Huckleberry Is Solving Sleep for Kids and Their Parents Too

Jessica Toh.

To survive the exhaustion of welcoming a newborn into the home, new parents are often advised to sleep when the baby sleeps. But what if your baby barely sleeps? That’s a problem that Jessica Toh hopes to solve with the Huckleberry app, which aims to make good sleep accessible to every family.

Counting on Data for a Good Sleep

Launched in 2017, the app works by utilizing AI and data science, in combination with the knowledge of pediatric sleep experts to track and analyze a child’s sleep habits based on the data entered into the app by the child’s parent.

When Jessica Toh’s first child woke up every two or three hours each night, she was exhausted. When her son’s disrupted sleep continued for a relentless 20 months, Toh became desperate.

“If you have had a night where you didn’t sleep well, you know how it felt the next day. Imagine that for 20 months. So I was very desperate to figure out how to resolve those issues. I tried everything: I read multiple books, I spoke with the pediatrician and the nurse practitioner. And it just wasn’t resolving,” says Toh.

Then Toh decided to follow the data and “started tracking everything I could, looking at the data to see if there was anything interesting coming out.” With a triple major in math, statistics and electrical engineering, and computer science, plus an MBA, Toh had many skills to draw from. Her background provided a solid foundation for the creation of an app that is helping to solve a universal problem – how to get your child to sleep through the night.

Huckleberry is meant for children from ages 0 through 5, and Toh points out that according to the National Sleep Foundation, “over a third of preschool-aged kids wake up a parent every night. It’s just something that doesn’t get talked about, or maybe the parent is slightly embarrassed. But they’re in good company. It’s very common.”

While some parents opt for the “cry it out” sleep-training method, Toh says her app is for parents who are not using this technique and/or those who have tried it without success. Huckleberry currently has 1.3 million users, some of whom leave rave reviews that describe the app as “black magic” and “life-changing.”

Aside from a general sleep tracker, the app’s standout feature is called the Sweet Spot, a real-time predictive algorithm that analyzes a child’s sleep patterns to predict the next optimal nap time. Naptime for adults is a thing of beauty, but nap time for a child can be crucial to sleeping through the night.

“If you put your children down to sleep too soon, then they’re not tired enough. And you could end up spending an hour trying to get your kids to sleep. But also, if you wait too long, they can actually be overtired. What often happens is it can be even harder to get them down to sleep, or they might fall asleep but begin to wake up soon after,” explains Toh.

Screenshot of Huckleberry app.

As an English-language-only app for the time being, most Huckleberry users are in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia. However, the app has reached users “from literally every country, like whatever tiny country you can imagine,” says Toh, who attributes the company’s organic growth largely to word-of-mouth promotion.

Initially, after a Huckleberry beta user posted about the app in one of her Facebook mom groups, “those moms tried it, and they liked it. Then those moms who were also part of other Facebook mom groups — they shared it with others. Of course, you need to have a product that people really like so that they want to tell others about it,” says Toh.

The app also provides full analyses and custom plans, which, Toh points out, is similar to working with a sleep consultant — but without the hefty cost. For $15, a user’s individual case is reviewed by harnessing the power of AI in combination with Huckleberry’s team of human experts. The result is a personalized sleep plan with step-by-step guidance for the user on what to do and how to do it.

Until she came upon the idea for Huckleberry, Toh had never found a business idea that she could risk it all for. “But this was something where I just knew I had to try. I started to do this with other families, and it was just so amazing to see the transformation in their lives: taking something that seems kind of hopeless to the parents and then transforming the child’s sleep. There are so many ramifications for the health of the child, but also for the parents.”

With the recent injection of $12.5 million in Series A funding, Toh plans to expand Huckleberry’s features to reach more families and help them in different ways. Aside from sleep aid, Toh and her team are conducting research into a variety of other areas.

“Our goal is to really become the go-to resource for parents for all those things in between the medical things that your pediatrician can help with and the educational things that a teacher can help with,” Toh said. “There’s this whole middle part where parents are supposed to figure it out, like behavior and tantrums and speech and language. It’s not to say that people won’t figure it out – people have figured it out for centuries. But also, society has changed. There’s less support for families, honestly, less support from your community.”

“When I was a kid, I would just be able to walk to my friend’s house in the neighborhood. It’s just not that way anymore. Times have changed, for better or worse. So with Huckleberry, I feel like we’re just at the beginning – we’ve just scratched the surface.”

Suchi Rudra

Suchi Rudra is a freelance writer who is passionate about covering emerging tech, entrepreneurship, and real estate. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Fast Company, VICE, EdTech Magazine, and many other publications.

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