Today, I attended a TEDx Helsinki event. I especially liked the speech by Juuso Nissilä, a founder at Valkee Oy. His company sells overpriced earplugs that put LED light straight to your brain through your ears.
Now, that is a great idea.
Although that might sound ridiculous, Juuso has pretty convincing research behind his business. The most interesting part is that he knows human nature. He points out the obvious fact that people are not designed to work in the modern-day society. The body just isn’t meant to do the stuff that we do.
- You don’t receive enough exercise.
- You don’t receive enough sunlight.
- The food you eat is all wrong.
It doesn’t take a scientist to realize he is completely correct. People are not designed for office work. It cannot be a surprise to anyone that in these conditions a huge percentage of the population are getting depressed.
But what can we do?
I bet almost anyone can agree that you don’t need 185 € earplugs to cure you from this disease. What you need is exercise, sunlight and good food. The best part is that you get the first two ingredients for free and healthy food isn’t really that expensive either.
It’s the human nature to concentrate on the wrong stuff. First step is to agree on what is important. The second step is to act accordingly.
The problem is that we don’t get enough sunlight here in the north. Not many people disagree regarding the health effect of the SAD-lights. The Valkee innovation is in essence the same thing. Whereas the price goes, I strongly disagree. “Overpriced” is a relative term (compared to what?), that I would use carefully.
Good thinking Alex!
Assuming this treatment is actually effective, we quickly realize that everyone should get it (especially here in the north).
The next question is should everyone buy a 185 € gadget to get the benefits? Obviously that will never happen.
How do we get the benefits to the masses? Is it enough to buy a couple of 2 € led key-rings and point them to your ears? Led flashlights are readily available in almost every household. Could we use them for free?
Petteri, couple of comments: You’re absolutely right that we should take care ourselves without additional devices. But the same applies to music, alcohol etc. Music for me is a “cure”. Imagine a combination of earphones and light…
Businesswise I believe Valkee has a great opportunity in here, to get a premium price and give a stake to the cure of the original problem.
We have seen funnier than that.
Thank you Torsti, your comment is music to my ears. The music+light earphones could be the missing link from Valkee’s business. Highly unlikely they hadn’t thought of it though.
Businesswise I believe every company should do everything in it’s power to solve the problem they have identified. Valkee’s problem can’t be getting gadgets sold. It has to be helping the humanity by getting as many people as possible to stream light to their ears.
This has the potential to become a phenomenon. When it does, the demand for high-end light earphones will skyrocket. Until that, all efforts should be targeted to making the movement, not on selling the gadgets.
While the presentation was interesting from the venture business viewpoint, I’m inclined to put the earplugs in the “probably-bogus-and-or-snake-oil” category until I see actual peer-reviewed research results published. The concept is interesting, but the science behind it needs way more flesh on the bones; a double-blind, done with a bigger sample of actually diagnosed patients, researched by people not financially affiliated with Valkee.
As it’s pretty safe to assume that using the plugs won’t be harmful to the user, and are likely to make them feel better and give them some distraction, I don’t really mind Valkee selling them – there are a lot worse things being peddled in the self-medication business. I’m just a fan of the scientific method, and cringe whenever science is abused for personal gain. Even when it’s just over-enthusiastic interpretation of very, very preliminary, unpublished (as in peer-reviewed) research results… I sincerely do hope Valkee’s business idea is actually based on helping people – but it could also be making a quick buck with a fad.
People with marketing or advertising backgrounds might feel otherwise.
Thank you for this discussion LN. As an engineer, I’m prone to fully agree on what say about the scientific method.
However, to me the way Valkee is currently handling their business takes away a bit of the credibility. They have chosen to become equipment manufacturers instead of evangelists and gadget salesmen instead of worshiped gurus. Gurus who basically cured depression with their low-cost magic ear-light solution.
Becoming a guru on anything is something that can always be monetized later if needed.
Replying to the post of LN, there is at the moment more or less zero evidence for the fact that you could actually get some results stimulating the ears as you cannot pass the light information to any light-sensing organs via ear canal.
And there is a good example of “bogus”-article in highly respected scientific journal  which was later shown to be false and not reproducible by any other laboratory in the world.
 Campbell, Scott S., and Patricia J. Murphy. “Extraocular Circadian Phototransduction in Humans.” Science 279, no. 5349 (January 16, 1998): 396-399. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.279.5349.396.