I had the pleasure of interviewing Mikhail Krymov, CEO and Co-Founder of Sleepbox, Inc. Mikhail comes from an extensive background in Architecture and design. Prior to launching Sleepbox during his research fellowship at M.I.T., Mikhail co-founded and ran “Arch Group” as its CEO for 8 years. Mikhail holds a M. Arch degree from the Moscow Architecture Institute and boasts dozens of awards and published architectural projects.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I look back, it’s actually kind of scary how everything comes together. Decisions always look kind of random when you’re just following your heart and beliefs. My experience in architecture, design, managing, moving from Russia to the US and meeting the right people led to where I am. Also, the feeling of needing to bring ideas to reality. I think that’s something that is really special for humans as species. We have an idea then we can make it happen whether it’s through architecture, design, or entrepreneurship.
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
The hotel industry is kind of slow in implementing technology. Each hotel takes 3–5 years to develop. The way that people live changes quicker than the physical world around us. We’re bringing all of the technology that we think makes the most sense into building a new type of hotel for now and in the future. The main novelty is the concept of a hotel room as a plug-in connected device — we use lots of different technology through hardware and software pieces that became available last years to make it really cool. Our goal is to bring privacy where people need it and make their personal journeys easier and more meaningful. By offering privacy in the right way, I believe we can lower the fear of exploration and empower people to explore the world.
How do you think this might change the world?
The first change is about travel. In general, hotels today are the most expensive part of the journey, limiting us in exploration. Having the opportunity to see how different people are around the globe and how similar they are on a deep level is a life-changing experience. Meeting different cultures teaches us how diverse we are and how beautiful it is. Our goal is to make travel easier, more affordable, more meaningful.
The second change is about privacy. We lack that today and we should fix it. We need more on-demand privacy on the road, in the office, in the hospital, in the mall — you name it. Having a secure and soundproof space allows us to recharge, be happier, healthier and more productive. Remember how a lack of sleep, running on 4–6 hours feels– it is a pain to live like that and even a quick nap or meditation makes a huge difference. I believe this is a basic need, and it is not one metric that we can measure, this is a holistic effect we want to achieve.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
I don’t see any drawbacks. We’re in the business of creating comfortable space where people can connect with their inner-selves to enable meaningful experiences. I believe this is a good thing.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
A major tipping point was definitely moving to the US and meeting great people. The mindset is the main difference here in America. In other counties, when you need to build a car you build a car. In the US if you need to build a car you build a process. That process is the key to building a sustainable company and international business. If you want to change the world — start in America. That is what I have learned.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Exposure. I hope people will love the Sleepbox experience and help us make it better. We believe starting in airports will help to make the adoption much quicker by building trust in the experience and solution. You don’t need a lot of space to feel comfortable but you need smart space with a beautiful design. When I was living in Paris, I was living in a friend’s 130 sq ft studio, that managed to have a queen-size bed, mezzanine with another one, living room, kitchen and bathroom. That experience showed me it doesn’t matter how big the space is but how well it’s designed.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Smart Persistence is everything. It’s a general rule — when you know what is right, stick to it. Everything takes time. My father was an artist and he told me that sometimes when he knew exactly what color to use he mixed the paints and started moving the tassel. Sometimes it didn’t look good, not like he wanted it. The secret was to continue applying the same mix and after some time magic happened, it just went “poof” and started to look right. It works everywhere else.
Evolve quickly. You are your only weapon. We are so bound to our perception of who we are and that makes it so much harder to change. To change means to kill some part of the ego and that is hard to do. However, we change anyway and we die in the end. This illusion of who we are shouldn’t stand in the way of who we may be.
Get in your customer’s shoesI have heard that numerous times, but I felt it only at MIT — they had great exercises to change the perspective. It is much harder than I expected. As a designer and architect I thought of users, but never made a full effort to think like one. There are some shortcuts in the way we are used to thinking, that are very attractive and distractive. Having that skill of changing personal perspective is crucial when creating a new product, or else you may be the only one who wants it.
You move forward only by being proactiveThe Sleepbox started from a design that people got excited about. We started receiving tons of inbound requests that I worked with for years with no outcome. Being reactive just didn’t work for me at all. When my team and I changed the approach and started to invest all of our efforts in pushing forward, we found our way.
Psychology is a must-have skill for an entrepreneurIt is all about people, there is nothing else more important. For example, money is just people’s belief and measure of needs and desire. There are some great theories and discoveries of how people think and feel, different biases and so on. Entrepreneurs work with people, building a company, a team to change the way people live (even on a small scale). If they do that without knowing how different people are and how to measure them — it is like playing hockey blindfolded.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Glad you’ve asked. I have an idea, that can make people closer to each other. This is a simple ritual. It may be a greeting, farewell or anything in between. It is that two people imagine that they are the only people in the universe for a couple of seconds and they share this existence. When it is over, they thank each other. Simple as that. Its main idea is the recognition and acceptance of another being you share part of your life with. This ritual makes us closer and better and that makes it a good ritual.
Even though this ritual does not require any technology, I imagine a physical symbol of it. This is a double vertical handrail, mounted on the wall. With it, people can do the ritual, holding each his or hers grip. This device can mark the place where to have this ritual, if it is done on regular basis. I, probably, should make a sketch of that.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do what you must, come what may” — my father has taught me this and the longer I live, the deeper I feel it. Living in the world where past exists only in fragmented memories and future is uncertain, I think this is the most reasonable strategy. There is lots of fear in our lives and fear is a good adviser, but a bad decision-maker. So this quote is my decision-making guide.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
We are creating a new type of a smart micro-hotel for the new generation of travelers. It is called Sleepbox and here are 3 things that we do differently:
First, We created a plug-in hotel room. It is modular, stand-alone, premium quality space, private and soundproof. It is charged with cool features like ambient light, wireless speakers, and a privacy window tint that changes opacity at the touch of a button.
Second, we made a hotel room a connected device. With the Sleepbox app you can book, check-in, access, and control the Sleepbox. You can set-up temperature, light, and music to your preference which enables a personalized and repeatable experience in any Sleepbox. We have also developed our own hotel management system that supports our unique operators and maintenance process.
Together, hardware and software create a new business model. We can transform existing spaces in the best locations into hotels for a fraction of the time and cost of building a traditional hotel. Now we can bring on-demand hotel rooms and services directly to users, where they are and where they want to be.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn & YouTube.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.