Several months ago, we found out that a company co-founded by Apple’s former CEO John Sculley and a couple of hardware veterans who make those iPhone-connected glucose meters popular with diabetics were working on some stealth wearable computing concepts. Their company Misfit Wearables raised $7.6 million in a round led by Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures back in April.
Now we’re finally getting a peek at a close-to-finished product.
Called Shine, Misfit Wearables’ first device is a sleek activity tracker that records how much you’re moving like the FitBit or Nike’s Fuelband do.
The form factor is simple and elegant. The Shine is a small, circular disc that’s about the size of a quarter. It has an all-metal, aluminum casing that took the company months to perfect.
The company’s CEO Sonny Vu tells us they actually had to figure out how to micro-drill about 3,000 holes into the Shine to let activity indicator lights shine though.
They’re so small that you can’t see them when the Shine is dormant. But when you tap the device, a small circle of lights around the Shine’s edges will come alive. The closer you get to completing your daily goals, the closer you’ll get to a complete circle of lights. If half of the Shine lights up, then you’re halfway there. The Shine is completely waterproof and can track anything from swimming to biking.
The neatest thing about it is probably how it syncs with the iPhone. (Sorry, no Android yet.) It doesn’t rely on Bluetooth or any physical connectors. You open the company’s app, then put the Shine on your iPhone’s screen and the phone will automagically download the data from the device. Scroll to 0:50 in the video below to see it in action. Vu wouldn’t say how the technology works though, as it’s a proprietary secret the company wants to keep from competitors. It even works when the phone is in airplane mode.
Like many hardware startups that already have funding, Misfit is using a crowdfunding site to draw interest. They’re launching a campaign on Indiegogo today. Kickstarter, the other popular alternative, is reluctant to take health or medical devices. Vu talks about this as the “Lean Hardware” approach, a play on Eric Ries’ “Lean Startup” philosophy, where Misfit will prove consumer demand first through crowdfunding sites before manufacturing a final product.
They’re planning to launch the device early next year for $99. There will also be a wristband accessory that goes for $19 and a leather band for $49. The Shine already comes with a small rubber clip that makes it easy to hook onto belts, shoes or other straps. Vu says there will be an open API for third-party developers to play with data from the Shine.
As for the company itself, it has 30 employees scattered across the world in what is a truly global structure for a company. The industrial design is done in San Francisco and the software is done in Vietnam, where Vu found several talented and U.S.-trained machine-learning experts who relocated to Vietnam.
Vu and his other co-founder Sridhar Iyengar may not be super well-known in Silicon Valley, but their previous company is as legit as it gets. It’s not a consumer web or mobile company that can cheaply acquire users or grow virally. It’s a medical device company called AgaMatrix that Vu and Iyengar built into a $50 to $100 million a year business over a decade. AgaMatrix was the first third-party hardware add-on that Apple approved for the iPhone. It’s a blood glucose meter that diabetics use to manage their insulin levels. Think about it. Years of dealing with the FDA. That’s hardcore.