An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

… The ability to build & sell — will make you invincible. I don’t think a great product will sell itself and make a great company. You need great marketing as well and vice versa.

As a part of our series, “Making Something From Nothing,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Julian Jagtenberg.

Julian Jagtenberg is the CEO and Co-Founder of Somnox, a category-carving company known for developing the first intelligent sleep companion proven to improve the quality of rest. Julian (26) brings a passion for robotics to his role at Somnox, where he and his team have built a science-backed sleep companion, shown to improve breathing and settle the mind for better sleep, recovery, and quality of life. Julian graduated with honors from the Delft University of Technology with a degree in Industrial Design. He also holds a minor in Robotics from the Delft Biorobotics Lab — 3mE (Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime, and Materials Engineering).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before diving in, our readers would love to learn more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

As a child, I always wanted to become an inventor who could create things that would eventually change the world. Growing up, I always looked around to see what I could build, fidgeting with LEGOs and building soap boxes and treehouses in the garden. I was obsessed with creating, and during that time, I had an infatuation with Star Wars and robotics. It fascinated me how we, as humans, could create lifelike companions that would be able to help us with daily challenges. One of the items I was inspired by was Gyro Gearloose, which is a character that invents all sorts of crazy stuff, but the point was these inventions remained within his garage and were never shown to the world.

During high school, I participated in a curriculum called “technasium,” helping young kids use their beta skills to design products. Choosing Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands made sense since that was where many sound innovations came from, like the solar car and that sort of stuff.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I live by the quote, “He who has a why can overcome any how.” It is a quote by Viktor Frankl, who wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning. The reason why this quote is so important to me is that life can be challenging. Especially being an entrepreneur, the odds are not always in your favor. Knowing why you do what you do will enable you to overcome many challenges and even attract people with the same “why” and may have a tremendous impact on your goals.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that significantly impacted you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you?

I enjoy reading books — the book that changed my life is A Guide to The Good Life by William B Irvine. The main takeaway is to have a radical focus on what you can control and be less worried about everything you can’t control. The book is about stoicism, which I believe is an excellent philosophy for life that provides practical ways to cope with challenges and help turn them into more pleasant experiences. One of the other key takeaways is how controlling your mindset and reaction to external events is a powerful thing to train. I always give this book as a gift to family and friends because it provides the tools to deal with modern life, even though stoicism originates from the ancient Greeks.

I even host a monthly book club for founders! Learn more at

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the central part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle to translate a good idea into an actual business. Can you share a few pictures from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

Many people have great ideas, but only a few can execute their vision and bring it into the world. I think, first of all, knowing why this idea needs to be in the world and being super motivated to succeed crucially. 99.9% of people won’t pursue their idea simply because it’s effortless to say, “I could have thought of that.” One of the hardest things you can do is not necessarily build a business but build a product. To increase your luck, I have three practical tips. Tip one is to have the perseverance, time, and dedication to execute your idea. Be aware that it won’t be easy, and you’ll have to go all in. My second tip is to start small; try to make prototypes and give them to customers. Make it tangible as soon as possible, and talk to the user to gain feedback immediately. With that feedback, you will be more confident that the idea is worth pursuing. Lastly, my third tip is to assemble a team and partner up with other companies whose mission and motivation are philosophically aligned with yours. In our case, we are helping people sleep better, so we partnered up (early on) with a company that had the same mission but wasn’t a competitor. Instead, they were complementary to what we were doing and were already making significant progress leveraging their experience to bring their product to market.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

I love the quote: “People don’t have ideas; ideas have people” by Carl Jung. It’s this conviction that all ideas are probably already out there and someone likely already thought of them. Like Steve Jobs said, “it’s about connecting the dots, and you can only do that by collecting as many dots (e.g., experiences and lessons) at scale.” So it’s not about necessarily having the idea; it’s about executing the concept. Also, if you research, you will find that someone may already have this idea. I would say that’s a great thing because if there is no competition, that’s often a very bad sign. It means you’re in a market that’s not there, or you hit the jackpot. The secret sauce is finding those initial ideas on the internet and proving that you can execute them using the existing knowledge to stand on the shoulders of giants.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, source a good manufacturer, and find a retailer to distribute it.

