Lotte Leufkens (31 years old) developed CloudCuddle while she was still a student at TU Delft’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. CloudCuddle is a unique bed tent that offers children with disabilities and vulnerable elderly people a safe place to sleep no matter where they are. It is an innovative product that can rightly be called a healthcare game changer. What started with a cry for help by a father in Delft has now resulted in a successful and transformative business that Lotte recently sold to enable it to grow even faster. The new owner is Human Protection in Tilburg.

1. Even something small can have a considerable impact  

“That cry for help came from a father with a disabled son. He asked us (mechanical engineering students at TU Delft) to come up with a solution to make it easier for his son to have sleepovers away from home. I decided this was a challenge I wanted to take up. The result was the inflatable bed tent called CloudCuddle. The most important aspect of CloudCuddle is that we managed to design something that’s convenient, can be taken anywhere and fits lots of different beds. The fact that the bed tent is small, foldable and inflatable is a real game changer, not just for those who lie in it, but perhaps even more so for all the parents and carers who support them at home, when visiting family and friends, while on holiday, as well as in hospitals and institutions. It is, for example, ideal in the event of an emergency hospital admission because it’s by no means a given that the hospital will have a safe bed for these types of patients.”

© CloudCuddle

2. A restriction of freedom can actually make you feel freer

“We started out with a bed tent for children called the CloudCuddle Junior.[Text Wrapping Break]Funnily enough it was initially developed to be purely functional and prevent children from falling out of bed or escaping. But along the way it turned out that the bed tent has considerable impact in terms of quality of sleep. The enclosed small space actually gives children a sense of safety and security. A space in which they can easily relax and which shields them from outside stimuli. And a space that is the same everywhere, so a recognisable space as well. Many of these types of children are somewhere on the autism spectrum and it is precisely the restriction of their freedom that gives them immense peace and therefore makes them feel freer. That’s an aspect of our bed tent I’d really like to continue exploring from a scientific perspective.”

3. One thing leads to another

“The peace of mind that the CloudCuddle Junior brings to families has been picked up by those involved in elderly care, who then asked us to develop a CloudCuddle for vulnerable elderly people. They believed it could have a major impact on their health and also help them and the staff supporting them to get more sleep. One target group could be dementia patients who are often confused and restless at night. They have a tendency to get out of bed and that’s risky and also keep others from sleeping. That’s why we have developed the CloudCuddle Senior, which is going to be launched this year.”

“What has always motivated me is the impact CloudCuddle has. Research has shown that approximately 60% of parents with a care-intensive child experience burnout at some point. Imagine never being able to get away easily, never being able to outsource care duties for a while, or being kept awake by your child night after night. You have to find ways to keep going. The number of parents with these kinds of pressures who end up getting divorced is unsurprisingly much higher than average. People involved in caring for the elderly face similar problems. On the one hand there has been a sharp increase in the number of vulnerable elderly people while, on the other, there is a serious shortage of staff and a growing group of informal carers who are severely overburdened. CloudCuddle can give everyone peace of mind. That’s why we’re doing this.”

4. Sometimes it’s good not to know everything all at once  

“Looking back it’s a good thing I didn’t realise in the beginning exactly how the regulations governing medical devices worked and how much money you need to build a profitable business with a product in a niche medical market. It’s a good thing that strict legislation and regulations are in place. The problem is just that they’re getting stricter and tougher. I sometimes worry that this will massively stifle innovation, especially because it will also make it increasingly expensive and investors will be reluctant to get involved in a product that has yet to prove itself. If I’d known all this, I honestly don’t know if we would have set this all up and that would have been a huge shame of course. I myself was lucky to be supported by the innovation platform of the Reinier de Graaf hospital and Delft Enterprises. I also received coaching via the YES!Delft tech incubator. Without these initiatives, it’s really almost impossible for a small business to develop an innovative product and bring it to market.”

© CloudCuddle

5. Logical solutions are not always the best solutions 

“I think it’s incredibly important for entrepreneurs to keep thinking out of the box when it comes to using new technologies in conservative sectors. Healthcare is a conservative sector, but if we want to solve today’s healthcare problems, I think we also need solutions that aren’t immediately logical.”

6. It is better to finish one job completely than do five jobs by half 

“When I started CloudCuddle, I really went for it. I think that’s also what you need to do in business and happily that’s also my mentality. If I go for something, I just go for it completely. I like that approach a lot. If you choose something and really go for it, you’ll avoid doing too many things by half. My advice is to focus on one or two objectives and then really go for it because the return will be so much greater.”

© CloudCuddle

7. Take your responsibility 

“What’s really become very clear to me during this entrepreneurial journey is that being an entrepreneur means the buck truly does stop with you. Whether what needs to happen actually happens is really down to your own endeavour and mindset. That’s something you really have to be aware of. There’s no one standing over you. You have to be willing and able to bear that kind of responsibility.”

8. Think big

 “CloudCuddle has now been sold. We’re expanding and want to develop more in the direction of elderly people suffering from Alzheimer or dementia. So it’s a good time to reflect on where we want to go. Am I the right person to oversee this process of scaling up? I don’t have a background in the healthcare sector and I’d like to focus on new challenges in the coming years. I realised it was better for me to step aside so that CloudCuddle could grow at an even faster rate.

Now, under the umbrella of Human Protection, that growth can take place much more quickly and that’s something I get a buzz from. I’m glad I’ve had this experience. It also gives me a certain peace of mind to know that our products and core values will be properly safeguarded by the new company. And from a very practical point of view I will no longer have to spend half my weekend on the phone. Since I was a student I have given everything for CloudCuddle and I think it will also be good for me to enjoy some of the respite I have created for so many others.”

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