There is no single objective answer to what the perfect pillow is. What might work for you may cause a stiff neck for someone else. This inspired Susana Saeliu and Kevin Li to create Pluto Pillow, a company that sells personalized pillows based on your sleeping style. They were featured on Shark Tank but didn’t get a contract. As of 2022, Pluto Pillow is worth $8 million.
About the Founders
Susana Saeliu and Kevin Li are from Los Angeles, California. Kevin isn’t very forthcoming about her personal background, but Susana shared that she graduated from the University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business.
After completing entrepreneurial studies, she founded Kora Brand, a bamboo toilet paper supplier. The startup became a huge success and she sold it in 2011 to found a marketplace called TRADEX, Inc.
She worked in customer service at her new company. There she discovered that many pillow buyers were asking for a refund because the item they had purchased was not comfortable for them. When she found a solution to this problem, she teamed up with her friend Kevin.
Establish Pluto Pillow
The duo worked together to develop a pillow design that can be modified to suit the sleep pattern, schedule and comfort level of the user. They enlisted the help of physical therapists and sleep specialists when developing their product.
The result was a comfortable foam that can be adjusted in height and length with a polyethylene surface. It is covered with a polyester microfiber of customizable thickness and quality.
Using a unique algorithm on their platform, they make handcrafted pillows that have been specifically tailored to the buyer’s needs. The company was officially launched in 2018 and had a turnover of $473,000 the following year.
Shark Tank Appearance
Susana and Kevin appeared on Season 12 of the show seeking $400,000 for a 5% stake in their business. With a valuation of $8 million, it appeared that the entrepreneurs were more interested in publicity than in closing a deal.
The Sharks were initially intrigued by the product, but their interest waned after the founders revealed the product cost $95 with $18 shipping. Daniel Lubetzky had concerns about gross margin and whether they could scale the business.
Four panel members stepped back one by one. Robert Herjavec took everyone by surprise by offering $400,000 for 20%. However, the founders felt the net worth was too high and went home with no deal.
After Shark Tank
Prior to Shark Tank, Pluto Pillow primarily relied on social media and creative PR campaigns to promote their business. After the episode aired, it generated a lot of traffic and new orders on PlutoPillow.com.
The startup then launched three funding rounds, led by three venture capitalists: K2VC, 500 Startups and Lombardstreet Ventures. This has helped them introduce 35 different variants on their official website and on Alibaba.
Despite selling for an expensive product, it’s highly rated on Amazon with nearly 1,500 five-star reviews, indicating that the customizable design works. Pluto Pillow currently generates around $5 million in annual revenue and is worth around $8 million.
The company published a blog post in May 2021, explaining what happened on the show and why they couldn’t accept Robert’s offer. It turns out that Pluto Pillow already had other investors on board and didn’t want to impact future funding rounds.