Mark Aramli and his company BedJet, which makes a comfort system that provides cooling and heating to manage the climate on a bed, have not had the typical entrepreneur’s journey.
The former NASA engineer got off to a hot start, getting the rare opportunity to appear on ABC’s Shark Tank. But the pitch went so badly, Shark Tank Investor Lori Greiner tweeted, “1st time I was ever really pissed off by an entrepreneur in the tank! #badtoberude.”
“The big story for us is, we took on some billionaire companies in the sleep industry on a shoestring budget and we are winning.”
The Connecticut native, who was in his 40s, then went all in, mortgaging his house, mortgaging his mother’s house and spending his life savings to launch the company.
On Kickstarter, BedJet flew past $1 million in funding in just 28 days, placing it in the top 0.1 percent most successful campaigns ever at the time. With cash flow in the first few months after launch, Aramli chose to forego a private investment offer in order to preserve equity.
BedJet has become one of the top five most successful failures in the history of Shark Tank, the highest customer-rated product in the mattress category on Amazon, has tripled sales every year and, without Greiner’s help, Aramli inked his own deal with QVC.
“They got that one dead wrong,” Aramli told Rhode Island Inno, referring to his experience on Shark Tank. “The big story for us is, we took on some billionaire companies in the sleep industry on a shoestring budget and we are winning.”
BedJet is not a fan, but rather a bluetooth-enabled, microprocessor-controlled, air-driven climate-control machine that attaches to the bed and can cool or heat both sides of a bed to provide each partner with their preferred temperature.
“We really started developing this rabid fanbase that was so enthusiastic with the product,” said Aramli, who added he was surprised by how many people in the medical field approached him regarding sleep problems he never knew about. “Especially for people who suffer from temperature-related issues with sleep: menopausal women getting hot flashes and night sweats, athletes burning hot at night or couples who fight over the thermostat … We were actually solving problems.”
Aramli came up with the idea for BedJet nearly 14 years ago, while living off the beach in Santa Monica, California, in a very temperate climate.
His heating system didn’t work, so on cold nights he would use little fan heaters. One night before bed, he stuck one of those fan heaters under his cover and went to the bathroom and forgot about it for 20 minutes.
Luckily, Aramli didn’t burn the building down, and he was also amazed by how comfortable he found his bed to be. He said it was better than any electric blanket he had ever used.
“I’ve helped keep astronauts perfectly comfortable in space, the most hostile environment known to man, and yet so many of us are uncomfortable in our beds,” said Aramli, referring to his old NASA job, where he had worked on climate control issues in space suits. “And that’s where we spend 30 percent of our lives.”
Throughout the company’s journey, Aramli has stuck to his untraditional path.
He moved to Newport in 2008 and despite what he describes as a lacking startup scene that makes it difficult to find talent, Aramli has remained there and is even in the process of building BedJet’s new office in the ocean-front city.
The company is planning to beef up hiring and roll out an updated BedJet model, as well as new products at the end of this year.
The success the company has had since its launch has allowed for investment in research and development since BedJet’s second year in business; Aramli said future products may be even more disruptive in the bedroom than the climate control system.
“Everybody has had the same thing happen where they get some idea and they file it away in their head, and they are like, ‘Yea, I ought to do this someday,’ and then five years later you see your idea on a shelf,” he said. “I had a moment where I was like, ‘I don’t want that story to happen to me … Let’s just do it, and here we are.'”