When everyone around you seems to be failing and the world is depressing, do you give up or keep going?
John “Ivo” Stivoric founded his company, BodyMedia, before the 1999 .com crash. BodyMedia is a pioneer in wearable computers, and is often mentioned as a catalyst for the movement.
John took the company from $270,000 in debt, to a reported $100 million sale to Jawbone in April 2013.
He grew the company by doing field-usability testing with the U.S marines, and landing partnerships that got his product in national fitness chains, Walgreens, Best Buy, Target, Amazon, etc.
Watch the interview to learn how.
John "Ivo" Stivoric, BodyMedia
John “Ivo” Stivoric is the CTO and Co-founder of BodyMedia which is an on-body monitoring system that records information about your body.
Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner and I’m the founder of mixergy.com – home of the ambitious upstart. And home of the guy that takes your feedback very seriously. I remember you guys are telling me that I need to raise my volume. So I’ll get the mic really close to me today. And I want to start off by asking you, honestly, when things fell around you, when the world feels depressing, at that point, do you instinctively give up? Or do you instinctively fight?
We’re going to find out in this interview how today’s interviewee fought. And I should tell you that this interview is sponsored by Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. I’m going to hold up his mug during this interview. But I’ll tell you more about him later. Now I want to tell you about the interviewee.
Today’s guest is John Stivoric. He is the founder of Body Media, makers of a wearable device that monitors your body. He founded the company back in 1999 just before the .com crash. Despite going through some challenging years – where every tech company seemed to collapse around us – he grew his business and sold it to Jawbone. I’ll tell you later what I think the company sold for. I think you’ll be shocked and surprised and inspired. But, for now, I want to get to know the man, [Evo?].
Andrew: Can I call you [Evo?]?
John: Absolutely. That’s what everyone else does.
Andrew: Thanks for coming here doing this interview.
John: Thanks for having us.
Andrew: You are a first generation Croatian. Do you remember any of the differences between you and other kids when you grew up here in the U. S.?
John: [chuckles] There’s a couple things. I think first thing is English wasn’t my first language. So it wasn’t until I started going to school that I actually started picking up the English language. [??] my mom would keep it going for a while. And every time I go outside and play with the kids, come back in the house, she would tell me that, no, I have to translate for her.
Then one day finally I saw her talking to a neighbor woman in English, and realized that it’s unfortunate for me. That’s the day that stopped really picking up the intricacies of the language. Even though it’s wasn’t my first language, unfortunately, the way I’ve taken the language is not to the form that I could talk politics to everybody on the street [?]. For me, there was a lot of being a part of cultural events and traditions has been a big part.
Andrew: Did you want to be a part of cultural events? Or did you feel out of place because all the other kids weren’t doing it?
John: No. It was just part of the way we grew up. My dad was really well connected in the Croatian community across the nation and North America actually. He had a special role with fraternal benefit society call the Croatian Union. And that allowed us to kind of meet people from all over the country and travel and so forth.
But more specifically being part of folk dance group since I was five, six years of age. And continue to do today in adult groups actually – is something that allowed us to meet a lot of different people. But also kind of tied back through a lot of traditions that ancestors had and the hard work that they did and the songs, and where they found joy in life. Even though things sometimes could get pretty hard. It taught you a lot about work ethic and lot of stuff. If you keep persistent on things
Andrew: What do you mean? How does folk dancing help you to understand the need to stay persistent?
John: In the songs that we sing and the dances that we do and the instruments that we play, there’s always a story involved. Not too different than a lot stories you here in Country music here in America. In these stories you sometimes hear about people having a tough life. But mostly hear about them celebrating after a day at work. Being part of family, being part of a community, doing things together – that makes it really positive. So, you’re not alone in life. Not everything has to be given to you on a silver platter. You can work your way through some pretty important opportunities.
What was interesting was that when we sing together it’s we knew the stories. But also, we built our own relationships and friendships here in the states – North America, Canada and so forth. When we get together and sing these songs even as adults now, there’s all this remembering going on. You just drop everything and it’s all about we’re doing together here right now.
And what we just did on stage together – the teamwork of that and the effort it takes to get back on stage…a little bit connected, right? Performance always has that to it. But also with stories. That new follow- up with your parents or grandparents and relatives about what growing up was like, and, you know, these great stories that come from that, and you just kind of . . .
Andrew: What a contrast with Top 40 music or hip-hop, or . . . right?
John: Yeah. Yeah. I’m really bad at singing American tunes, which my kids and my wife were . . .
Andrew: Plus, the message is the opposite. The message is “have fun and forget work,” right? And so when you were a kid . . . I’m seeing a person who became the CTO of BodyMedia, a person who’s an entrepreneur. When you were a kid, did you express either of those? Either the technical side, where you just had to tinker, or the entrepreneurial side, where you felt like you just kept coming up with business ideas, and tried maybe even selling some of them? Did either side express itself early?
John: Yeah. So I wasn’t a lemonade stand kind of guy, or kid. Albeit we probably did those a few times with my sister, and so forth. I think mainly a couple different things. Definitely always tinkering in the shop with my dad, building stuff from scraps. Three-dimensionally was a little bit more my style. I was a flashlight boy in many ways, too. My dad was always fixing things and doing things around the house, but I was the one holding the flashlight, or holding it for him. So learning how to sponge things up, maybe, was an element of that.
I also was an artist through grade school, middle school. And so that was a very inventive nature, too, right? You have to kind of come up with compositions and explorations, you experiment with different media, and so forth. So, you know, that was something that I thought was . . . even though I had this kind of technical understanding with physics and math and science, it was pretty, like . . . the art side was always kind of where my passion was. And it was pretty interesting for me to be . . . that would be where I would say I was tinkering. I was always tinkering with art stuff.
Andrew: With art.
John: And I had a pretty successful high school career in art, with national awards and so forth.
Andrew: You started out working at a medical device company, or a couple of them. Why was that the first step for you?
John: So let me correct that for a second.
John: So what I started off doing . . . BodyMedia ended up being a medical device company in the end. What I was doing before that was I ended up when I graduated . . . when I was in college at Carnegie-Mellon University, I ended up interning at a lab that was doing a wearable computer. And we were doing things like . . . at that time, there was a lot of imagery going out there for cyborgs, head-worn displays, all this kind of stuff going on. And what we were working on were these head-worn displays with speech recognition and new interactions for people doing maintenance manufacturing inspection. More like kind of a blue collar side of the . . .
Andrew: Oh, I see.
John: And so a lot of work in wearable computing for years. And when I was doing the internship, it suddenly turned into something like, wow, this is really bringing in design, project management, multi-disciplinary. You had computer scientists. You had mechanical engineers. You had electrical engineers. We were kind of looking at electronics [inaudible 03:22], because, you know, you had to kind of move them around, kind of put them on the body in ways that people could wear them all day long. We were looking at different interaction opportunities and so forth.
