Veronica Lee is the Founder & CEO of Remrise, a modern sleep care brand offering personalized, plant-powered sleep formulas and a suite of tools to help improve sleep over time.
Briefly introduce us to Remrise and your journey to founding the company?
Remrise has gone through many iterations, but first and foremost we are trying to do something novel in the sleephealth space, and set that as its own category. I founded Remrise to create a natural sleep aid that improves your REM and deep sleep cycle, with additional health benefits that are not habit forming. Our mission is to create a holistic wellness platform that focuses on improving peoples’ sleephealth. The world today is not made for good sleep and good rest; there are so many distractions, long-hours, and high stress. It’s hard to establish a routine.
As a result, people have turned to pharmaceuticals such as Ambien and over-the-counter drugs such as Unisom and Nyquil. However, most people don’t realize that there are a lot of negative side effects from these drugs. They really prevent high quality sleep, are highly addictive and not meant to be taken on a daily basis.
I have struggled with sleep my whole life. Starting with my high school days, then into college and after graduation when I was working in Investment Banking. I had a terrible schedule and started taking different over-the-counter products that made me feel groggy the next day.
My mom uses a lot of general Chinese Medicine practices to promote health and I grew up seeing and experiencing a lot of its beneficial properties. I had always wanted to build a quality brand around Chinese Medicine and Eastern herbs since I saw so many benefits of it. But when you go to Chinatown or try to source these herbs, it’s hard to distinguish the high-quality products. During my struggles with sleep I started experimenting with Chinese medicine herbs, mixing different concoctions together, and eventually meeting with different food and sleep scientists. From that, we eventually crystalized our product.
What do you think is the most important part of a business to get right first?
Product. I think for any consumer company, while everything else is important, having a product that people love, depend on and want to continue using is the most important. For us, the only way we can get people to start new habits and get away from traditional sleep aid products is by creating a superior product and experience.
Remrise combines Eastern and Western ingredients, some of which many people have never ever heard of like Suan Zao Ren and Schisandra Berry. How are you strategizing educating your consumers on these ingredients?
A large part of our social presence and website is, and will continue to be, dedicated to educating people on our unique ingredients and also about sleephealth in general. Sleep is such an interesting topic; it is something that everyone does for a large part of their day, yet there are still so many things that are unknown about it and what effects it. We are dedicated to making sleep education fun and easy to integrate into everyone’s daily life.
We also want to be thoughtful about how we educate customers and not come across as preachy. People are constantly getting inundated with information as sleep is becoming a more popular topic these days. A lot of this content has been quite negative in tone and messaging, and almost militaristic. “You have to follow these 10 things, you can’t drink alcohol, can’t eat this food, etc.”
That’s not what Remrise is about. We want to integrate Remrise seamlessly in our consumers’ lives in a way that allows them to enhance their sleephealth without forcing them to sacrifice things they enjoy, like drinking alcohol. Ultimately, we want people to view sleep in a similar vein as fitness — it’s something you can continue to improve on and leverage to support your overall health and happiness.
Why do you think there is a need for a specialized product focused on sleep when you see many wellness-focused wearable tech brands like Whoop, Oura, and Fitbit offering similar services?
We actually want to partner with these wearable technology platforms because we are seeing that we share a similar customer base and a lot of our customers use these products to measure the improvements they get from Remrise.
But, to your question, these tracking devices are more about tracking rather than enhancing. People try to see what behaviors affect sleep, but not necessarily how to improve it. We want to be at the forefront of that.
People love sleep. But because of many peoples’ demanding lifestyle, they don’t get enough of it. How do you address the issue of not getting enough hours of sleep in terms of its impact on the success of your products?
We try to take a very realistic approach to this. The old school of thought was that you have to get eight hours of sleep or you’re screwed. However, I have talked to a lot of sleep researchers who disagree with this, even though it may be controversial to say so. The amount of sleep really depends on your size, diet, exercise, age, and a ton of other variables. So, different people need different amounts of sleep.
