As the world continues to see more and more everyday objects become “hardware” controlled through operating systems and internet connectivity, an ex-Apple engineer called JP Labrosse is hoping to take that principle and combine it with elegant design to transform the prosaic world of office desks.
His company, Stir, is today announcing a seed round of $1.5 million as it begins to roll out its first product, the Stir Kinetic Desk, in earnest. The round was led by Zappos’ founder and CEO Tony Hsieh’s Vegas TechFund and its MD Zach Ware, with participation also from biomedical entrepreneur Josh Makower, John R. Woodard, Richard Klein and several Apple alumni.
Just as Labrosse is not your ordinary founder — before and after his stint as a lead engineer on the iPod at Apple, he started many other companies, and has seen more than one exit — the Stir is not your ordinary work table.
You can use the Stir both as a standing and sitting desk, and it has a special engine built in to adjust its height as it “learns” more about you and decides what the best regime would be for you. The desk tracks how you burn calories and the time spent sitting and standing, and creates what Labrosse describes as “magical moments to change things up” between the two.
Part of the desk’s built-in program is something called Active Mode, in which a button on the front of the desk “invites the user to change position at certain times.”
These are minor adjustments of no more than one inch — the movement is called “Whisperbreath” by the company — and the idea being here that, similar to the Butterfly Effect in chaos theory, these small adjustments, over time, have a large effect on your posture and overall fitness.
Its built-in touchscreen lets users also adjust the desk height manually if you’re not quite ready for your desk to start telling you when to stand up and sit down.
With all the ports you might want for the devices that would sit on top of it, and integrated bluetooth and WiFi, it’s sleek and beautiful as well as functional.
(When I saw the desk for the first time alongside a friend, she remarked on how it could nearly double as a dining table if your place is space-constrained and you work from home.)
Labrosse sees the Stir as part of a longer continuum of the new wave of physical products that can help us live our lives better, “not just data for the sake of it but data that provides value.”
Think here about wristbands that monitor your activity and then report the findings back to apps that can use that data to suggest how many calories you’ve burned, and so on.
“We are focused on this notion of finding ways that technology can really support you without you having to actively manage it,” Labrosse says. This will be the key to mass adoption of products like these, he believes.
The Stir is off to a good business start so far. After a rush of positive reviews from both the worlds of tech and furniture, it sold out its first run at a price of $4,000 per desk, with customers including both individuals as well as enterprises, Labrosse says.
Among the latter group, he tells me that there are Fortune 100 companies piloting the desks, with the idea being that they are working out how the desks could “serve their specific needs and configurations.”
And although Labrosse would not confirm it, you can imagine that Hsieh and his position in Vegas both as the head of Zappos and also as a backer of a number of businesses in the city might also play a role in providing a channel for getting these desks into use.
“Stir is one of those unique investment opportunities where the right team comes together at just the right time to lead a sea-change in a historically slow moving market,” said Jen McCabe, who leads the Nimbus hardware portfolio of the Vegas Tech Fund.
“There is sea change happening and we have surfed to the right place,” is how Labrosse puts it.
Going forward, the new funding will be used to expand production, work on distribution (deals in the pipeline for retailers but nothing to announce yet, Labrosse says) and start to look into more ways of developing the Stir desk’s functionality. Key to the last of these will be how the Stir interacts with more devices like wearables and more and basically hands off data from one device when you arrive at your desk, and then back again as you leave it.
Whether this will involve further hardware is not clear yet, but I hope it will do. I have thing or two I’d like to tell my filing cabinet, if only it would listen to me.