I could probably write a book about this question, but I will keep it brief. First, it’s about creating something people want and fulfilling a need early on. The only way to do that is to talk with users about their problems. Fall in love with the problem and fall in love with the consumer having these problems. You’ll get a lot of information on what it is they are genuinely experiencing and how you could potentially solve that problem. A common mistake is having technology solve a problem vs. a problem in search of technology. Once you understand the problem, you can start building initial prototypes: physical or non-physical products that test with the same user. It’s talking to users at scale, really understanding how they work, live, what they think, hear, and feel, and you can then actually get into something that might be the solution. Second, I think it’s vital to understand if you are solving a very urgent problem. Is it a bleeding neck problem, or are you creating a slight increase in the status quo? I always aim to create a bleeding neck problem solution because that’s where people have an urgent need for your product. Once you get in the prototype phase and assemble a team that can help you, it’s a good idea to talk with a patent attorney upfront to determine if you have invented a new product. Based on that, ask yourself, “do I truly have something novel, and do I feel I will continue this process to file a patent.” If the answer to those questions is yes, I would recommend it. It’s expensive to invest in intellectual property, but it’s necessary to gain future investments and protect your business. Next, make more prototypes and continue testing because it’s the only way to know you have something that works, honestly. Once successful and confident it works, you could start to sort manufacturers that can produce and deliver your product. Finding manufacturers is a skill, and I would look into it with experts. It’s about what fits your brand and how production affects sustainability. I would be very selective in picking partners because you will continue to do business with them for a long time. Then, when you have built the product and it’s ready to ship, it’s vital to understand where your products should be sold and how to distribute them. Again, the same tool is applicable; you need to talk to the user and ask, “where do you currently look when trying to find a solution for a problem” and “where do you pay for those solutions”? Only when you genuinely understand that can you pursue retailers, design your website, go for Google Ads, or maybe even go in person knocking on doors. Do things that don’t scale in the beginning. Validate you found a channel with the right messaging to talk to the right audience before you pour in a lot of money to make it work.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

  1. Validate the product first — see if people are willing to pay for it before investing in production and hiring. This is essential and part of the credo of YC (Y Combinator) — talk to users and write code.
  2. People are the most important, so be extremely strict in hiring — the people you let in determine your culture and brand values; you should never settle for mediocre talent. You need people with the grind and hunger to make it a big success.
  3. In the same vein as number 2 above, be very strict on who gets equity in the company — shares are an excellent motivator for talent to join the team given the ‘high risk, high reward’ structure — but, especially in the beginning, you can make costly mistakes with investors playing tricks on you — that may heavily dilute your stake in the company. Getting advice from lawyers on that topic is crucial — don’t let the information advantage investors often have to fool you into getting into a deal that may get you in trouble.
  4. Take care of your health first at all times. Your company is your baby — and you will do everything to make it a success; it will be an obsession — yet with much uncertainty. It’s easy to forget about your energy, health, family, and friends. Yet this is vital to do what it takes. Sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet should be on your to-do list.
  5. The ability to build & sell — will make you invincible. I don’t think a great product will sell itself and make a great company. You need great marketing as well and vice versa.

Let’s imagine that readers reading this interview have an idea for a product they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

The first step I would take is to create physical prototypes to put in the hands of real users. Determine their feedback — do they like it, do they hate it? Are they willing to pay for it? After multiple iterations of what you’re creating, you will have an idea if it’s worth pursuing and translating into a tangible product. When it comes to hardware, I would be even more skeptical: is this problem only able to be solved through a hardware component? If not, see if you can solve the problem in a more scalable manner.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out independently?

I would recommend asking people who have done it before and finding a mentor who has already created something similar to what you are doing. You might find that people are very willing to pass on their experiences and share information that will help you avoid the pitfalls they may have experienced. Also, in my experience, people are open to connecting with you and talking, so don’t hesitate to reach out with a personalized message. Be sure to indicate why you want to get in touch, what they should help you with, and make it accessible by offering lunch or coffee!

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs. looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Bootstrapping is the best way to go in the beginning if you’re the first to find the product-market fit. This is a term to say that you found the customer willing to pay for it. You can scale that only if you have found that you can do it, then it’s a good idea to get venture capital. But getting a profitable company to reinvest those profits into growth is much more powerful. I would be apprehensive about getting venture capital as a standard way of building your company. Bootstrapping is something people can appreciate, and you might end up having more control over the quality of your company. So only get venture capital if it’s essential because I think the best funding you can get is paying happy customers.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Somnox aims to help 100 million worldwide achieve better sleep by 2030. Their patented technology provides users with a science-backed sleep companion to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, resulting in deeper, more restful sleep. We found stunning reviews of people changing the quality of their life by improving the quality of their sleep — from police officers with PTSD to athletes looking to improve their performance by improving their sleep.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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.

For me, that would be prioritizing sleep — if everyone slept well, the world would be such a beautiful place. When we’re sleeping, we enter a deep recovery state that allows us to combat life’s stressors.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? They might see this if we tag them.

Matthew Walker is one of the leading sleep scientists and the author of the book “Why We Sleep.” I’d love to get in touch with him to discuss the future of sleep science and technology. Probably without coffee, since that ruins your sleep 😉

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Thank you for having me!

Making Something From Nothing: Julian Jagtenberg of Somnox On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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