There is also this defeatist aspect around the whole eight hours of sleep narrative. People tend to feel disappointed if they are not getting it, and it’s a very binary way to measure sleep health that isn’t a fair reflection.
We believe in listening to your body. There are going to be situations where you won’t be able to get an adequate amount of sleep. But, if you take certain herbs or amino acids, you can optimize the sleep you get and feel more rested as a result of it.
You see DTC mattress companies like Casper and Purple sell sleep. Obviously, their products are quite different from yours in the sense that it is tangible and has a sensory feedback to it. You know right away if you like it or not. So, given consumers having this experience with sleep, how are you selling a different feedback loop?
The current Remrise products on the market don’t have as big an effect as the new product we are launching soon. When people actually take this powder they will feel a distinct change and it will be a shorter feedback loop. It is a powder drink, which you can make right before you go to bed. It becomes a nightly ritual which you can expand upon with lighting, candles, scents, and the like.
But for us, the immediacy is not necessarily as important. Our customers prioritize how they feel the next morning. So, we are focused on helping our customers feel refreshed and well-rested when they wake up, and let those sensations speak for our products.
If you could have one person use Remrise, who would it be and why?
My mom has had trouble with sleep for a long period of time. She has been addicted to Unisom for thirty years, which has substantial health consequences. As a result, she is a very hard case in terms of converting a consumer who has been addicted to these different sleep aids that are damaging. She is not atypical in the sense that a lot of women’s hormone balances change later in life and sleep gets worse and worse. I never thought I could solve her sleep problem, but with the latest product she has gotten a few nights of great sleep off of Unisom, which is really amazing.
Often, when we are faced with obstacles or things go wrong, we think something is happening to us. But, when we reflect on these moments later on, we tend to find that it actually happened for us. What is one such example you have of this?
When Remrise went live in November 2019, we had this big splashy launch with great PR and amazing investors behind us. But, we also had a lot of mistakes and launched with a lot of discounts and free promotions, which drew in a lot of not-so-great customers. Shortly after that, COVID hit. We had people writing to us saying they love our products but have lost their jobs and the price point is just too high. We received a lot of feedback at once and had to pivot and adapt.
When you launch something you expect that it’s going to go amazing, with blue skies and sales up and to the right. But reflecting back on it, it caused us to reevaluate and as a result we have been heads down developing a much more effective and superior product suite and website that we’re so excited to get out to customers.
What do you value most in a friendship or relationship?
Loyalty and trust. I have a strong aversion to inauthenticity.
If you could live in one civilization throughout history, which would it be and why?
Now. I think all of the resources and technology that we have at our fingertips is unprecedented. Especially being in the startup ecosystem, it’s amazing to have this breadth of ideas, resources, and people that have created everything we have today and continuously make things better. While there is a lot of doomsday sentiment right now in the world and in politics, I do think that there has never been a better time to create and to do so in an environment that is open-minded.
What is a memento from your childhood that you still keep and how does it serve you?
I don’t keep that many things; I am quick to throw away a lot of stuff. But I do have a wooden butterfly that my sister made me in an elementary or middle school woodworking class that says family is everything. I guess I hold onto it because family is everything, and if it wasn’t for my family, my relationship with eastern medicine, and my heritage I would never have started Remrise.
What is your creative outlet and how does it help you channel a flow state?
Listening to music. I also try to go for a walk everyday to help clear my mind and reset.
What is one daily ritual that you cannot live without?
In the mornings it’s my coffee, I am one of those people in the sleep industry that still loves coffee. Then at night it’s my Remrise.
What is the last:
TV show you binged?
Movie you watched?
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.
Song you listened to?
I will always love you Whitney Houston.
Podcast you listened to?
All In hosted by Chamath Palihapitiya, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks & David Friedberg.
Book you read?
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike written by Phil Knight.
You can buy Remrise via their website here.
Up Next: Kiva Dickinson, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Selva Ventures