And during that time, before I graduated, as I was looking at other opportunities, I was looking at . . . I wanted to do something, but I wasn’t going to become a doctor. I wanted to do something that would help people.
John: And so I was looking at different medical device companies. But in the end, what I saw was this future of learning how to build things in this collaborative environment so that as a designer or as a lead in technology development, I wasn’t kind of building things or thinking about things that couldn’t be made, or I understood how to kind of break through thresholds to make them.
So what I was . . . as I was making these decisions, had these different opportunities, I decided to stay on at Carnegie-Mellon and kind of create my own role there with some great mentors that I had there. Professor Dan Seleric [sp], there. Dr. Dick Martin. And the leads of several research groups that were there when we were at the Engineering Design Research Center, and also the Institute for Complex Engineering Systems. So we had this whole wearable computer lab. Had a chance to kind of create a new studio there, and lead out these programs with these mentors.
John: And so I always had this idea that at some point, helping people in this more medical form would come around. But at first, it was like, what an opportunity to be doing these really advanced research things 10 years out, kind of stuff. Some of it getting commercialized or potentially commercialized with the partners we had. It wasn’t just the typical types of funding that go into research. We had a lot of [??] function.
Andrew: One of the things that stood out for me as I was looking at the research is that you weren’t just in a lab. You were the kind of person who thought about, as you said, what does it feel like to wear these wearable devices. But also, you went out into the street. What were you doing when you were out talking to people in the street?
John: Yeah, so when we were doing things with Carnegie-Mellon, the biggest thing that was happening in our programs was we convinced everybody that we needed to be out in the field with people who would be using these things. So whether it was someone in a Boeing plane, or whether it was a Marine at Camp Pendleton, or if it was somebody at a US Airways maintenance hangar, we would be out there. We’d understand and, you know, get into the mode of what they have to do, understand what friction they had in their life, and why . . . instead of pushing this technology on people, how it actually could effect. You know, help.
And you learn things like, you know, if you did the interaction right, and kind of created these interesting modes of operation. For example, we created a dial that would go through menu items well before an iPod ever showed up, and we were able to go in front of Marines that had never seen a computer mouse at that time, and in five minutes of training show them how to use a system with a head harness. Very futuristic.
John: And they were able to do tasks that were four, five, six hours in, like, 61, 71 minutes. And then the entire interconnect of things, with . . . now, instead of having to do more paperwork and order things, everything was kind of automated.
John: So it just . . . there was a lot of ROI that happened down the stream. And so in doing these kind of in the field kind of stuff, which was always valuable as a designer . . . because that’s where I come from. An industrial design background. But bringing a whole team together and moving technology towards those needs, you just kind of started learning. You always have to get back with people, and you always have to get back with people in the situations and context of their lives.
And so as I was doing a bunch of work in wearable computing, you go to people on the . . . you know, you talk to people at parties, you talk to people on the streets, you talk to people in more consumery-type applications versus these more industrial, commercial settings, and you tell them that you do wearable computing. And they’d say, “Wow, that’s kind of cool.” But then they scratch their head and go, “Well, what would I use that for in my life?”
I see things are changing now. I mean, 20 years later, or, you know, 15 years later, you have Google Glass, and a bunch of stuff happening in wearables, so people are considering it differently. But at that point, it was just really, really early. And maybe we’re still early in some ways. I think what we’ve not- . . .
But then when you started thinking about, like, merging the ideas of, if we took these sensors that are kind of away from the body and turned them around and put them towards the body, and started thinking about multi- sensing wearable computing in a wearable body monitoring sense, instead of thinking about it in this kind of head-worn display commercial thing, how would people respond to that?
And so when you talked to those same people and said, “Oh, I do wearable body monitoring,” they go, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And they can see how that could fit into their lives. Now, maybe not exactly their lives. Maybe my aunt who’s got diabetes, or something like that, they would have these kind of dialogues.
Andrew: I see. So you’re saying that all these conversations with real people showed you how to . . . what to even create. You were thinking more externally. Have a wearable device that will allow you to analyze the world around you. And people didn’t care about it. When you started talking about internally, they did care about it. Let me get, let me measure my heart rate. Let me measure what’s going on with my body. Or, as we discover soon, my activity.
John: And I think there wasn’t a lot of good platforms or examples out there as to what that would mean at that time.
John: 15 years ago, when we started BodyMedia, 14 years ago, or when we were thinking about it. I think what they did understand was if put in the right way, there should be something valuable to me, because I don’t see any of that information today. Unless I go to the hospital, or unless I’m a professional athlete, I never see this kind of data about my body. And so . . . but they see people when they’re sick, that this information could be very valuable. And so there seemed to be a bridge there, but how to put it together in a way was important.
Andrew: One of the form factors that you were considering was a T-shirt with electrodes on it. Why didn’t that work? When I think about that, it seems to make a lot of sense. The T-shirt’s really close to my body. I don’t have to show it off to other people, which means that even if the technology is a little bit crude, it still is okay. I still have all the data. Why didn’t that work? It seemed perfect.
John: Yeah. So early in our development of BodyMedia, a lot of . . . we had talked to a lot of . . . started in the medical community, more institutional kind of based. Hospitals, doctors, that kind of stuff. And a lot of people would say, you know, the number one organ in the body is the heart. You’ve got to understand it. And yet you need these clinicians to put anything on. You can’t really put anything out there for people.
So what we did was we started with a design that would kind of show that we could flex our muscles a little bit. We had done a lot of mapping of the human body.
John: Figuring out how to get the things on the body in ways that would be very comfortable all day. And then we started working on electronics that would adjust to the individual. We took on the approach of the multi-BVCG machine to say, instead of all these wires all over everybody, what happens if it’s just a vest? Zip it up. It turns on. It goes on body. No stickies, nothing. It works. We wanted it with a little bit of electronics around it and just figuring out what that would be.
It was mostly an exercise to show that we could even take the most complicated medical device idea out there, which usually is done in the lab, and make that something that could go out into the free living environment, people’s homes and so forth. But in the end, it was never our intent to do that as a product. It was more there to show what could be possible and what wearables could be possible. Shirts of wearable computing in that way was very media friendly, but in the end, when you talk to people, you start realizing that everyone has a different shirt everyday.
Andrew: I see. So the media wants to cover the shirts. The people want to wear what you ended up creating which was the armband.
John: Yeah, more of an accessory that can be part of any clothing that you’re wearing. In this sense, the upper arm that we wore the armband on and found that place, was a place that we could pack more stuff into it versus like a ring or something on a wrist.
Andrew: On a wrist I’m not willing to carry a big device. I want it to be smaller. On my upper arm I can carry something big. What did the original device do?
John: So it’s not too different than what BodyMedia did all its lifetime, actually, and continues today. It was a multi-sensored device. It had at that time two [??] of motion. It had skin temperature. It had [??] skin response or conductivity to the skin. So in worst case that’s a sweatometer. In other cases it shows some emotional arousal levels of the body [??] and so forth. And we had the rate of heat coming off the body.
