paris airport overnight,” says Chambers, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute graduate with a degree in robotics engineering. “People were sleeping on benches. That’s when we realized there was a better way to do it.

sleepbox

Once the idea was launched, Sleepbox’s development took on a strong international focus. CEO Mikhail Krylov and co-founder and chief designer Alexey Goryainov were architects in Russia, with deep backgrounds in design and commercial architecture. Krylov completed a fellowship in architecture at MIT.

“After they came up with the design, we installed a unit at a Moscow hotel a few years ago. We got really good user feedback, so we put a few more in cities like Stockholm.”

The boxes are essentially a melding of the best of both worlds: Home and office. “It’s bringing the benefits of working from home to work,” Chambers says. “I commute from Framingham to Boston. That’s a long drive, and I would get frustrated having to get to the office really early in the morning to avoid traffic. Now, though, I can go into the Sleepbox and rest up for my day. I don’t have to immediately get in front of my computer.”

Sleepbox’s user demographic is wide ranging, targeting millennials but also their older counterparts. “Younger workers can utilize it in both mornings and evenings—they can take a nap before they go out with their friends,” Chambers says. “Parents can rest after their day and before they go home to their kids.”

The creation of the boxes coincided, as Chambers explains, with the increased attention to employee wellness around the world, including a movement led by Huffington Post co-founder and editor in chief Arianna Huffington’s 2016 book, The Sleep Revolution. “There was a real trend developing,” he says. “We were working with a number of companies that were offering wellness programs for their employees, focusing on things like sleep and self-care. More companies were following the Google model of in-office perks.”

The boxes are currently produced in Massachusetts and distributed around the state. “We’re proud of our manufacturing partnership here at home, bringing units to Boston from a local spot,” Chambers says.

“Looking ahead, we’re thinking of rolling out smaller units, ones specifically for office use. We’ve been happy with the feedback so far.”

Canopy City: Somerville expansion is made in the shade

By SHELAGH BRALEY

SOMERVILLE—A tree grows in Davis Square and its roots are already spreading.

Canopy City, with its unique approach to strengthening the city’s stake in the innovation economy, is now also heading to Union Square.

“Physically it’s a co-working space, but Canopy is more of an idea,” says co-founder Matthew Hoey, a homegrown entrepreneur himself with a diverse resume of experience including government, nonprofit and tech.

“And so the metaphor is Canopy, its different species living in harmony with one another, finding refuge from threats, and coming together with deep roots in the community,” he says. “We felt that if we strived to have a more diverse audience—nonprofits, startups, policy makers, academics, technologists and community leaders—that cross-pollination would lead to opportunities and create a more holistic environment.”

Somerville has been the perfect test for Canopy, as the 4.2-square-mile city has grown in reputation while a new generation of artists, activists and entrepreneurs has taken over to “keep Somerville weird,” he says. Growing up in the city, Hoey was raised by his grandmother and mother, an upbringing that deeply influences the Canopy community. “Somerville is incredibly diverse and perfect. If we were to do a poll of, say, 10 people walking by, we would run into different races, sexualities, genders. It’s completely different than what anyone else is doing. People here just don’t want to be in a startup monoculture.”

The Davis Square Canopy at 212 Elm St. has come to near-capacity in the last few months, where Hoey and wife Kellyanne Mahoney, an edtech evangelist and Boston Public Schools teacher, have bootstrapped their way into seeing this vision blossom. But it wasn’t an easy path.

“We came up tough, we had some scary times,” Hoey says, “so we get what it’s like to be a startup. We had to grind hard.”

Despite his time mentoring and analyzing startups, and helping to organize startup events and pitch competitions for what he calls “the most vibrant entrepreneur network in the state,” the MIT Enterprise Forum in Cambridge, Hoey says he has reached a new level of appreciation for what it takes to be a founder. “It isn’t until you run one that you really understand what’s involved. Sometimes there’s not a lot of romanticism to it,” he says.

x-canopy-cos-in-working

But fresh off a funding round from the Boston Angels Club, Hoey now sits comfortably for a few minutes among the digital kitty prints, black-and-white Apple throwback ads and one-of-a-kind, hand-drawn cartoons from a recent visit from Comikaze comic book artists. “We found an amazing partner who made an investment in us, we’re shocked by the number. So yes, we raised a round, which is pretty uncommon for a co-working space.”

