Running On Empty: WakeMate Finds Out What Happens When Partners Break Up

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Something strange happened this week with WakeMate, a Y Combinator-funded project that was a tech world high flyer for a while. The product, a wrist strap that sensed your movement during sleep and ostensibly woke you at exactly the right time, was on hold. In 2010 the product apparently burst into flames (literally) and little was heard from the company at all.

Suddenly, however, co-founder Greg Nemeth began approaching media to write about a new WakeMate project. He wrote in an email:

The next iteration of the WakeMate technology is going to be re-branded as a product called MiLife+. MiLife+ will take the WakeMate technology beyond just sleep and incorporate exercise/activity and diet as well. MiLife+ also has undergone a complete industrial design overhaul and is much smaller than the previous iteration. The product is now encased in a silicon wristband similar to a Livingstrong band and is about the 1.5X the size of a Livestrong band. We actually like to think of it as a “smart Livestrong band”. :)MiLife+ differentiates itself from the other products in the space (Zeo, Lark, Fitbit, Nike+, Jawbone UP) in a few key ways:
1) It is the only product to work wirelessly with both Apple and android smartphones/tablets
2) It tracks and syncs the data automatically so the user never even has to think about it or manually input data
3) It sends updates to your phone in real-time as your day/body change

Nemeth also used the WakeMate Twitter account and email address to send word of a new project.

Over the next few days, Nemeth began talking about a Kickstarter project and then quickly moved the project to Indiegogo where it launched as a Three Thirds project (not to be confused with the name of the original company, Perfect Third).

Then all heck broke loose. Nemeth apparently wasn’t  authorized to use the WakeMate list or the Twitter feed. People donated $37,000 to the cause in the expectation that WakeMate was behind another cool product. A little buzz built up but folks were confused: the email was riddled with typos and there was no mention of the product on the WakeMate site.

It transpired that none of this was WakeMate-sanctioned. Nemeth meant it to be a WakeMate product, but apparently his co-founder Arun Gupta didn’t get the memo.

“I intended on MiLife+ being affiliated with WakeMate but I did not communicate that to the people at WakeMate,” said Nemeth. “It was a mistake on my part. MiLife+ has been cancelled.”

Gupta, for his part, knew nothing of the product until everyone else did.

“I did not know anything about MiLife+ until yesterday afternoon,” he said. He wrote on the Wakemate blog:

“I poured my heart and soul into this company and though we stumbled along the way I believe that we provided something of value to our customers. However, as many of you have guessed, we have exhausted our capital and will no longer be making any more WakeMates.
Currently our plan is to keep the service going while we work on open sourcing the technology. Hopefully this will ensure that you can continue to enjoy the product and its benefits even after the company no longer exists.”

In short, Nemeth went ahead and used Wakemate resources, meager as they might be, to pitch a new product. Lack of communication, a potentially unamicable split, and lack of social media controls all led to a perfect storm of product disappointment.

“Using the list was a mistake and the list has been deleted. Arun did not know,” said Nemeth.

WakeMate is no longer selling product and Gupta now controls the Twitter feed. Both parties are saying very little.

“The company still exists as we are keeping the product running and service up while we work on open sourcing the technology. No new features will be added to the WakeMate product,” said Gupta.

“This was an unfortunate situation but it has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Hopefully we can just put this behind us,” he said.

[Image: Juan Nel/Shutterstock]