And the first one actually had a receiver in there to take on polar chest graphs or [??] chest graph monitors that would get heart rate for like when people are active. People had already kind of built that. What they hadn’t built was a system that would…and the reason why all those sensors exist and why we chose those sensors was, we were looking to do a lifestyle monitor that would work and give you inputs and outputs about yourself all day long.
So we wanted something that would work at sleep. Something that would work at intensity and high exercise levels, that would pick up these little activities and energy expenditures that are happening when you’re like folding clothes and doing yard work and so forth.
We weren’t trying to be an exercise company. We weren’t trying to be a sleep company. We were trying to be a lifestyle device that people could use for all the different things that were happening and balance their lifestyle that way. And also do things like energy expenditure, which is very abstract and people have no good way of collecting and not replace what else was out in the world. Something that would kind of fill a need and a gap in the middle there.
So we found a location on our body that those sensors could work pretty well. We found which sensors would, in an inexpensive way, give us enough of a multidimensional view so that we could disambiguate these signals and pull them together in a way that we can make these derived statements of your body. When you went to sleep, how long you laid down. What your physical activity minutes were. What your energy expenditure was. That can be used for a lot of different things. You can talk to doctors.
In that earlier stuff when we were doing talking to doctors, we found out that lifestyle is a big thing around diabetes and around cardiac concerns and around sleep concerns. We felt like we were building a foundational element, the Lego block, into this kind of healthcare system that was just missing. Again, a lot of times there’s these diagnostics that went on, but there’s no dashboards for me and the rest of us who did have clinical degrees to understand what was going on.
Andrew: Was it hard to get investors to back you?
John: You know, we had a consulting firm that we had started. It was a spin off from Carnegie-Mellon initially with their support called Sandbox Advanced Development. Very quickly we turned it into a pretty fast growing company in consultancy. We worked with a lot of multinational events and projects, kind of taking what they had in research labs and mapping it to human needs and then creating a new product definition around that.
What happened was, we were able to get successful enough quickly with the idea that we’d always had our product service company. Now if you’re talking to anybody, especially people who are in the business side of things, they would say if you’re a consultant firm, you’ll never turn off the faucet. But we always wanted to do a product services company. We just didn’t know which one.
Andrew: Why were you able to? The faucet meaning the client work.
John: The client work wasn’t coming in because when you go entrepreneurial, you’re going to go all on product and all on investment. Maybe your own dollars totally sacrificed and invested into the opportunity. So from our perspective, we used Sandbox as an incubator. We did work for other companies, but we also had more roads dedicated to concepts that we might spin out ourselves.
Andrew: I see.
John: The one that grew the most and the fastest and we got most excited about is something that one day what is called BodyMedia. Once we were seeing all this investing going on, we started it. We finally incorporated it in ’99. A lot of investment dollars going around the world, really. We said, now is the moment. If we’re going to get any investment dollars, now’s the moment. It’s in a disruptive area, health care.
You know, at that time, WebMD, the biggest health search . . . the biggest search that was happening on the web was health-related. So we felt like . . . but it’s, like, not personalized. So we had a way to personalize it, we thought. And here’s the business model, here’s the opportunity. Let’s go try to make our own health portal and see what can happen.
And so we took our own dollars that we had profited from, used that as the initial seed funding, so to speak.
Andrew: And then the investors . . .
John: That allowed us some runway, so that we could get up enough of a store, enough prototypes, and so forth, that we could show investors. And luckily, we attracted a local company here in Pittsburgh, Draper Triangle, that is a satellite of Draper Fisher Germansen. And they had as a lead there, he was a well-known biomedical engineer.
And he just, I think he saw a glimmer of himself in us when we were . . . even though we were kind of this hodgepodge team, had not run businesses before, and so forth, there were four founders, all from slightly different backgrounds. And I think he just believed, after we talked to so many people, heard so many notes, they believed we were onto something, and that health care should change, and that it should change at a consumerism level.
And so Draper came in as an initial funder. And then from there we had a whole bunch of others over the years come into the family.
Andrew: You said “consumer-level.” I want to ask you in a moment about your vision, which was to go directly to consumers, and the reality of what happened when you did that. But first, since you mentioned this is the time when you incorporated, I want to mention my sponsor, Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law.
If you need a lawyer as a start-up, you want someone who is affordable, who doesn’t want to take a big chunk of your business, but at the same time actually understands the start-up community, understands that at some point you’re going to maybe want to give options to your employees, maybe at some point you’re going to want to raise money, maybe at some point you’re going to want to sell.
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And what’s great about Scott is that he’s up for experimenting, because, you know, start-ups experiment. And so he allowed me to try this mug advertising, which has been going very well. I’m revolutionizing it. I hear actually CNN is going to be killing all commercials and switching directly to mug advertising. Every few minutes, they’ll bring another mug over. But until that happens, I am the lone innovator in mug-based advertising, thanks to Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law.
You heard it here first, people. What do you think of that, even? This mug advertising?
John: I love new ideas, and I love mugs. You know, I think it stays in the flow of what we’re trying to do.
Andrew: Thank you. You wanted to go directly to consumer. What did you mean by that when you envisioned it? What was your vision for it?
John: Well, you know, a lot of . . . you know, there were a lot of IPOs and stuff at Edward. There was, like, direct-to-consumer business, make these portals and people will come, right? So our idea was we’d make the only true personalized portal, because instead of selecting radio switches and preferences, you would actually know what the person was doing every day, and you could kind of feed it information based on what was reported themselves . . .
John: . . . but also content and so forth. So we thought, you know, bring the money in, we’ll put as much a team together as we can to go get a website running, get analytics up and running from these sensors, get these wearables in a mass-producable way, and we’ll start to tell the world about it through PR and through some marketing relationships with even some maybe insurance providers, and they’ll just flock to our website, and we’re up and running.
And that was a great direction, because it made us really think about simplicity and being a consumer product, versus being a medical product or institutional product.
John: Or clinically oriented, like with some clinical [??] behind it, I think. But the reality was that we did not have a distribution, we did not have enough cash, so to speak, and other means to get the word out in such a broad way that it would actually bring people together. I think it was also that it was very early. You know, people were still trying to . . . awareness is one thing, but also, once you have the awareness, like, what would I do with this in my life? I didn’t even think it was possible. That’s going to take some time.
So we had to kind of switch gears, especially once we launched, it was right when other events are happening, like the bubble burst. And so a lot of gears had to switch.
Andrew: I want to ask you about that in a moment. But first, it was also a time when . . . I remember interviewing Tony Shea, and in researching him, seeing that there was a time when people didn’t feel comfortable even buying shoes online, and they know what shoes are like right? And here, you were coming out with this new product.
