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Gauri Nanda '05

Clocky’s inventor builds a business.

For a woman who does not like her sleep interrupted, building a career on the business of waking others might seem ironic, but for Gauri Nanda ‘05, it makes perfect sense.

“I try to design things based on a common need,” says Nanda, who was looking for a project for an MIT Media Lab class when she hit on the idea of developing a wake-up call more effective and fun than loud beeping or radio commercials. With that in mind, she designed Clocky–a robotic, two-wheeled alarm clock that runs and hides when the snooze button is pushed, forcing the sleeper out of bed to find it. Some bloggers found it on the class website, and word of her invention quickly spread online and in the news media. (See “Oversleeper’s Aid,” August 2005.)

Nanda launched Boston-based Nanda Home with a little help from the MIT Venture Mentoring Service, an entrepreneurial support program for students and alumni, plus family funding and her own extensive research to find a manufacturer. Clocky hit store shelves in December 2006 and Nanda expected 100,000 to sell by the end of the 2007, both through and boutiques like the Sharper Image and Urban Outfitters.

This past summer, Inc. magazine did a cover story on Nanda and Clocky. The attention has been good for sales, she says, but she was not surprised that the idea resonated with the public. “A lot of people have trouble waking up in the morning. It has a huge market,” she explains. And for $50, buyers get both an alarm clock and “a sort of pet,” she says with a laugh.

Nanda is now working on updating Clocky and expanding her product offerings, which include a fashionable tote with a laptop pouch as an alternative to the standard-issue black laptop bag. “There is a pretty basic need for something a little more stylish and comfortable,” she explains.

Between handling thousands of orders, designing new products, and marketing, Nanda found the past year hectic. She’s hoping to outsource more in 2008 so she can focus on new-product design. In what little free time she has, Nanda enjoys traveling, reading, and occasionally even relaxing.