Canopy has leveraged that funding to expand to 14 Tyler St., where massive renovations will soon reveal a two-story, 16,000-plus-square-foot space in the Ames Business Park, slated tentatively to open in December. Hoey says Canopy got lucky, because real estate inventory is scarce, and the Ames building carries on the entrepreneurial spirit of its founders, the Ames Safety Envelope Company.

“The lease is signed and there’s a lot to be done, but we’re so excited to be moving into a place that’s really the hub of arts culture in a tech community,” Hoey says of Union Square. “We’re banking on the redevelopment of Union Square, and we’re going to continue to execute that mission of putting startups and independent researchers, policy makers, nonprofits and artists all in the same spot, to create this kind of melting pot.”

The new Canopy space is enormous, just a short hop from energy tech accelerator Greentown Labs. Artisan Asylum, a nonprofit maker space that provides creative community tools and programming, is also right nearby. The Union Square Canopy space features Tasting Counter, an award-winning restaurant, Somerville Chocolate, which fills the air with rich scent, Barismo, a coffee roaster/retailer, and Aeronaut brewery—not to mention a full two-story gym where AirCraft Aerial Arts will host Canopy members for aerial fitness and yoga classes, and open the studio to Canopy events, fundraisers and performances. “They’re going to be amazing neighbors,” Hoey says.

aerial-arts

“We were afraid when the building was leased to a new occupant that we’d have to move out of town,” says AirCraft Director Jill Maio, above. “But then (Hoey) and I sat down to talk and found our approaches to business and community participation to be totally in sync. We got excited about collaborating. Maybe we’ll lure some of them over to circus life,” she says, laughing.

As Canopy expands, Hoey is realizing his dream of making Somerville a startup destination, but a different kind of startup destination. “I see a startup as anybody who decides to launch a vision, take a leap, at tremendous personal and financial risk,” Hoey says.

But bringing fledgling tech companies together in one space doesn’t necessarily give way to collaboration, Hoey says, because it sets up an inherent competition. “We just don’t see them unlocking opportunities for one another.” By gathering a diversity of thought, Canopy creates an environment where each founder is invested in each other, Hoey says. “People don’t just sit by themselves here—we all work together and help one another.”

x-caroline

Canopy, with the help of Caroline Lau, director of community engagement (above), already supports a variety of companies and causes, including the political campaign of Sen. Patricia Jehlen, local nonprofit Groundwork, EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center) and a number of tech startups and open-source development collectives. “We’re home to the Commonwealth Institute, the largest network of female entrepreneurs in the state of Massachusetts,” Hoey says. “We had an event here one night, I walked in and Joi Ito (entrepreneur and MIT Media Lab director who recently interviewed President Obama for WIRED) was here, I almost fell down when I saw that,” Hoey said. “We hosted (author and internationally renowned security technologist) Bruce Schneier in here, who’s one of the cryptology gurus of his generation. Like we say, we’re serving locally and we’re connecting globally.”

That global reach starts with Canopy’s U.K. outpost in Exeter Science Park, creating a pipeline to Boston for international companies. “My co-founder (Stewart Noakes) is over in the U.K., so we have that global network to leverage.

“We had a startup that came (to Somerville) from the U.K., working on a technology to secure oil pipelines. They spent four days here, and we lined up VC meetings for them, took them on tours, introduced them at Greentown Labs,” Hoey says. “This was months ago, now just this week I got an email from the venture arm of one of the largest energy companies in the world who said, ‘Matt, can you get the deck from that company and send it over?’ We don’t just say, ‘See you later’ and that’s the end of the relationship. We are going to continue to advocate for them.”