Your website at the time, one of the things that you featured was new clinical study results. You had names of people without the last names. You had first name last initial of people who went through this program. You talked about the methodology. You talked about the results and weight loss that they had because they had BodyMedia.
Was it also a matter of persuading people to try something new using a new purchasing mechanism which is the Internet?
John: Yeah. So, there’s a lot of that going on in our history and also in this time frame. This was a product that you really needed a high touch kind of opportunity, where other endorsers, so to speak, were actually sitting there and explaining to you why this would be valuable in your life.
Because just seeing it as a discussion, I mean look. Fifteen years ago hardly anyone was looking at the backs of cans or packages to figure out how many calories this would have or what kinds of ingredients they have. Now it’s a lot more pervasive. But, at that point to kind of start to understand how all these pieces – what you log in your food, how you move, how you sleep, how they interrelate with each other…
it’s almost like, especially if it was a little quirky or a little bit jittery on the way you got set up and so forth because technology was only so far at that time. You needed a lot of motivation and a lot of reason to believe to do this. So, we started finding new avenues for that as we started learning that this was a little bit more of an educated search before you buy high touch kind of opportunity.
Andrew: I see it here, 149 for the CORE armband. The LINK armband with Bluetooth was 199. I see where you’re going with this, and I know where it’s going to end up, which is a really good story, which is why I have you on here.
But, what about what I said at the top of the interview? The .com bubble burst. You were starting to say how that impacted you. What happened?
John: Yeah. From an investor level and also from a consumer level the bottom dropped out basically. A lot of people thought you could just kind of go out there on your own not have a revenue base, it’s all eyeball based, and at some point the revenue would come later. There are still some business models today like that.
But, that changed the entire way you would think about your own business model and changed the way you would think about distribution. We got in early enough that we didn’t not get our initial investment in. Because a lot of companies who were trying to get [??] at that time just never got the investment, because there was all this kind of fallout from this.
But, at the same time we did have these investors and we had to move quickly. It’s not a pivot here. This is just moving quickly to other kinds. It’s the same business strategy, same product line, but now where are we going to get distribution and how can we partner with people who actually have those customers…[??]
Andrew: …Instead of waiting for customers to come to you, who already has them. But, was there a period before you discovered who had your customers where you were depressed, where you were second guessing yourself, where you maybe thought this isn’t going to work?
John: It wasn’t that it couldn’t work. Because we had heard so many great things from people about what the potential could be, and our investors believed that, too. We had loyal investors.
I think it was more or less like if we just get another six months and show them what this next milestone could look like. Like, we’re so close to showing what the vision could be. You know, you always have this kind of rolling road map of opportunities if we just get to the next piece.
So, I think that’s the main thing for what we were working on was can we figure out how to bring in enough money, can we figure out how to be efficient and get to the next milestone, make the next partnership in time before we run out of money in a way to show people what could be possible so that we can get to the next milestone, next step function of the company.
Andrew: We talked at the top of the interview about your work ethic and how the music you listen to and the dancing that you did even helped you understand the importance of work ethic and stick-to-itive-ness. Did that play any part in it? Or, am I just connecting the dots because we happen to have talked about both topics here?
John: It’s an interesting connection you’re making, but also a couple of different things going on there. For sure I think what you learn in that kind of stuff… I played soccer, too my whole life. You just learn that teamwork’s really important in these kinds of situations.
I had a great team, a great CEO in Astro Teller, and two partners Chris Pacione [sp]and Chris Kasabach [sp]. I would never be able to do this myself so to speak in what we were trying to go through. I mean being able to look at each other and say we’ll bond together, and figure out a way, and look at that brick wall in front of us and figure out a way to go over it, around it, blow it up, whatever it was going to be, before either money ran out or other challenges showed up,
I think that’s part of it. I think it’s also that by being together in this full connection you’re making you see that you have to celebrate the moments that are successful. You have to listen to your successes. Because if you don’t listen to them, you just kind of feel that the whole world’s against you, right? And having other people who can share with you those successes is really important. And I think on top of it, it’s, like, I said, like, not doing it by yourself is an important piece. But at the same time, we’re all going to figure . . . we’re very excited and committed to this mission that we’re on, and helping people, and so forth.
Andrew: Look at how close you came. I never heard of this publication. Maybe there’s something, maybe I’m just out of touch. But there’s something called PostGazette.com. In June 15, 2000, the headline of the article on you guys was “War stories: Pittsburgh almost loses one. Last winter, BodyMedia came extremely close to relocating in Boston.” But it wasn’t just that.
You guys were, according to this article, not just thinking of leaving . . . where was that? Ah, “BodyMedia was $270,000 in debt with no cash reserves and the very real possibility of having to close up shop in about two weeks.” So there you go. Two weeks, almost. And then apparently you were able to raise money.
But when you get that much debt, most people’s obsession, they wake up in the morning not thinking, “How do I change lives? How do I build this company?” It’s, “How do I apologize to the rest of the world for losing their money? How do I tell my friends that I really am an entrepreneur? How do I tell myself I’m really an entrepreneur? How do I wake up from sleep instead of just spending some time and saying I need some rest?” You got up. What did you do that allowed you to get up and show these investors what you still had in you, and then show yourself the same thing?
John: You know, it’s funny that you bring up that article, because I remember when it was happening. I forgot about that. I didn’t forget about, though, that there’s many times in our history that we’ve been in circumstances that felt pretty, like, wow, after all this effort, it just might not be around tomorrow.
John: But, you know, again, I think what we’ve been told is that we were just a persistent crew. And we heard “no” a lot, but we kept running around the country, running around the region, trying to get people to believe in what was possible, taking challenges from multi-nationals who could become our partners, and who were doing co-development with us, and showing them that our algorithms and our devices could outperform anything else on the market, or anything else that was going to compete with it.
Andrew: So was it talking to other people that got you to feel the strength of what you were telling them? In other words, if you try to persuade other people, you have to first persuade yourself first. And even if you don’t, you might listen to what you’re telling them and go, “Hey, you know what? This really makes sense. I am right. I can make this work.” Is that what happened?
John: Yeah. If we didn’t keep structuring this, it would have never worked, for sure. And you get challenged every day, whether or not this is the right story and the right idea. And we had a lot of feedback over the years as to why it would be . . . so it was the team that they were investing in first, before we had anything. And as we started to develop something, it was still the team that was going to take it further, and the investors or their corporate partners were betting their careers, or their titles, or their investors’ money on us.
And so, yeah, we heard a lot of “no”s, but we heard enough “yes”es that we were like, “Oh my God, this is going to change the world.”
John: You know, some people even said, it’s either going to be a billion dollar business idea or it’s going to be nothing. And, you know, so we were shooting for the fences here to see how far we could take it, in a time when we were definitely early. I mean, looking back, we were way early. So I don’t have a silver bullet, other than saying we kept knocking on doors, and we just kept trying to push on what opportunities existed there. And sometimes you can’t be so selective on which opportunities you might have to leave out. I mean, it’d be great to be a direct to consumer market and have this big portal and everything.
