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Business Observer Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020 1 year ago

Startup creates streaming service to help people fall asleep

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To succeed, Lakewood Ranch-based Restflix will need to build a strong subscriber base.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

The events of recent months have caused many people to spend their nights tossing and turning, getting far too little shut-eye. If there was ever a time to start a business that helps people fall asleep, it’s now.

Enter Restflix, a Lakewood Ranch-based streaming service that offers relaxing, sleep-inducing video content. The company, launched in July, has an app and is available on Google Play, Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV. Users can select specific content or watch more than 20 channels that play calming videos and music.

Courtesy. Restflix users can select specific content or watch more than 20 channels that play calming videos and music 24/7.

Like many business ventures, the origin of the company lies in a problem the entrepreneur behind it experienced. Restflix CEO Kevin Hillman has struggled with sleep, especially amid the pandemic and civil unrest. “Being an African American man and having two sons, seeing it brings anxiety to me, and it didn’t help with sleeping,” he says. Hillman knew he wasn’t alone. “It’s something the market needed — I needed it myself,” he says. “I believe anything you’re going to do, you have to be bought into it and be a user yourself. You want to provide a service or value to people you actually believe in.”

Hillman, 34, says the road to Restflix started when his children’s projector broke. He was going to buy them a new one because it helped them fall asleep. But the stores were closed, so he put on a video he had made. He also started creating videos for himself he watched before going to bed. That gave him an idea for a new subscription service.

After some initial testing on friends, he started acquiring rights to content for Restflix. The company reached out to content aggregators and creators, asking if they were interested in selling the rights. He’s continuing to build a library of relaxing content, adding new videos every week. The content, Hillman says, is a big part of the company’s ongoing expenses. “We’re very picky,” he says. “It has to be exclusive content and content that aligns with the vision of rest.”

‘I believe anything you’re going to do, you have to be bought into it and be a user yourself. You want to provide a service or value to people you actually believe in.’ — Kevin Hillman, Restflix

Restflix users have several viewing options, from calming visuals with music to bedtime stories for children. They can select a specific video that shows the ocean, rain or another subject, or they can watch one of the 20 channels that play content 24/7.

Users also have two subscription options — monthly at $7.99 and annually at $59.99. Subscription fees are how the company plans to make a profit, not through advertising. It wouldn’t be a good experience if someone was half asleep and heard an ad for a used car, Hillman says.

The team of three people working on Restflix has experienced the effectiveness of its calming content even while on the job. Hillman says there have been times when they fell asleep while doing quality assurance. “I’m definitely a big user myself,” he says. His two young boys use Restflix as well.

Along with quality content, another key piece of the puzzle was making sure Restflix was on several platforms. “We wanted it to be available for everyone — whoever needs sleep,” says Hillman. “That’s our goal. We didn’t want to limit it to the Apple App Store.”

Courtesy. Restflix has an app and is available on Google Play, Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV.

Hillman says the company’s soft launch went well, with people converting from a seven-day free trial to paid subscribers at a high rate — around 70%. As the company gains traffic, he doesn’t expect the conversion rate to stay that high, but even if it comes down to 20% or higher, it would still be good.

The challenge is to make sure more people find out about Restflix, which is self-funded with no investors behind it. “I have had a lot of experience with building businesses, especially businesses of my own that don’t have capital behind them,” Hillman says. The key, he says, is to be creative and partner with the right people. He wants Restflix to become a bigger brand — and a household name — and he knows that means spending a significant amount of money on promotion and marketing.

To grow the business, Hillman is drawing on experience gained working at three Sarasota-based companies — internet marketing firm Clickbooth (now Perform[cb]), internet marketing company Revcontent and video syndication and monetization platform Powr. At Powr, he was president. “I know what it takes to get a business off the ground and get it to scale with limited or no capital,” Hillman says.

As he prepares to build on his new brand, Hillman is confident in the technology behind Restflix as well as the content. “The content will only get stronger,” he says. “We have some exciting stuff coming later this year. We’re partnering with big-name celebrities to read bedtime stories. We have a great plan for growth." 

(This article was edited to list the reflect the correct annual subscription price.)

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