2019 SVP Startup Profile: Daybreak
Do you ever feel mentally or physically exhausted at work? Burnout is becoming far more prevalent in workplaces around the world, and is incredibly detrimental to both employees’ mental health and businesses’ productivity. SVP entrepreneurs Caleb Wursten ‘19 and Ultan O’Callaghan founded Daybreak to work on solving this burnout epidemic. Daybreak offers a Google Chrome extension which helps individuals easily integrate breaks into their workflow to support mindfulness and combat back pain and eye strain. On the B2B side, the Daybreak team has been helping large companies and institutions integrate Daybreak into their employee wellness programs. Since entering the Summer Venture Program, Daybreak has added Vivian Nguyen ‘22, Kiernan Leahy ‘21, and Mingyu Zhong to the team as interns. I met with Caleb, Ultan, and Vivian to learn more about Daybreak’s growth and progress during SVP. Here are the highlights of our interview:
Tell us a bit about yourselves!
Caleb: I’m the CEO of Daybreak. I just graduated Babson this spring and I love entrepreneurship. I’ve worked on other startup projects such as the bicycle outlet company I ran in high school. Through the Summer Venture Program, I have been able to make Daybreak my full-time priority, and it has been amazing to see the business evolve.
Ultan: I’m the CTO of Daybreak, leading the tech development of Daybreak’s browser extension. Daybreak is available on the Google Chrome web store and we already have 110 users. I have led two ventures’ tech teams in the past. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to work on Daybreak’s early-stage software because of the speed at which we’re making innovative pivots.
Vivian: I’m an intern at Daybreak, and I do different types of work ranging from social media to product development. I’ve been working alongside Kiernan on researching the symptoms of burnout, such as back pain and eye strain. I’m a fan of Daybreak’s mission, and the work has been fun!
How did you start Daybreak? What specific experiences led you to pursue this venture?
Caleb: The inspiration for Daybreak came when I first started working on the mainland in big companies. Growing up on Nantucket, which is a vacation destination, I got acclimated to people being really happy and enjoying their life. It really clicked with me last summer that most people hate working, and that there are a lot of issues at work that cause people to become unhappy or even depressed. My friend Audrey and I got together one weekend and designed a utopian island for fun, but the takeaways from that brainstorming got me thinking about potential commercial solutions to the burnout problem. First I thought about building a tiny home community, then I worked on an app that featured a koala companion to guide you through meditations, and this year I have hit my stride with building Daybreak.
Ultan: I first met Caleb in December at a Harvard hackathon. At that point the Daybreak idea was still a koala companion app, which won the award for most exciting business. Then we applied for SVP, and, after starting SVP, we brought Vivian and Kiernan on board. My passion for Daybreak comes from studying some subjects I didn’t enjoy in college: it was the most tedious experience ever! It seemed like a better studying approach to take Daybreak’s 3-5 minute breaks to reduce stress and increase productivity. I’m excited to see how we can implement this methodology with corporate partners.
What activity or resource from SVP has helped you the most so far?
Caleb: Being in the Boston environment and having the workspace downtown has allowed us get serious about accelerating our business. We’re coming to work everyday in the heart of one of the world’s great tech hubs, and we still have easy access to our professional networks from Babson.
Ultan: For me it has been amazing to become part of the Babson community. Coming from a business and computer science background at University College Cork in Ireland, it has been really cool for me to focus specifically on entrepreneurship for ten weeks. The office hours and talks from members of the entrepreneurship ecosystem have been fantastic, especially Joe Caruso and John Landry who both have a wealth of experience in VC and tech, respectively.
In what ways have your SVP peers and mentors supported you and your venture?
Caleb: I’ve been spending a lot of time with Integrate CEO Wendi Kan, who is also in the Summer Venture Program. After work we’ll talk about how each of our businesses are going, how are teams are gelling, and how we feel about potential pivots we’re mulling over. Having those conversations has helped me stay out of analysis paralysis.
Ultan: Living in Mattos Hall with many of the other entrepreneurs and having access to them for advice before and after the SVP workday has been very valuable for me, especially the individuals across the other businesses with technical backgrounds. Daybreak’s strategy has been to implement user feedback extremely quickly, and having the support of our peers in trying out our browser extension has made that possible.
What major milestones or accomplishments do you hope to achieve during your time in SVP? Or have you reached any already?
Caleb: We’ve launched Daybreak on the Google Chrome web store, meaning we are at a post-MVP pre-revenue stage. We’ve signed up a handful of organizations to test our product, including Babson College, Olin College, the University College Cork in Ireland (Ultan’s alma mater), PWC, and State Street. We’re at 110 individual users. Overall, we have refined the vision for Daybreak and are moving in a positive direction.
Ultan: Ideally, we’d like to have our first paid B2B customer by the end of the program. Running these pilot programs is super useful for us in understanding exactly which Daybreak features the HR executives and directors of wellness want to use in their organizations.
What is a valuable challenge or learning experience you have faced as founders?
Caleb: For me, the most recent learning experience was going through the Summer Venture Program’s Hot Seat, where I gave a practice presentation and then received feedback from my SVP peers. Between the fifteen minutes of feedback following the presentation and then the hour and a half Hot Seat rebuild session after that, you are receiving lots of new information. In trying to help you grow, people don’t hold back in their feedback. So it really makes you think, “What is my presentation style? How do other people perceive me? In what areas can I improve?”
Ultan: The challenge of making sure I maintain a healthy work-life balance is critical, given I’m working on Daybreak. There’s always a temptation when you’re working on a startup to just “work, work, work,” but you end up getting burnt out if you don’t take regular breaks. The second challenge has been keeping up with the speed at which Daybreak is evolving. Our users are giving us a ton of feedback about features they’d like to see added to Daybreak. It has been a challenge to prioritize our development in such a way that the users’ feedback is being heard and implemented as quickly as possible.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? Or for yourself at an earlier stage?
Ultan: In founding a startup, try to meet people who are incredibly passionate about the same idea as you are. Even if there are some days where progress is super slow, you know that you’re all working towards the same end mission and will accomplish great things together.
Caleb: If you are looking for advice on entrepreneurship, I would say to first focus on yourself and figuring out who you are, because when you do that you’ll figure out what’s really important to you. And then if you are naturally inclined to start companies, you’ll know for sure what problem you’d like your venture to solve. I think that a lot of people jump the gun and go right to entrepreneurship before understanding themselves, which doesn’t usually end well.
Where can we find Daybreak online?
Caleb: Our website is meetdaybreak.com, where you can learn more about our mission and browser extension.
Ultan: Go to meetdaybreak.com/trial to try Daybreak for yourself! We would love your feedback, and we are especially interested in hearing feedback from HR executives and wellness directors.
If you enjoyed learning about Daybreak’s progress in SVP, be sure to stay tuned for more SVP team profile blogs! To meet the entire SVP cohort and celebrate its progress, join us for the Summer Venture Showcase on Thursday, July 25th. RSVP at this link. We can’t wait to see you there!