Andrew: Right, right.
John: But once things changed, you know, we had to move with the tides. And we were able to create some great relationships and create some ways to get the momentum moving.
Andrew: I don’t even know how I ended up getting that article, but I’m so lucky that I did. It just shows such a contrast.
John: Yeah. That was interesting interviews that we had at that time, too.
John: Because it was right when this was going on, yeah.
Andrew: Jenny Craig had customers who also wanted to lose weight. Jenny Craig is in the business of helping those customers lose weight. You talked to Jenny Craig, the company. What happened?
John: Yeah, so let me tell you something before Jenny Craig.
John: I told you before that we had these . . . high-tech sale would make sense. And as we were building the company, everyone always says, “My doctor says to do it, I’ll probably do it.” So that’s the true recommender out there. But doctors were not . . . they were trained in diagnostics. A lot of them weren’t even thinking. They’d tell you to go watch what you eat, how you move, and sleep better, but they’re not there to help you with that on a day-to-day basis. And they weren’t set up, the workflow wasn’t set up and so on and so forth. So we had to go find somewhere else where high touch and recommendation could work.
Andrew: How much time did you spend pursuing doctors before you realized they weren’t right, a lot?
John: We never stop. [laughs] We never stop. I think it’s still the Holy Grail for us and it’s going to take some more time but what we did find was a surrogate environment which was the health club environment. You had these trainers. They had these very dedicated clients. They were coaching them. They had no feedback other than when they were in the gym, what they were up to.
And so it took literally three years of knocking on gym doors, because every investor goes to the gym so they say “just go to the gyms,” but their business models are set up kind of the opposite of what you’d think they would be. Many of them, especially at that time, did not want you coming back. They just wanted to get your annuity but not necessarily have you coming every day.
John: So, what we had found is a great maverick out there. Neil Spruce is a guy who was with Apex Fitness and had then joined 24 Hour Fitness Company and he had this way of putting these tools in front of trainers and bringing these products and technology together. Everything was on desktop. He saw this web portal. He saw this device that could automate things and he said, “Oh my god this is like the future.”
So we went into this whole process working with outside chains first and we got into the national chains and it taught us that having this coach in the loop and having this coach understand more about me as an individual- where when you put me on a program it’s generic and so you understand ‘what did I do last week?’ Some people put you on a 10,000 step program.
What happens if I can only do 3,000? Or tell me start at 3,000, but what happens if I’m already at 13? It’s not that that’s bothering me, I got other stuff, right? So get personal, get customized on that individual so that your service can be better, but also their impact and their outcomes can be better. So the health clubs showed us a surrogate environment, surrogate healthcare environment, health environment, wellness environment to work with, and that was an example for others to maybe learn from and us to kind of scale.
And here again, we talked to a lot of the weight management companies, the weight loss companies. Jenny Craig happen to have this place where they had online, they had in-facility, you know, these clinics and they had the food stuff but they didn’t have the activity part. And they were used to moving, huge, you know, actual physical product to people.
So it actually had a really nice relationship where we had the coach now but you also connected the other side of the equation so that the food wasn’t a mystery it could be logged even more simply and here again you had these very motivated customers coming in to do something and change their behavior and that’s where we had to find these places where people were coming to who were already motivated for change and needed these dashboards to help them.
And you know at first we had to build these dashboards, but in the end we were a behavior helping company or a behavior management, behavior modification company in the end. Helping people with these dashboards for their human body where they never had them before and then using that information, with a coach or on their own, to do things like lose weight or sleep better.
Andrew: So, this is the second big idea I’ve gotten from this, maybe it’s more than the second but, the first is: even if you’re brilliant, take your idea out of course to customers, show it to them, get feedback on them, and in your case it helped you see that you needed to turn inward instead of outward with your product. And the second is: if you can’t sell direct to consumer, ask yourself who has those consumers that you’re trying to pursue and then partner up with them. And when you did, was it as easy as it sounds? Because right now it sounds like a snap. You convince one person or one organization and then they just push you out to everybody.
John: Just like when you’re starting in retail, which we’ve also done you know over the time when the timing was right-
Andrew: I think Walgreens carried you guys, right?
John: Yeah, we were in Amazon, we were in sporting goods stores, we’ve been in Best Buys, Targets, that kind of stuff, so we’ve had some success there. But it was at a time where consumers were finally looking for them, right. Before that there was just not a whole lot going on. Our first really initial test no one even knew what to do with it. There was no information around it.
Again, the understanding of the space wasn’t there yet. Even today, you know, it’s still working that out. But at a partner to your question, you’re still sitting there going, “you gotta work with their workflow, you gotta get the messaging out,” but at least you have the high touch environment potentially, but there’s still a whole lot of work effort there. You know there are champions within the organization that are working with you.
Then you’re working with the rest of the organization to get on board. Then you’re working on how to tie into their other marketing and product plans, which, if their product plans go south so will yours. So you have to have them get successful too with their programs so you can also have a chance to be successful as another option inside their services and programs. So from that perspective we had to get really facile with becoming good on the B2B front and the customer integration front and relationship front. Right?
And I think to your question earlier about the ethnic side of my past, our teamwork to get this funding, to working with partners, in the end, we just found it’s really about relationship building and respecting those relationships. And you don’t want to burn any bridges, and everything. And business is personal in a lot of different ways, especially when you’re trying to get stuff that no one really knows about. And so some of those champions came from, they just believe in you. They’re just like investors. They believe in those people, and that relationship turns into something a lot more.
And that’s where we have to just get really good at that element, because it wasn’t much store shelf that the relationship was starting with. It was people in the organization, and then to their whole customer base through the champions and trainer and accounts, approaches, and so forth that they had in their system.
Andrew: Did you have someone at your team who was especially good at this, who maybe had a background in it?
John: No, I don’t . . . well, some . . . we brought in business people and sales and marketing people over the years. But I think part of the . . . I think it also says that we learned a lot from each other as founders and other people in the organization, how important that is. If we’re going to get up every day and fight the battle, and convince ourselves it’s still really important to try to pull this off, and also to the loyalty we had to our investors, to make sure that this wasn’t going to be something that they ended up not winning from. You have to kind of . . . the relationship side was something that we had to build ourselves, and we just really respected it. It also helped us believe not just in the product, but why we enjoyed doing it.
Andrew: Why did you sell the company?
John: Yeah. That’s a pretty direct question.
Andrew: Oh, I’ll go even more direct.
John: Fair enough. We’re . . . now I know a little bit about you. We were building a business here into different markets and so forth, and we really weren’t looking to sell now, at this point. We thought there was a lot of opportunity going on, a lot of growth in different channels that we were exploring beyond retail, into health care channels. Including doctors, including corporate wellness, including some other disease management opportunities that probably our competitors really couldn’t touch.
