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 customized pillows based on your sleeping style. They featured on Shark Tank but didn’t get a deal. As of 2022, Pluto Pillow is worth $8 million.
About the Founders
Susana Saeliu and Kevin Li are from Los Angeles, California. Kevin is not very vocal about his personal background, but Susana has shared that she is a graduate of the University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business.
After completing entrepreneurial studies, she founded Kora Brand, a provider of bamboo bath tissues. The startup became a huge success, and she sold it in 2011 to found a marketplace called TRADEX, Inc.
She worked in the customer service department of her new company. There, she found out that many pillow shoppers asked for a refund because the item they bought wasn’t comfortable for them. When she came up with a solution for this, she teamed up with her friend Kevin.
Establishing Pluto Pillow
The duo worked together in developing a pillow design that can be modified to a user’s sleeping pattern, schedule, and comfort level. They sought out help from physical therapists and sleep specialists while developing their product.
The result was a comfortable foam that can be adjusted in height and length with a polyethylene surface. It’s covered by a polyester microfiber with customizable thickness and quality.
Using a unique algorithm on their platform, they manufacture hand-crafted pillows that were specifically tailored to the needs of the buyer. The company officially launched in 2018 and made $473,000 in sales the following year.
Shark Tank Appearance
Susana and Kevin appeared on season 12 of the show seeking $400,000 for 5% equity in their company. With an $8 million valuation, it appeared the entrepreneurs were more interested in the publicity rather than making a deal.
The Sharks were intrigued by the product initially but their interest faded after the founders revealed the product cost $95 with a shipping fee of $18. Daniel Lubetzky had concerns about the gross margin and if they could scale the business.
Four members of the panel backed out one by one. Robert Herjavec took everyone by surprise when he proposed $400,000 for 20%. However, the founders believed the equity was too much and they went home without a deal.
After Shark Tank
Before Shark Tank, Pluto Pillow mostly relied on social media and creative PR campaigns to promote their business. After the episode aired, it drove a lot of traffic and new orders on PlutoPillow.com.
The startup later launched three funding rounds, which were led by three venture capital investors: K2VC, 500 Startups, and Lombardstreet Ventures. This helped them introduce 35 different variations on their official website and Alibaba.
Despite selling an expensive product, it is highly rated on Amazon with nearly 1,500 five-star reviews, indicating that the customizable design works. Pluto Pillow currently makes around $5 million in annual revenue and is worth an estimated $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 Pluto Pillow already had other investors on board and didn’t want to impact future funding rounds.