The Journey You've Supported
Updated: Jun 30
Dear backers and supporters, I come to you with great news, another step forward in our mission to help bruxism sufferers and dentists.
But, before I share the good news, I'd like to take you through our journey thus far to get to this point.
Many of you may already know my story, how I was pulled into this mission to solve bruxism over two years ago after going through four months of traumatic events... a motorcycle accident, dengue fever, ruptured disc and lower back surgery... events leaving me completely stressed out and that's when I started clenching and grinding at night waking up with jaw pain and migraines. Two years ago the idea was created... taking lessons from my career as a behavioral scientist in the Air Force, I discovered I use behavioral tracking and alerts to reduce / eliminate my bruxism behavior. So I went on a mission to solve this problem for myself and now all of you.
I was living in Indonesia at the time and finding parts to build my first prototype was a challenge to say the least. Luckily I found a robotics shop in Singapore with the parts I needed and booked a flight. Desperate to relieve my pain, I grabbed a taxi at the airport, went directly to the robotics shop, purchased the parts I needed, checked into my hotel and started building and soldering the electronics together on my hotel bathroom floor. I then spent the whole next day writing a software application (basic detection algorithm) to detect bruxism behavior and emit a vibration and sound to make me aware of this behavior.
It worked! My first prototype, literally built on the floor of my hotel room worked and I started using behavioral tracking and stress reduction techniques to train myself during the day and night to stop my clenching and grinding behavior. After about four weeks my jaw pain and migraines had gone away. It was at that point that I know I had something and that perhaps other people could use behavioral tracking to help reduce / eliminate their bruxism pain.
BUT, my first prototype had problems. It required constant calibration, was bulky, uncomfortable to sleep with and the EMG (Electromyography) sensors I used had serious noise. I researched EMG sensors and found that many studies had documented the shortcomings of EMG sensor technology. Plus EMG sensors were expensive... around $30/$40 for the sensor electronics alone, plus the microcontroller and bluetooth module made the device expensive and complicated.
Luckily, I had a setback which caused me to go a new direction. While participating in a pre-accelerator program I joined in Moldova, all three EMG sensors I purchased to create more prototypes broke. Ordering new ones would cost me too much time and money with customs fees. Crap!
I've always believed, and the reason I eventually named our company Bravrr, is that when fear comes / uncertainty all you need to do is calm your mind and focus on the task at hand. "What can I do now with what I have?"
I started researching different muscle activity detection methods and started experimenting with different sensors and materials. By the end of the pre-accelerator I was able to have a working prototype using some relatively inexpensive sensor that I found off the shelf. These too were not perfect, but at least they demonstrated it is possible to detect bruxism muscle activity using sensors other than EMG.
Next, I was accepted into a health & wellness accelerator in Albuquerque. The opportunity here was that at the end of the program, if I performed well, Bravrr would receive a $50K investment to further develop the BruxRelief device. During the program I continued to experiment with different materials in order to develop my own novel sensor to address the shortcomings of off the shelf sensors I previously had used. At the end of the program, the investment committee decided to invest not $50K but instead $100K. Problem was they required me to raise an addition $150K from an angel syndicate before I could receive the investment. Additionally the offer was at a low valuation which meant giving away about 30% of Bravrr before we even had a beta version of the device.
It was a fine offer, but I took a step back to realize I didn't have a team behind me and I'd be heavily dependant on a local engineering firm to develop the device and validate the technology. I realized that if I took this offer, I'd most likely be back again asking for more money within a year and still not have a team. Additionally, I knew the most important thing we needed to achieve at this stage was tech validation. I knew that with a team I could achieve tech validation for far less than $250K. I decided to bet on myself and passed on the offer.
I knew at the time this decision would require great sacrifice, financial hardship and much risk, but I believed in myself and knew I could form a team to help me accomplish my mission for far less capital and raise the value of Bravrr as a company; but, I had no idea how much hardship I'd endure.
I recruited a friend I met during the pre accelerator program in Moldova (Andrei) to build the BruxRelief mobile application and I found an excellent electrical engineer in Bozeman, MT (Trevor) to design and develop the bluetooth connected PCB (circuit board / micro controller) and we picked up firmware developer (Chris Miller) to help Trevor finish out writing the software needed to run the BruxRelief device. I finally had a team.
I then moved back to Colorado (my home) to live with my family. I used credit cards, Kickstarter and Indiegogo funds, I raised money from family and took a small personal loan to raise the small capital I needed. Furthermore, and perhaps one of the most unique fundraising strategies you'll find in a startup story, I started advertising on Facebook Marketplace and building garden sheds for various people in Colorado.
Over the last ten months, I've built numerous garden sheds and even greenhouses in order to keep Bravrr and our development of BruxRelief going. I chose this as a bit of a lifehacking strategy. In the past I've worked as an online lead generation and sales consultant. However, this type of work often required a near full-time commitment. I knew from previous summertime jobs in my youth that I could build a shed within five to six days and the money from this would keep Bravrr going. I would be able to pick and chose when I worked and devout the rest of the time to Bravrr. So yeah, I started a side hustle building garden sheds, hahaha, to keep Bravrr going.
Another funny side story... having a team that's spread out over the globe is both a blessing (keeps costs down not requiring office space and work with awesome people) but it also creates challenges especially with a hardware company and reduces team cohesiveness. So, budget driven I had to get creative with spending dedicated time with Trevor and Andrei.
To visit Trevor in Bozeman I built a little camper / place to sleep in the back of an old pickup truck and drove to Bozeman to spend a couple weeks with him. I would shower at the local YMCA, Trevor and I would work at the local Bozeman Makerspace and I'd sleep in the back of my truck at a truck stop nearby. To visit Andrei, I'd buy cheap tickets to Netherlands months ahead and sleep on the floor next to him in his college dorm. Yes, I'm sure this sounds a bit ridiculous I'll admit it, but what drives me in my ambitions is both the opportunity and the journey itself. Life's too short to not give your all to your goals.
Well now, finally what you've been waiting for... the announcement. We've finished a beta version of the the BruxRelief device! The headband, the sensors, the bluetooth connected circuit board, the mobile app... they are finally all connected, sensors working and delivering data to the app!
There are still some minor tweaks we need to make and we need to launch the app on App Store and Google Play, but this is a huge step forward for our team. We're going to be testing internally with our team and other volunteers and then release this beta version of BruxRelief to Dr. Salierno (mentioned in a previous blog) for testing within his dental practice and we will release a number of units to our Kickstarter volunteers.
It's been a two year journey to get to this point and there is still a long way to go, but as you can deduce from journey thus far, we're COMMITTED! Andrei, Trevor and Chris have made incredible sacrifices of their own. They dedicated their time, money and creativity to this effort and we are celebrating this recent big step while keeping our eyes focused on delivering this solution to you and the world as soon as we possibly can.
Thank you all for your continued support and patience. The support you gave has made this journey possible and for that we are incredibly grateful. We are working, giving our all for YOU! Thank you.