Because we come from such a strong clinical background, and maybe sometimes we err too much even on our look and feel to be a little clinical, because we wanted it to be credible. But we were moving towards a really consumer, fashion-friendly design language, products, interfaces, interactions, partnerships. Pretty exciting time for us.
As the wearable space and this monitoring space started evolving and growing, we started having some people talk to us from a larger discussion, versus kind of this direct partnership distribution opportunity. And it’s, interestingly enough, I probably wouldn’t have put . . . you know, Jawbone in its early years was always a wearable company. They started in ’99 also. They’ve gone through their own ups and downs, and there’s some great stories [inaudible 03:13] the CEO and other founders, and other early members there could give you, and they’ve shared them with me. I’m very privileged to have some of them shared with me. And they’re great.
And the synergy of the roads we took across these fourteen years together, starting into wearables, learning the realities of what it takes to build a wearable, but also the realities of going to market and so forth, was pretty synergistic with an opportunity . . . because they had built such a huge retail international distribution opportunity, too, and they were very design-centric, consumer-centric. They started getting to health late in this wearable track that they were on, and then even the media consumption and music track that they got on, and really reinventing new categories.
And that was kind of like our innovation. Kind of like DNA. We love inventing the new stuff. And they were doing that as a history. And health was new, and they wanted to grow it even faster. And we saw some real synergies, not just the [inaudible 04:13], but, like, product synergies, the way we had developed inventions, where we wanted to go next on the road maps, and thinking about the internet of things, and so forth. And so it just seemed like a little bit interesting and surprising and curious, and then as we had more dialogues and started getting really quite comfortable, and you could see the synergies just kind of layering on top of each other, over and over and over again.
So at some point, we came up with an understanding, you know, maybe we could do this, and we could do it in a big way to really compete against a lot of people out there who are trying to either get into the space or who are going to do other things, or who are competing against us today. So merging forces could be pretty unique, and maybe make a signal that it’s no longer people thinking about wearables, it’s that we’re going at it, and it’s there, and and we have a chance to do something important.
Andrew: I’m on Jawbone’s website right now. I know Jawbone as the company that started out making headsets that were incredible at noise elimination. Now, it’s . . .
John: Yeah. Multi-sensor, doing it for a way of getting clear voice and clear sound.
John: So they could do things like speech recognition and other things better. It was really fitting a need for where there was friction in the world for when it comes to, like, working with phones and stuff.
Andrew: But on their home page now is a wearable device, very similar to what you envisioned. That’s what they’re featuring. Up24 is, I guess, the name, right?
John: Yeah. We just launched that.
Andrew: I didn’t realize that they had any ups and downs. I thought that right from the start, I remember that the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal loved them, and back then, they were the opinion makers. And then they just kept adding the boom box, the . . . now the wearable device that tracks your walking and other things. What kind of setbacks did they have? And I should get them on to do an interview, one of the founders, but . . .
John: You definitely should. And I’m not the right person to give you all the stories that they got up. But imagine, they started in ’99, but if you go back to when they really started rocketing with wireless headsets, that’s a good five, six, seven years later from the start time. And it’s good, though. When you have a success like Jawbone out there, it’s good that, for example, you just made the perception and the equation of, hey, they’ve been rocketing from day one.
Andrew: Yes. It feels like it.
John: That’s awesome. You know, as founders, as entrepreneurs, we know that it’s taken a lot of effort to get it to that. Every day, we’re trying to be a rapid growth company in all elements, and, you know, we have challenges every day that we’re working on to continue to become a larger and bigger . . .
Andrew: You know what? You’re so right. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, that at this point, I still don’t see that. You know, when . . . I think it was Alex Champagne, internally, who suggested you for an interview. I thought, “The guy’s coasting. He doesn’t need us. He’s never going to do the interview. He’s one of these guys who just built a company. He’s an incredible mind.” Because you were the CTO of the company, sold it for a lot of money. “He doesn’t even care. He doesn’t know about us.” And then I was surprised when you said yes. And then when you canceled, or you rescheduled, I thought, “You know what? I was right.”
And of course I was wrong, because you’re an entrepreneur like the rest of us. It’s not as easy as it seems. It’s . . . and still I always think it’s so easy for certain people. I thought it was easy for you. I thought it was easy for Jawbone. It’s so amazing how I just keep assuming it’s so much easier for everyone else.
John: Yeah. I mean, there’s . . . we’re very fortunate to have had the relationship that we have with Jawbone, to have an opportunity to continue to quest, considering that so many times in our history, it could have been very different. And it’s different for every entrepreneur out there. Even when successful entrepreneurs start a new start-up, they always come back and say, “It’s a different start-up.” Every start-up’s a different animal, it’s a different life, and it has its own challenges. And there is no skating. But you have to use the tools that you learned from before.
And we’re doing that in the markets that we’re going to. We’re going into new markets together as a combined company. We’re going into new product experiences as a combined company that we’re just really excited about. But they have their own technology challenges. They have their own relationship and partnership challenges. They have their own distribution and how to convince the world that this is so cool, you just have to have it, you know, before they even know stuff like this is possible.
And so the challenges continue, but I think it’s really nice to be at a place where we can kind of look back and say all those challenges, all the extra work, was worth it, and we got a chance to see it go to the next phase.
Andrew: Let me ask you one of those direct questions that I referred to earlier. What did you sell the company to Jawbone for?
John: We’re a private company, so we don’t talk about that.
Andrew: Here’s what I read. You tell me if it’s laughable or not. I read $100 million.
John: That’s . . . I don’t know where people got numbers out there. But this was not an insignificant opportunity between us. And so that number sounds significant, so if that’s what people want to understand about what it is, that’s good enough for me. We know what we did together, and we know what we want to do together.
Andrew: Here’s where it came from. I mean, actually, there is no single place where this stuff comes from, but I see Fast Company says “Jawbone agrees to acquire BodyMedia for $100 million.” TechCrunch: “Jawbone acquires BodyMedia for over $100 million.” So I guess there’s a little bit of a disparity right there. Gizmodo: “Jawbone’s acquisition of BodyMedia is (sadly) all about patents.” So yeah, it has been all over the place. But the number $100 million keeps coming up. Even All Things D, “Jawbone acquires BodyMedia for more than $100 million.”
John: I guess someone decided that the value equation came together.
Andrew: I do wonder where these numbers come from.
John: What’s more interesting about those statements is that people are seeing the space in a significant way, and they’re seeing this merger in a significant way. They’re seeing the opportunity that we have to go forward in a unique way. So I think if it was one million, obviously, people would say, “Well, that was nothing.” If was a billion it would be crazy. So I think it’s a unique opportunity for people, how people are suggesting that we’re a catalyst and we’re starting a movement around the wearable space.
