Valkee, the bright light headset used to treat mood disorders, has announced it has gained good traction this winter with Seasonal Affectedness Disorder (SAD) sufferers. Just in Finland alone Valkee has gotten into the hands of 10,000 people, which the company conservatively estimates at 1/3 of all the bright light market in Finland. Timo Ahopelto of Lifeline Ventures, a Vigo Accelerator, tells us, “Our year has been really phenomenal, and people have adopted Valkee. In our view, this is based on good user experience: most of Valkee users realize very strong benefit to their wellbeing during the winter months”
Valkee is certified as a CE Class II(a) medical device, and the company has found distribution through their website, where they target the Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, UK, and German markets. Valkee is also sold in Wellbeing stores, like the Life chain, and in the health and beauty departments of stores like Prisma and Stockman. The bright light headset rings in at €185, also making it a nice high-margin product for pharmacies who are facing smaller and smaller profits.
Valkee saw a clinical trial completed in November that strengthened their claims that the brain contains photosensitive proteins that can affect mood. The trial was not a double-blind trial, leading some to question if the placebo affect could better describe the results. On this Ahopelto tells me that people should look at the physical biological activity present when people use Valkee, where medical researchers have witnessed a physiological response in hormones when the special brain cells are activated by bright light.
The company has also conducted a double-blind study involving the Oulun Kärpät, a SM-Liiga hockey team based in Oulu, Finland that will be published around April. They are also conducting a double-blind trail on Valkee’s effect on blood pressure that will begin next winter.
In other news the company has hired Pekka Somerto as CEO, the man who was behind launching Coke in Russia with the Clintons, among other marketing roles at Zed and Nokia. Based on our comments section, some vocal people seem to immediately write off the device as a having no background in medicine or science. I asked him then how he then markets the device, and this is what he responded:
My own thoughts were something like that a year and a half ago when I saw Valkee covered in business press for the first time. Since then, most recently since I was considered for the CEO role, the amount of ground breaking science that I’ve discovered has gone into Valkee during the last 5 years has changed my own perception 180 degrees. I’ve found it incredible how little of the human brain and what goes on in there biologically is known.
But while the science that the Valkee team have done in cooperation with the Oulu University is totally convincing for my logic, it’s the direct, satisfied customer response and stories that have appealed to my heart. The product does what it promises to do, and so I’m keen to be completely open about its performance and expose it also in our marketing. I picture a future where Valkee as the treatment for SAD is demystifying medicine, rather than the medicine mystifying Valkee. And at the pace of happy customers we clearly have, Valkee brand may be on its way to becoming the first consumer brand genuinely built by crowd-sourcing, made of the fiber of real stories in place of a corporate slogan and jingle.