Make It

Sleep that makes 'Sense': The young CEO who built a $250 million dream

James Proud, founder and CEO of Hello, wants to make sure you get a good night's sleep.

The 25-year-old wunderkind has built a company valued at about $250 million around a voice-activated device called Sense. About the size of a tennis ball, Sense is placed on your bedside table, and works with a quarter-sized tracking pill that clips to your pillow.

"It's your alarm clock. It's meditative sounds to help you fall asleep like rainfall and white noise. But it's also tracking your sleep," Proud told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Friday.

"All these sensors are looking at everything in the environment, light sound, temperature. All of the things that affect your sleep, humidity as well," explained Proud, who said he taught himself to code when he was 9 years old.

Sense can also connect to smart homethermostats to automatically adjust temperatures as you sleep and wake up, he added.

"It's [as] if you have something on your wrist, but instead it's on the pillow," he explained. "When you put your head on your pillow, it starts tracking."

Proud, who appeared on the January 2017 cover of Forbes, was part of the inaugural class of The Thiel Fellowship.

Founded in 2011 by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, the two-year program offers young entrepreneurs $100,000 to skip or drop out of college to pursue their dreams. The Fellowship said it does not take any ownership stake in the projects.

Proud was the first fellow to exit a company, selling in 2012 Giglocator, a concert-tracking website he started when he was 17.

He subsequently founded Hello, originally with a vision of making a better activity-tracker, which turned to the sleep space. In 2014, Hello launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $100,000 — and made $2.4 million in a month.

The Forbes profile said Proud has since raised about $40 million for his startup, which has an estimated $250 million valuation. He owns about half of Hello.

In the bigger picture, Proud told CNBC he sees his products helping people live healthier and more productive lifestyles.

With all the talk about how to make health-care less expensive, he said, "I think there's a huge conversation being missed around preventative" medicine, he argued. "It's a lot cheaper to prevent being sick."