Andrew: How did things change personally for you because of that? What are you able to do now on a personal level because of this acquisition that you couldn’t have done before?
John: Well, I think what’s interesting is that it is a merger and the teams are integrated, and we keep working on that even more. Jawbone’s done acquisitions before. The team members are all being understanding and are aware of the opportunities. My team has expanded. The opportunities of what we can build with the brilliant people that are together as a team, both on our team but also collectively across the company are really positive. There is stuff that when we were focused on wearable body monitoring, there were certain limitations to the scope that anyone would consider we would think about or go attempt to do.
As we’re a company that does headsets and does speakers and does wearable health monitors and builds wearable health monitors can do a watch in lifestyle. Yeah, they help you with your health, but they can also help you with other things and give context to other devices that you’re interacting with. I think that, in terms of what we can do more of, is that more resources are there in a larger team and a broader product line to really look at ecosystems and devices in a different way. I think that’s the exciting part.
As a slogan we say, We’re helping people live better. In that sense, that has a pretty broad connotation and meaning. It also means that health is in there, but it’s also maybe a subset not necessarily having to be the super- set. That allows some flexibility in thinking. I don’t have to make the doctor believe. The doctor will also believe, I believe, but it doesn’t necessarily have to only be the doctor. If I’m making your home more comfortable or your life more comfortable and better and your relationships better and social environments that you interact in better, than I’m leading and delivering on a mission. I think that’s pretty exciting.
Andrew: By the way, I’m looking at the new products. Boy, they look beautiful. Jawbone always had beautiful design. Let me do a quick plug here, and then I want to ask you one final very important question.
The plug is if you guys want to follow up on this interview, there are a couple of different places on Mixergy that I recommend you go. The first is, one of my first interviews with an entrepreneur who built product. You know, I usually do interviews with software because software seems easier. Product means someone has to manufacture it.
Someone has to go back and apparently find a second manufacturer and has to deal with all these issues that software people can just seem to fix in a snap. The first interview was an eye-opener for me, and it’s very helpful for you to check it out. It’s with Gauri Nanda the creator of Clocky. She was a student who had this idea that, what if the alarm clock didn’t just ring in the morning but also bounced off your side table and ran around the room so that you’d have to go chase it to turn it off? And maybe when you finally caught it and turned it off, you would be awake enough to face your day. No more snoozing.
Great idea. Got a lot of publicity for it, but the challenges of building it, I think, are an especially interesting story. Anyone who wants to build a product should listen to that, see how she figured it out, see the mistakes she made, and see some of the advice she has for other people. Gauri Nanda. Just do a search for Clocky on Mixergy.
The second thing I suggest you do is, today Kickstarter’s becoming more and more the place that entrepreneurs like you, the persons listening to me, turn to for early customers for physical products. Just do a search for Kickstarter. We have courses taught by people who did Kickstarter campaigns. We have interviews with people who have done it. I urge you to learn from them and then go out and do this on your own.
It’s all available for you right there on Mixergy. If you want to kick this up to the next level and really have full access, get Mixergy Premium. You’ll see it on the site. You’ll have opportunities to join it. By the way, I guarantee everything. I guarantee that if you sign up and you’re not happy that I will personally make sure that you get your money back. Go check it out.
Ivo, the final question is this, I see your history. You’re a guy who, back when people didn’t understand wearable technology, frankly I’m telling you, and you know this for yourself, five years ago people didn’t understand wearable technology, right? Three years ago before Google Glass people thought it was ridiculous. And frankly some people still today, but more and more we’re seeing the stuff advance.
We’re seeing more and more, especially in San Francisco, people with the Jawbone devices on their wrists. People wearing the glasses from Google. You saw this before the rest of us. See into the future, if you could. What do you see happening 10 years from now? And maybe some entrepreneur in the audience will see this vision and start to pursue a piece of it.
John: Yeah. So going back a measure to your discussion on Mixergy and everything else, and products, you know.
John: We have, just to stay there for a second, when you’re building a product, you know, we’re not just building a physical product that has electronics, but it also has software that runs in it, connects the stuff. It has these algorithms. There’s just a bunch of stuff that has to come together. And doing anything wearable is really, really hard, and so almost anyone who’s tried to jump in the wearable space has had a first dose of what that means. That they’ve never launched on time, that they may even have some false starts, so to speak, as they’ve done it. And so . . .
Andrew: I’m looking at the device itself. It’s . . . the ridges on the plastic. I don’t even know what the material is. The ridges. I would think, ugh, that must be a nightmare to put together. And then there’s an image of what’s underneath it, and you can see every freaking cable to me looks like a disaster waiting to happen if you have the wrong place to manufacture. What . . .
John: Right. And never mind if you’re trying to make the firmware inside that works and the algorithms that make that beautiful device also tell you something very accurate and meaningful in your life. And then the software presentation back on mobile phones and iPads and your website, so that it becomes something actionable for you. That’s all going into wearables.
And that’s one of the reasons why it takes so much time, and why it’s taking some time for people to even be aware of it, because packaging and putting these together in a way that’s just so seamless in your life is a challenge, and it’s a unique challenge. And I think it’s an exciting one for creative types and engineering types and technology types and so forth.
Andrew: And frankly, there was a time when even software was difficult. When where are you going to go to put your server was a challenge. How are you going to get even high-speed internet in your office for your employees to get access to your website and other sites properly was a challenge. And these things are eventually to become easier and easier. I want us to learn from you, a person who’s done it. Where do you see us in the future?
John: Yeah. So I think in the health side, I really think what we’re working on is going to change health care. I thought that 15 years ago. I didn’t think it was going to be two years of change. I thought it was going to be 20 or 25. We’re not exactly as far as I hoped we’d be along here, but I think things are changing quickly, and I think without . . . and consumerism is going to be pushing a lot of change. It’s not just going to come from the institutions and the payers and providers. It’s got to be a flex that happens, and the consumerism is going to kind of show what there needs to be and what their lifestyle needs to be [??].
So I think we’ll be responsible, as a group, for changing things. I think what’s also happening, which is really unique in the entrepreneurial space, is that a lot of people are leaving really successful opportunities in jobs and careers, and doing stuff that you would think are amazing, amazing capability, you know, talent that they have. And they say they want to help people, and they’re moving over to health care, and they’re starting up start-ups, and doing things in other companies to do that, even if it’s a portion of the business. And they just want to do stuff that’s important.
And that’s kind of a cultural change happening, too. It’s not just making the next whizz-bang. It’s actually doing something with meaning, and health becomes a nice connection point to that. So as you see the future, it’s not just that you won’t see more products, but you’ll also see more very talented people coming into this idea, and you’ll have devices that kind of work for different purposes.
But if you want to ask me about future, where I see things headed, especially in wearables, a couple of different things. I definitely see a multi-sensor future. I’ve always seen that, and I think that’s the way you really get the real meaning behind wearing something, is that you have these multiple ways of understanding the body, understanding context around you, and allows you to make statements like energy expenditure, but also, like, is the person lying down, or walking, or driving, or on a bike, or something else.
