The Ostrich Pillow, a cloth helmet for helping people nap at their desks, has more in common with the Snuggie than with a gadget like the iPhone. Yet, technophiles have been inexplicably drawn to it.
The pillow hat, with holes for your face and hands, was posted on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter this month and reached its goal of $70,000 in eight days. Its fundraising, which will go until Oct. 18, racked up another $20,000 or so just in the past day.
Technology blogs were among the first to contribute to the Ostrich Pillow’s ascent. CNET, the Next Web and TechCrunch each published posts linking to the project’s Kickstarter page, helping it reach the more than 1,000 people who have pledged money.
The Ostrich Pillow is not the first awkward attempt at creating a sleep aid for cubicle rats, so why did it resonate so strongly within the tech industry?
It’s a refreshing concoction that combines the early-adopter appeal of crowd-funding with the universal need to unplug and rest, Ali Ganjavian, one of the inventors, said by phone from Switzerland.
“You can use this to disconnect for a little while,” he said. The pillow “responds to a very contemporary need. I think a lot of people are recognizing that. That’s why a lot of people within the technology industry are supporting this.”
It probably also helps that Ganjavian, both in the promotional video and in my interview with him, channels Steve Jobs. Ganjavian said consumers often don’t know what they want until you show it to them, borrowing a phrase often used by the Apple co-founder.
“Go back 100 years, and imagine the first person walking down a rainy street with an umbrella,” he said. “You think, ‘Well, what is he doing? Oh, he’s not getting wet.’”
Some tech companies have caught on to the benefits of encouraging employees to take time to rest, which can make them more productive. AOL offers nap rooms, and Google has installed dystopian nap pods.
The money from Kickstarter will enable Ganjavian’s company to start mass producing Ostrich Pillows. While he has worked on some six-dozen products in his career, this will be the first such endeavor for his 42-person Studio Banana, which also offers advertising and other creative services. They currently have seven prototypes floating around an office in Switzerland that get plenty of use.
By using Kickstarter, the 14-person team that designed the pillow was able to gauge whether the product could reach a broader audience beyond themselves and their friends. Not unlike a certain blanket-poncho phenomenon, the Ostrich Pillow is quickly winning sleepy fans.
“We probably wouldn’t have designed the Snuggie, but the people who did design the Snuggie identified a need,” Ganjavian said. “The Snuggie is an amazing product. A lot of people love it, and some people loathe it. That’s a mark of great design.”