Radhika Patil (left) and Bharath Patil of Cradlewise
Image: Jennine Coosaia
Radhika Patil and Bharath Patil are the wife and husband co-founder team at Cradlewise. It is a “babytech startup” based in San Francisco and Bengaluru, Radhika says.
They offer one of the most sophisticated connected smart cribs that can rock a baby gently back to sleep—thousands of units have been sold in the US—and help parents monitor their child. The potential to build further on this award-winning product is huge, investors agree.
The Patils have master’s degrees in electronics from the Indian Institute of Science. They were classmates, project mates, and then life mates, she says. They both worked in the industry for some years, but entrepreneurship was always close to their heart, she says.
Cradlewise was a sort of fait accompli, when they had their first child, a daughter. And their industry experience helped.
Radhika worked on power management systems for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors. And Bharath, at Texas Instruments, invented a sensor technology that led to 15 patents and a business that went from proof of concept (POC) to $20 million.
“I still remember she sent me a picture from a deserted San Francisco airport, industrial masks and all, with two little children… I showed the picture to my parents,” Vaibhav Domkundwar, founder and general partner at the VC firm Better Capital, recalls.
The Patils were so convinced of their intuition that it was time to move to the US, which they saw as their primary market; they chose to move from Bengaluru to San Francisco in the middle of the first 2020 wave of the Covid pandemic.
That trip was six years in the making, when the couple, techie problem-solvers at heart, were dissatisfied with what they found in the market, looking for a cradle that would help their baby sleep better.
So, they designed one themselves. “Qualcomm used to give SDKs like the snapdragon hardware development kits for hobby projects. So, I got that home, Bharath got his 3D time-of-flight sensor, and we made a POC and slowly we added a motor,” Radhika recalls.
Much of the design and development of the first prototype happened in Bengaluru. And then they were accepted at a US-based accelerator called HAX. “Think of them as the Y Combinator for hardware startups,” Radhika says.
Around the same time, Domkundwar’s Better Capital stepped in with his investment. The accelerator took them to Shenzen, China, and there the Patils got hands-on exposure to how hardware tech supply chains work. This was in 2019, and by then they had had their second child, their son. And HAX helped them with access to the US market. Also read: Community capital: Tamanna Dhamija's double engine of Baby Destination and Convosight is running on full steam
“They put the cradle in a U-Haul truck, and they went and demoed the product to people in their front yards and backyards all around the Bay Area,” Domkundwar says. “I just have enormous respect for what they went through in those early years.”
That all paid off. The product has won awards from TIME magazine and prestigious consumer electronics awards. Today Cradlewise is a smart crib that has an integrated contactless baby monitor that can sense the first signs of a baby stirring and waking up. “It then starts rocking pre-emptively to help safeguard sleep,” Radhika says.
At the heart of the smart cradle is a “noiseless bouncing mechanism”, she says. Getting the tech behind that right led to a patent as well. And they have a contact-less monitoring system based on the sensor that Bharath developed at Texas Instruments. “The secret sauce is that we are collecting multi-sensor data” without wearables or anything touching the baby.
Cradlewise will touch about $8 million in revenue in 2023, she says. And the company has more than 3 million hours of baby sleep recorded in graded ways.
“The way I look at it is it literally is the iPhone of smart cradles in my mind,” Domkundwar says. “The real power of Cradlewise will continue to unwind for many, many years to come.”
The next steps for the Patils, apart from expanding their market presence, includes building a scientific sleep coach, as a subscription service, based on all the sleep data at their disposal. This could also include connecting paediatricians and having more vitals monitored with trends and charts.
“Eventually what we would like to become is like a hub of a connected nursery at every touch point of the parent and the baby,” Radhika says. “We want to improve that touch point of interaction and build products for sleep from newborn to eight years of age.”