These things have contextual maps and journals of your life. And it’s amazing, if you think about it, okay, if the house knew when I fell asleep or woke up, how would my relationship to the house be different? Or relationship to other people?
John: And these are things, you know, we coin it as [inaudible 04:13], or understanding context. Because a lot of devices out there are pretty dumb until they understand the person, and understand the person around them and what they do. What they just came from. You know, stressful situations, happy situations, are they in a room together with people, those kind of things.
So I think wearables has this way of unlocking brand new types of experiences that we haven’t seen before. And in a mass scale, because I think you’re seeing . . . you know, like you said, you’ve been on our website, you see this very fashionable hair to detail that we take as companies in this space, or definitely Jawbone does, and BodyMedia. And we want to bring these experiences not just to the tactileness of the device, but all the way through the experience line, including the software experience, and including the relationships and social and other things you can do with this, and partnerships that we have.
And so I think over the next ten years, you’ll start to see wearables as a key to unlocking experiences that a lot of science fiction writers back in research [??]. . .
Andrew: What do you mean? Can you give me a specific example? I’m imagining. . .One of my problems at home is my toaster oven doesn’t have a timer on it. And if I put anything in it, I have to remember to turn it off. It looks beautiful, but I made a mistake of getting one without a timer. So the only thought that’s coming to my mind is if I walk out of the room for too long, the toaster oven should know that I’m away. But that’s such a basic thing. It’s not even a creative solution. Well, give me a specific example that you’re thinking of.
John: You know what? That’s not a bad one, but maybe it’s a super-comfort feature and so forth. So let me give you an example. So a lot of people talk about automating a house, and again that could be comfort features, but it also could be safety. So let me give you an example, like my grandmother, right? She’s going to go to bed tonight. When she lies down, she realizes she forgot to shut off the light. Now moving, as old as she is and so forth independently, is challenging sometimes. So what happens if she knew that the system, the house, understood that she has laid down and is going to be falling asleep?
Andrew: Ah, yes.
John: Now the light goes down. She doesn’t have to worry about fumbling for it. The temperature comes down to let her sleep at a more natural level that the body feels well with. She gets up in the middle of the night. She goes to the bathroom. She wants to go to the bathroom. We know this from looking at her patterns. But then low-level lighting comes on. She doesn’t have to fumble for switches and so forth. She goes to the bathroom, comes back. She goes and lies down.
Again, that pattern’s understood. Lights go off. She has a nice night’s sleep. As she wakes in the morning, maybe lights kind of come on a little bit. The temperature comes up to a warmer level. Coffee maker goes on. OK. Now all that stuff together I use as a Grandma scenario. I’m sure you might like that, too, but in certain circumstances it also has a safety opportunity. Right? Not just a comfort thing. It also has an energy-saving opportunity, frankly. Right? It also adds to that. Right?
So it ladders up in a very unique way that you haven’t had a chance before, because you’ve never known the occupants, what they’re context is, what they’re doing in their house. Right? You’re just like, it’s been. . .The house has been [??] for all these years. And people have been talking about home automation and all these other things for decades. But I think right now, based on where form factors are getting, people wearing these things 24/7, we’ve got millions of people out there wearing these things, it’s happening en mass. I think developers, we have open APIs.
People can actually do their own applications and thought around this. They can connect their own devices up to this kind of smartness. There’s a bunch of stuff like that happening that will just create these unique opportunities. So it’s always been part of the vision, but always, this wearable computing idea I thought had to start with monitoring first. Because if you don’t understand that person, you couldn’t affect anything else. Now that we’ve gotten many years into this game of [??] understanding people, journaling them, and so forth, I think we can turn it back outwards now. And we can start to turn that. . .
So we started this discussion where we were out there, and we had to turn it towards the body. I think now we have this understanding of the body. We’re still learning, lots more to learn, a lot of stuff we can do with understanding the body, putting sensors on at different locations, all this stuff, different fashion. But when you turn it back, when you take that data and turn it back out, I think that’s really what the future is.
It’s like what everyone calls Big Data, that’s big hype right now. But when you have little data, like data about me, data about us together, and what that could become, I think that’s really where the future lies, is merging those data streams together in a way that’s meaningful. And that’s not an easy thing to do. Just like making wearables is really hard. Yeah, you can take a bunch of data streams, throw them together, try coming up with something. No. Asking the right question of the data and doing it in a way that’s meaningful to the consumer, to the individual, to the patient, whoever that is, is tricky.
And you have to craft it, and it’s about experience, and it’s about meaning. And that’s not the easiest thing to pull off, because just munching data and putting more numbers up there, that’s like Excel spreadsheets. That’s where we started back 15 years ago. If I had a monitor, I only had an Excel spreadsheet to try to understand it. And it we try to make it at least a little bit easier than that. And you know what? It worked. People lost weight. People on Biggest Loser use it. You know we had Jenny Craig and health clubs. It just had a lot of success by giving that feedback to people. And now we’re thinking, “OK. Where does that feedback go?” It could be to me in my eyes, or it also could be to other devices.
And now the internet, I think, is a lot smarter and a lot more connected to me instead of just connected and dumb. And so I think that I would just leave you with that. I think that’s where things will unfold, and I think the wearable side of this has uniquely come to a place where it can actually open up these opportunities that you never saw before.
Andrew: Yeah. It is so great to actually see this, to see what’s available right now. To know, for example, little things like I don’t have to remember to check the clock when I go into the gym or when I leave. I just know now. I don’t have to wonder, “Have I been in the office for too long? I now have. . .I just started using Moves. I don’t know if you know it, but I tried that app. It now tells me what time I left the office every day, and so that kind of thing is really helpful. I love watching this stuff develop, and it’s an honor to have you on here to tell your story. Thanks for doing this, and I hope I get to meet you in person.
John: Yeah. I look forward to it. And I know we’ve set up some time. Maybe we can have some coffee soon. So that will be cool, because I’m traveling through the West Coast where our headquarters is the time.
Andrew: Oh, you are? Great. I’d love it. You know what, actually, I’d love to do. I want to do dinners with people who I’ve interviewed. If you give me a heads-up about when you’re coming here, I’d love to have you over for dinner and maybe have a couple of other people who I’ve interviewed who I think you should meet.
John: Great. Great. I really appreciate it. Thanks for the interest, and thanks for reaching out to us. We’re really proud of what we are able to accomplished and [??]. . .
Andrew: Could you introduce me to the founder of Jawbone, so I could do a second interview?
John: Yeah. My team already knows about you guys, and I’m sure they’ll do what they can to help make a connection. . .
Andrew: Will you put in a good word?
John: I will. Absolutely.
Andrew: All right. Thanks a lot. Thanks for doing it. Bye everyone.