We live in a data-driven world — one where, if you care about your personal fitness, you are most likely tracking it. It wasn’t long ago that the use of pedometers, heart rate monitors and calorie counters was reserved for the borderline obs
essive. Devices such as the Nike FuelBand, Adidas miCoach and FitBit have helped simplify the use of this functionality, but they have also changed the way we approach fitness. Today, to be fit is to be data-obsessed. Working out without data just seems…primitive.
Sonny Yu, CEO and co-founder of Redwood City, Calif.-based startup Misfit Wearables, couldn’t agree more. He and his business partners found themselves fascinated by these devices. Sensing opportunity, they decided to make their own– with some notable updates.
“We watched how FuelBand and FitBit were killing it,” he said. “We thought, ‘We should do this stuff.’ All the other products just track steps. What if you’re swimming or cycling? You should get more credit.”
The product, the Misfit Shine, is an elegant aluminum disc that tracks activity and syncs with your smartphone without the use of wires. With nary a rubberized extrusion or brightly-colored part (indicating it’s for “sport”), the Shine represents the logical next step in fitness electronics: a data-driven device that’s as fashionable on the outside as it is geeky on the inside.
With a successful crowd-funding round on Indiegogo ($100,000 goal; almost $200,000 raised so far), the Shine has had somewhat of a cozy, well-planned birth compared to similar startups. But it’s by design: the seasoned entrepreneurs have done everything they could to make Misfit’s coming out party go as smoothly as possible.
Yu left his Ph.D program in Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (where he studied under Noam Chomsky) to start his own software company. Before long, Yu diversified into hardware with a second startup company, Agamatrix, a pioneering mobile health company known for making the first glucose meter for Apple’s iPhone. In the last 10 years, Agamatrix has amassed a value of some $300 million, an impressive figure for Yu and his business partner Sridhar Iyengar.
Enter John Sculley, formerly of Apple and PepsiCo, who met Yu at a dinner and received an impromptu product demonstration. The two hit it off, kept in touch for a year and, after throwing around some ideas, founded a company together. Yu left Agamatrix to pilot Misfit in October 2011; Iyengar kept his stake in the old company and took another in the new company. The new company would focus on a product to be worn, and the partners eventually settled on a high-design fitness tracker that could take swimming and biking into account as easily as running.