Wearable computing is the way of the future, and fitness buffs and the investment community are beginning to take notice.
US-based company Misfit Wearables are producers of the Misfit Shine, is a sleek, all-metal activity monitor designed to be worn anywhere on the body, and for any occasion. The Shine integrates seamlessly - and discreetly - into users’ lifestyles and wardrobes.
When the company launched in 2011, wearable computing had yet to crack the mainstream. Just over a year later, it was the talk of the town in Las Vegas at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, an annual summit of tech tastemakers.
“We didn’t start the company to make Shine… it was a pivot,” recalled co-founder and CEO Sonny Vu, who said Misfit’s primary product has yet to be released. “We saw how well others in the space were doing and knew we could do better.”
Their first challenge was to design wearable devices that were more, well, wearable. They wanted to introduce a degree of style and cachet to a category defined by gadgets made of mostly plastic and rubber.
“People, especially women, don’t want to wear dorky stuff,” Sonny said. “We knew we needed to focus on wearability, which includes everything from selecting the right materials to designing and making something people can and want to wear without feeling self-conscious.”
Misfit’s answer, Shine, is made from durable, aircraft-grade aluminum and is about the size of a twenty-cent piece. Users can wirelessly sync the water-resistant device, which is powered by a standard coin-cell battery that lasts up to six months, to its companion iPhone or Android app by simply laying it on their smartphone screen.
We Knew They Had Something Special
By early 2013, the buzz surrounding wearable technology caught the attention of The Coca-Cola Company’s Strategic Marketing Ventures team, which invests in high-potential startups aligned with Coke’s core business, like Spotify.
Fitness bands and other activity monitors motivate people to be more active - a key priority for Coke - by letting users set personal goals and track everything from steps taken, to calories burned, to sleep.
Bachir Zeroual, global director of marketing ventures, flew to Silicon Valley in California with a few Coke colleagues to meet the industry’s key players, including a small startup by the name of Misfit.
“We were searching for an address south of San Francisco, when we arrived at a small townhouse,” Bachir recalled. “It was exactly what you picture when you think of a tech startup. Their head of design came to the door in shorts and a t-shirt and took us back to the garage, where he walked us through their story.”
Misfit didn’t even have a working prototype of the Shine at the time, but the Coke team saw potential. “We left with a good intuition,” Bachir added. “We knew they had something special.”
When considering potential partners, Coke focuses on three Ps: People, Products and Purpose. Misfit had all three.
Bachir was drawn to the company’s attention to craftsmanship and creating consumer experiences. The company also had a few rounds of capital under its belt and had just wrapped up a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign, raising more than $800,000 from nearly 8,000 people in 64 countries. The Shine had a built-in clientele months before going into production.
“This told us that from a technology perspective, they’re solid,” Bachir added. “And their long-term vision to inspire people to be more active by equipping them with the right technology aligned with ours.”
Sonny agreed to visit Coke’s headquarters to meet his prospective partners. After just a few hours in Atlanta, he was sold.
“I had a really good feeling,” he said. “I could see that Coke was a good company with solid values. I toured the archives and was wow-ed… I soaked it all up and eventually said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ And it’s been an amazing partnership ever since.”
“To be truly wearable, a device needs to be so beautiful people would wear it even if it didn’t work - and we think Shine fits that bill - or it needs to be invisible,” Sonny concluded. “We’re not there yet… but we’re just getting started.”
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