LEHI — Owlet Baby Care, a nursery tech company originally started in a garage in Provo, made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday after going public through a merger.
Earlier this week, Owlet announced and closed a merger with Sanbridge Acquisition Corporation, a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company, in a deal that values the equity of the combined entity at about $1.4 billion and provides Owlet with $135 million to expand its product line and global reach. The joint company has been renamed "Owlet, Inc." and has begun trading under the OWLT ticker symbol.
The stock opened at $8.95 per share. By the end of the day, the stock price had risen to $9.10 with an average of $9.38. On July 26, Owlet leadership will celebrate by ringing the opening bell on the NYSE floor.
Owlet uses technology and data to create a connected and accessible nursery for babies and gives parents real-time updates and insights on their baby's health. Its products include the third generation Owlet Smart Sock, the Owlet Cam, a smart HD video baby monitor, the Dream Lab sleep guide, and the Owlet Pregnancy Band — a band still in beta testing to monitor unborn babies' vitals.
Going from college students in a garage to trading on the New York Stock Exchange within five years has required significant adaptability and some growing pains and stretch marks.
"We got told 'no' time and time again by Utah investors and investors abroad," Owlet CEO Kurt Workman said. "Every investor looked at us like we were crazy — just a team of bumpkins from Provo."
The ones that did take a chance on the company were even more appreciated because of that rejection elsewhere. Pelion and Peak Ventures are local investors who have been supportive of Owlet since day one.
Like most innovative efforts, the device and the company were born from necessity in 2012. At the time, Workman and his wife, Shea, were planning on starting a family. But Shea Workman has a congenital heart defect that caused her to stop breathing and be taken to the hospital. She had two more cardiac surgeries. On the Workman side of the family, there was a history of child loss to sudden infant death syndrome.
Workman's aunt had just given birth to premature twins, and he saw the toll that stress took on her. He wanted to create a device that would help create peace of mind for parents, including his own family. He thought of the tech typically used on patients' fingers in the hospitals to allow doctors and nurses to monitor their patients even while they are away and applied that to babies and parents, and that led to the Smart Sock, now used on over 1 million babies.
The device uses pulse oximetry — a noninvasive method of measuring the saturation of hemoglobin in the blood — to monitor the heart rate and blood-oxygen levels and sleep trends of babies as they sleep and alert parents of any changes through an app notification so they can help their child.
"Twenty-eight thousand babies pass away unexpectedly between the last half of pregnancy and the first year of life," he said. "One commonality is that parents are away. This would allow them to be there in the moment they need them because the baby doesn't have a voice."
Soon his classmates at BYU — Jordan Monroe, Zack Bomsta, Jake Colvin and Tanor Hodges, who all had newborns or babies on the way — joined him to create a company that could stay up all night with babies so parents didn't have to, which is how they settled on the name Owlet, a nocturnal animal that could watch over the children.
Now 28.5% of Utah babies leave with an Owlet Smart Sock, and they have used the data to create the largest data set of infant health that has ever been collected.
When asked what the secret to his success is, Workman cites "the good people that were brought in on along the way." When your company has a real purpose and a mission, then you can hire real, quality people, he added.
"We were also successful because it wasn't until the product was truly great that we sent it out," he said. "We went through 14 iterations of the product before shipping."
All three of Workman's kids have used Owlet's products. One time when he was sleep training his youngest son, River, the baby finally stopped crying after two hours and the Smart Sock alarm went off. Workman found his baby laying face directly into the mattress with low air supply. He was able to roll him over, and the baby gasped and kept sleeping. Maybe he would have rolled over on his own, but maybe he wouldn't have. But his father was able to be there to prevent the worst-case scenario.
Owlet has received close to 500 similar stories from parents who were alerted and able to help their babies.
"We believe the number of babies that pass away while sleeping should be zero," Workman said.
But the benefits aren't just for the babies. Owlet has published data that shows that 96% of parents report less anxiety while using the Owlet, and 94% report better sleep.
"Every night, I get up and check the doors. I check the kids. I check everything. It's that moment before my head hits the pillow that I think, 'Is there anything else?' And then that's when Owlet comes into play, and I can fall asleep," Workman said.