Robert Watson Sweetman II, Founder of Exist Tribe

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

One third of the U.S. is short sleeping. The military is a sleep deprived wreck. Every first world country is in a state of sleep epidemic and poor sleep is linked to all-cause mortality. Robert learned of these tragic facts and dedicated his life to changing these statistics. Since then, he founded Exist Tribe to find technology solutions for sleep health.

As a boy, Robert was athletic, energetic and entrepreneurial. At six years old, he used a gumball machine to start his first business. He set up a card table near the road, brought out a chair and sold each piece of gum for 25¢. At seven years old, he began having dreams of the future through physics and science and envisioned a magnetic railway that would reduce energy consumption and increase speed efficiency. At twelve, he started another business; Robert would climb up to the top of the large oak tree in his yard, pluck sprouts of mistletoe, tie a red bow around the crop, and sell them [individually bagged] during Christmas for $1. In high school, Robert took up wrestling among other sports. He enjoyed pushing himself and competing. Before he left, he has won the state championship in wrestling (twice), all-state in cross country (twice) and received a tri-athlete award [including track & field]. He broke several records which were held until just a few years ago.

Robert “Robbie” selling bubble gum balls near the street at 6 years old, 1987

As a young adult, Robert dropped out of college and started several businesses. Being new to the business world and sharks, he joined a “get rich quick” network marketing business based on “Health Products.” After some time, it was found that the creator of the network marketing pyramid, Rich Von, was under federal indictment for fraud. The business was shut down and Robert lost everything, yet he learned many valuable lessons; mainly what not to do. He tried his hand at Insurance sales, where he and his cousin AJ were able to develop a $13.9M block of insurance business. Following a terrible car accident that lead to the death of AJ, Robert shifted to something new: an entertainment and promotions business. He assisted with a night club, where he came to know every one of the guests by first name. He took special care to make sure people always felt welcome. During this time he build a cash cow business, split between specialty beverage sales and promotions. In time, he sought to leave this business and find something elsewhere. The last place he and AJ had eaten together was a food service business in downtown Atlanta. In honor of his last memory with AJ, Robert started AJ Hot Dogs, the first New York Style hot dog cart business in Greenville, SC. He was featured in the welcome to Greenville commercial with his charming little carts.

At nearly 30 years old, Robert again was looking for a change of pace; something to challenge him physically and mentally. He had been competing in Jiu Jitsu tournaments across the east coast, but this wasn’t enough. He dreamed of leaving business and serving his country in the military. Robert decided he wanted to take a break from civilian life. His dream was to be in special forces and go on secret missions. In 2010, he enlisted in the Navy and within two years, he had made it into the SEAL teams. During his service in the military, he learned all about sleep deprivation and the limits of human existence; something that revealed a widespread existential crisis caused by the modern world. Robert was part of an official government experiment, where he and others were pushed beyond their limits physically and emotionally for nearly a week without sleep. During the first two days, he recalled going through a range of emotions before getting lost somewhere between the waking and dream world. By the third and fourth night, he was seeing hallucinations and forgetting where he was at. With this experience, Robert began to study sleep and human performance. He realized, while in training in Alaska, that it was very difficult to sleep with 24 hour light. He learned that a facemask and earplugs had a significant impact on the ability to sleep. This was intriguing to him.

Robert, Active Duty, Navy SEALs, 2015

Generic Navy SEAL photo, Dragger diving

In 2012, Robert met the love of his life, Mimi Flores. They met while helping mutual friends and hit it off immediately. Robert was taken into the family where he learned a great admiration for their culture. He took her daughter Jimena into his life and began raising her. Robert eventually approached the family and asked permission to marry Mimi. They bought a condo together and were married in 2016. Since then Robert adopted Jimena and had another child, Robert III. They now live happily in their dream home in south San Diego.

