photo: Tinus

Tinus: Sleeping Aid for Tinnitus Patients

It was through tinnitus patients in their own families that Jaqueline Schaupp and Simon Gresch came up with the idea to develop a sleeping aid in the form of a sound pillow. The pillow is meant to help people with tinnitus sleep better over the long term. In our interview, the two founders explain how their innovative pillow works and the challenges they’ve had to face so far with their startup Tinus.

Munich Startup: What does your startup do? What problem are you solving?

Tinus: Five to fifteen percent of the total population in industrial countries suffers from tinnitus. There are roughly three million tinnitus patients in Germany who have difficulties falling asleep. Problems arise because without background noise, people concentrate on the tinnitus and there’s no sustainable option for distracting them from the disturbing noise in their ears. Headphones aren’t suitable for sleeping, and even small in-ear headphones are unsuited for providing healthy sleep. TVs and other audio sources affect neighboring sleepers and also emit noise all night long, which has an extremely negative impact on a person’s quality of sleep. Setting a sleep timer is obviously an option – but we all know what it’s like to be startled awake when the TV turns off because you aren’t in the deep sleep phase yet.

Falling asleep with a sound pillow

This is exactly where we come in with our product. Tinus One is a sleeping aid in the form of an innovative sound pillow with integrated sleep tracking. Tinus provides the comfort of a conventional pillow as well as sound insulation for neighboring sleepers. To ensure sustainable sleep results, the Tinus One offers intelligent functions, such as a shut-off mechanism in the deep sleep phase to avoid being exposed to non-stop sound.

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!

Tinus: In contrast to conventional music pillows that simply have an integrated stereo speaker, Tinus One impresses with its combination of sound insulation and its comprehensive transmission of sound. The sound is transmitted using technology that the company developed based on bone conduction. This means that only the person who has contact with the pillow can hear the sound. Tinus One unites four main elements that make it a unique product: comfort, sound quality, noise insulation and sensor data. With the Tinus app, which will launch in September, we are able to continually update the Tinus One so we can regularly offer our users new features.

Troubleshooting in the family

Munich Startup: What is your founding story?

Tinus: It was during the university course “Think.Make.Start.” at TU Munich in September 2019 that the founding team Jaqueline Schaupp and Simon Greschl met. The aim of the course was to discuss a problem, validate it with surveys and scientific work and develop a functioning product for potential customers within ten days. It was while looking for everyday problems in their families that Jaqueline and Simon became aware of how tinnitus patients suffer. Both of the founders’ fathers suffer from tinnitus and have major difficulties, particularly with falling asleep. This is what kicked off the idea for Tinus with the aim of improving the quality of everyday life for their fathers and many others who are affected.

Munich Startup: What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Tinus: Tinus has struggled the most with ongoing supply bottlenecks. The fact that Tinus One is a new product on the market makes the situation more difficult, because we don’t have long-term relationships yet and suppliers obviously favor their long-standing customers. The startup also had to build several production machines from the ground up, because for many components in their smart pillow, there are no use cases or frameworks in place. The team is still producing some of the parts itself because they still haven’t found an external partner that meets their standards of quality.

Solutions for other sleep disorders

Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years?

Tinus: Tinus would like to expand its target group and add additional smart functions so other sleep and sleep-related disorders can be identified and treated. The focus here is on sleep apnea, snoring and teeth grinding. The aim is to make all of this information available to users in an app as well. There are also plans to provide further helpful content on the app that is related to tinnitus and sleep disorders.

Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far?

Tinus: The startup ecosystem in Munich has helped us a great deal so far. On the one hand, the universities offer a large network, different courses, support in the form of coaching and mentoring, and promote the sharing of knowledge between startups through incubators.

On the other hand, we’ve been able to work closely with different accelerators in recent years, such as the LMU EC and Xpreneurs. Thanks to all of these offers, our product, business and team have been able to grow.

Munich Startup: Staying power or quick exit?

Tinus: Definitely staying power! We still have a lot planned, because we not only want to give tinnitus patients deeper sleep, but also more generally do the same for people with sleep disorders.

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