Another unique aspect of the Canopy model is hosting events for kids, for which Canopy earned a $34,600 grant. “They put a maker space in Somerville High School (SHS Fab Lab). So the kids are going to learn laser printing and 3-D printing, these next-generation trades, and then after school a couple of days a week, we’re going to bring in 12-14 kids into our space, and invite founders and policy makers to sit down and tell them their stories about what inspired them to make the leap,” Hoey says. “The idea is to help these kids build self-confidence.”

Hoey wants to make sure word gets out to “the single mom who’s working her ass off 50 hours a week, or went back to school, so she’s too busy to find this program. Spaces fill up. We want to make sure that all families have a chance to get their children into a program like this,” Hoey says.

“We believe—and this is core to our mission—that when we take people who care about the same things, who are wired the same way, working toward solutions to local, national and international challenges, technological challenges or something along the lines of social impact or clean water,” Hoey says, “when we take people who are focused on these things but exist in distinctly different realms, dot-gov, dot-org, dot-edu, dot-com, when we put all these people in the same realm, people that very rarely cross paths, that’s when we can unlock magic. We’ve seen it happen and it’s very exciting.”

Though Canopy is now fielding offers to expand into New York and China, with “a lot of licensing inquiries even out to the West Coast, what we’re most proud of is happening here, and in Union Square.”

I know for a fact that we could not have pulled this off in any other city,” Hoey says. “I can’t hide my Somerville pride.”

Events to build your business this week

Don’t miss this week’s varied and diverse events happening all over greater Boston that will teach you, open doors and get you thinking: 

Monday, Aug 8: Gay Men Business Networking, 7-10 p.m., at the Mooo Bar at XV Hotel, 15 Beacon St., Boston. $20. Register and buy tickets HERE.

Tuesday, Aug. 9: Mass Innovation Nights Foodie #11, 6-8:30 p.m., at ONCE Lounge & Ballroom, 156 Highland Ave., Somerville. FREE. Register HERE.

Wednesday, Aug. 10: SheStarts Networking Breakfast, 8:30-10 a.m., at Wolf & Company, P.C., 99 High St., Boston. FREE. Register HERE.

Bonus event, also Wednesday: Summer Talent Expo, 8:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at Paramount Theatre, 559 Washington St., Boston. FREE. Sponsored by Startup Institute. Register HERE.

Thursday, Aug. 11: Twitter for Business, 6:30-8 p.m., at the Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., Boston. FREE. Led by Lauren Metter and Alyssa Goldberg of Metter Media, sponsored by General Assembly. Register HERE.

Friday, Aug. 12: #BeEngaged, 6-8 p.m., at Harriet’s Corner, 347 Congress St., Boston. Network with local youth and young professionals, plus Q&A with director of MassVote. Register HERE.

Saturday, Aug. 13: Mogul Mixer, 6-9 p.m., at Lust Cosmetics, 129 Newbury St., Boston. $15 general admission, $20 for business logo display. Register and buy tickets HERE.


Do you have an event you want to promote? Let us know here. We choose the best events for our readers and publish every Monday

Kickstarter alert: Pense by Appostasy

Appostasy, Inc., the Boston-based hardware startup that calls Canopy home, may have just exceeded its Kickstarter goals, but there’s still plenty of product left to snatch up, and still time to support this energetic and focused team.

But only less than 48 hours … so be quick about it.

PenSe “takes the beautifully designed Apple Pencil, and provides it with added functionality and protection.” You must know someone who needs this magnetic Apple pencil case. It’s beautiful. It’s useful. And this is the best part. You’re supporting a team that wants to scale in the Hub. (Co-founders Craig LeafTed Sirota and Greg Caulton have a unique mix of skills and perspective. Check out their bios here.)

From their website: “PenSe was born in Boston, one of the great innovation capitals of the world. We took everything we love about this city and put it into our work, and thus the city is reflected in PenSe. PenSe is no stranger to coffee shops, cold winters, and worn faces. It blends seamlessly into the community of thinkers, and never feels out of place where creativity is flowing.”

How can you NOT support that? Donate and get your PenSe here right now.