Sweetman Family, 2019

Looking to become more well educated, Robert decided to go back to school to finish his bachelor's degree. In 2016, he finished a BA in Organizational Leadership Through an online program at the University of Charleston. Then, before Robert left the SEAL Teams, something very dark occurred that changed the direction of his life forever. Robert observed his friend Ryan [SEAL] suffering from sleep deprivation, combined with alcohol, ambien and stimulants. He noticed Ryan getting more and more stressed. After the Group One Commodore removed the Psychiatrist who was helping many of the SEALs with PTSD and TBI, Ryan went without care. On April 23, 2017, Ryan committed suicide. Robert looked to the SEAL teams to see if this had happened before. It had. He looked to see if this had happened in the Navy. It had. In fact, it turned out that damaged sleep health and sucide were more than an anomaly in the military. Then, later in 2017, two US Navy ships had separate collisions leading to the death of 18 sailors. The cause was found to be sleep deprivation. With this, Robert decided to build a sleep pod that the military could use for “protected sleep.” He submitted 6 proposals to the military ranging from $500K to $2M. None of these proposals were picked up, and so the shift moved toward creating sleep technology for the general public. Robert served in the SEAL teams until 2018 when he was medically retired after an injury and complications with his spine. 

Rendering, Version 1 Military Sleep Pod, 2018

Following the military, Robert decided he wanted to bring sleep technology to the world. He started the company Existential Technologies to do just that. Realizing he needed help, he applied and was accepted into the Rady MBA graduate program at the University of California San Diego. He began research on sleep health around the world and found that many people were progressively suffering from sleep related issues. He authored the paper “A World of Daytime,” which became the foundation of Existential Technologies and the effort to develop sleep technology. The paper talked about how light, sound and temperature impacts sleep and how to control it better to get optimal sleep. He formed a team at the university and began pitching the idea of a sleep pod to the school. Along this journey, they formed Exist Tribe. The Exist Tribe represents concerned individuals who understand the seriousness of sleep health and want to find a solution. Robert won every competition at the school to include the flagship StartR. Robert’s classmates voted him for two our of the five superlatives: “Most Likely to Start a Unicorn Company” and “Best Shoe-in CEO.”

UCSD MBA presentation, (from left) Ross Newman, Dr. Krishnan, Robert, Jasleen Kaur

Governor’s Award, (from left) Mike, Robert, Dave Shepardson

UCSD Chancellor’s residence, (from left) Dave Shepardson, Robert, Jimena, Mimi

UCSD Rady Quick Pitch Contest winners, Robert & Dave

When, Robert finished his MBA, he began pitching Exist Tribe and the sleep technology business to investors. He quickly realized that the technology was too underdeveloped and in order to get investment he would have to give up the company. Rather than give it up, he decided to continue growing the sleep technology organically. The thought was that if he was doing the right thing, the answer would make itself apparent. Letting capital investors change the social impact focus of the company would have crushed the vision, even if it meant Robert could make a lot of money. Robert refocused himself on the original mission of helping people with sleep, yet, he needed to take on full time work to pay his bills. Robert decided to help a small software company realize their dream to scale their company. In the fall of 2019, Robert went to work with Chesapeake Technology. There he learned about the software development lifecycle and how to quality-test products. He is currently the Product Quality Manager for the company as well as the Project Manager for a massive product about to go to market. Since Robert’s time at Chesapeake, Exist Tribe has continued to grow. The group has a dozen core members and hundreds of followers. Over the next year, Exist Tribe will be releasing their first product, the Yoga Sleep Node. This will be a massive milestone for the tribe and will impact many lives. Within the next month the sleep pod body and frame will be ready for production, although it will take another year to prepare that product for market. Never before has anyone built a fully immersive sleep pod that addresses the psychology and neurology of sleep. Once this sleep pod, coined the Yoga Pod, is brought to market, it will change sleep health around the world, and Robert will realize this lifelong mission.

You can reach Robert at He welcomes visitors and inquiries.

Working on the tooling for the sleep pod, Robert lies down

Rendering, the finished Yoga Pod

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