Worn Out on Wearables

by Francine on April 23, 2014

No wonder it’s rumored that Nike is getting out of the fitness hardware device business. I’d like to get out of it myself, but I’ve become addicted to the data that proves I’ve completed 10,000 steps a day and slept 8 hours, despite the fact that I don’t know what that means to my health or my longevity. To make sure that data is always available to me, I wear  more than one device at a time. I cannot tell you why I do this, but I know several people that do.

Perhaps its because none of the devices function dependably. I gave up the Fuel Band (too arcane in its measurements) and the Basis (too ugly and masculine) long ago. I lot a couple of Fitbits in the wash before I quit wearing them, and settled on the Jawbone and the Misfit shine.

But I’m on my fourth or fifth Jawbone, and even my second Jawbone Up. I’m on my second Shine. Either they decide not to count reliably, or they decide not to sync. They just quit counting steps every once in a while, as my Jawbone Up did two days ago. Bizarrely, it counted my first 7,105 steps and then chose to go to sleep, never completing the day with me, and losing the data. I wasted an hour trying to soft re-set it, never getting the signal that it had completed the reset. And it wouldn’t sync after I followed all the directions. Infuriated, I turned Runkeeper on for my walk yesterday, syncing it to my Pebble watch. However, the Pebble+Runkeeper solution was unsatisfying, because that app records miles, not steps. When I was running, I did count miles. As a walker, it’s steps.

And the Misfit? It kept chugging along counting steps, but it’s a bitch to sync; its automatic syncing functions don’t work well, and you have to remind it to sync by tapping it on the phone.

I know what you’re thinking: boy, she wastes  a lot of time on these devices! She does, and she hates it. But that’s how she knows wearables aren’t there yet. She also has Google Glass, but wouldn’t even TRY taking that on a walk yet. She might get mugged, and besides, there’s no accelerometer in it that I am aware of, so it would have to sync to a phone app. All this, plus the 40% return rate on the Galaxy Gear Fit,  should be a clue as to why Apple has not entered the wearables market just yet.

Apple is a company that is known for ease-of-use, customer delight, and reliability. There’s no chance it will risk its entire brand on a wearable device that would have a 40% return rate. I believe Apple is waiting for a game-changer, a device that would be truly useful to me (like maybe it could read my vital signs) in addition to being beautiful (unlike the Jawbone). And if Apple is finally on the verge of introducing the iWatch, as the rumors say, I bet they’re testing the hell out of it before putting it on the market.

Of course I will let you know:-)

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The Incubator Bubble

by Francine on April 14, 2014

There’s a bubble.

It’s not in startups, or in valuations, but in pitch contests, challenges, and incubator/accelerators. In Arizona, we used to have two or three, and now we probably have more than two dozen. They have different conditions, rules, and metrics. Every week I get an email from some incubator or agency asking me to share their challenge, event, or contest with my network.

Although I dutifully do it, because I want to support the community, I feel more than a little guilty. Most of the startups we deal with do not have the time or energy to do two or three of these applications a week, and end up being ineligible even if they do participate. This takes time away from product development, and even if they do get into an incubator often the services don’t match up with their needs and cash is not given.

This week I’m acting as a judge for the Arizona Innovation Challenge. Although I don’t get a view into all the applications, the ones I’ve seen this spring are not as exciting as the ones I’ve seen in seasons before, and I’m seeing more from out of town. This worries me. It may mean that companies we saw in the past that weren’t ready for AIC have not re-applied (and I don’t know the reasons). I’m once again seeing companies that are too early for this competition, or sometimes barely eligible because they don’t have teams.

Some startups simply focus on building a sustainable business and we never see them in these challenges. If they can raise money, great. But they don’t spend valuable time chasing it all over the United States, which is a signal that there is no “Plan B” for what happens to the business if funding isn’t attained. And truthfully, in the case of most early stage companies, it isn’t. I’ve seen applications lately where the founder does not have any money in the company — no skin in the game. As a seasoned investor, I am willing to invest beside a founder I know well, and in whom I believe, but I certainly wouldn’t invest in a team I didn’t know or a company where the founders have no investment.

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that most startups fail. As Steve Blank (The Startup Owner’s Manual) says, a startup is a science experiment. It is designed to test the hypothesis that there’s a market for a certain solution that is large enough and passionate enough to pay for the product or service. If there isn’t, well then we have to change the ingredients, or the proportions, and in the most extreme cases even give up the experiment.

Spending all your waking hours chasing down the elusive “funding” in no way advances the experiment. It tests no hypothesis. A far better way for a founder to spend time would be to find those early customers — the ones who need the solution badly enough to pay money for it and perhaps even pre-fund the company.

I fund projects on Kickstarter all the time. In fact, I’m doing more of that these days than conventional investing. Why do you think so many experienced entrepreneurs who could raise money from angels  are doing Kickstarter projects, especially those in which the donors can get the product before it ships commercially?

Because they are testing the market, that’s why. They’re looking for people who want what they’re building enough to put up a small amount of money in advance for it. And that’s the true purpose of crowdfunding; to provide a market test for startups.

If you are doing a startup, perhaps it’s best to go heads down on your product and see if anyone wants it before you reach out for funding.,

 

 

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Silicon Valley Only Looks Like a Man’s World

April 6, 2014

The NY Times article on the bro culture of Silicon Valley, celebrating the male engineers who “own the code,” should look below the surface of the people the article tries to portray. Underneath that testosterone-charged surface, much more is happening. I’ve been a woman in a man’s world for over 50 years. When I went […]

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My Hotel in New York

March 27, 2014

It’s time I told you a little about my hotel in New York, the one I can afford to stay in for a week at a time, even though no one pays for my trips. My hotel in New York is old. In fact, the elevators are so slow going up and down to my […]

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War After War, with the Same Outcome

March 12, 2014

We human beings never learn. I just finished a book by Mark Harris called “Five Came Back” about five famous Hollywood movie directors from the 40′s who left their lucrative private sector careers to enlist in the Army and Navy during World War !!. The five, John Huston, John Ford, WIlliam Wyler, George Stevens, and […]

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What Do All Those Steps Add Up To?

March 3, 2014

GERO from Gero on Vimeo. If you know me at all, you know that for the past year or so I’ve been working at the intersection of the quantified self, wearable technology and health care. I’ve bought and tried the Pebble, Fitbit, Jawbone, Google Glass, Misfit Shine, Nike Fuelband, and Basis Watch. I’ve used Moves, […]

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Tim Draper Re-invents the Business School

February 13, 2014

On stage with Tony Perkins to kick off this year’s Venture Summit Silicon Valley, Tim Draper welcomed a crowd of investors and entrepreneurs to his brand new Draper University, the home of a series of six-week programs to speed up the pace of disruptive innovation in Silicon Valley. Draper plans to disrupt entrepreneurship education.   […]

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CES 2014 Remembered (Fondly)

January 11, 2014

I bet you’re dying to hear what I thought of CES, especially since there has been hardly any press coverage (not). This year I went with a press pass, and the most amazing thing I saw is the press itself. Trust me, “journalism” is in no danger of dying if the number of press passes […]

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Are Brands Ready for Empowered Crowds?

January 9, 2014

More than ten years ago, the Cluetrain Manifesto introduced us to the concept that markets are now conversations. The Manifesto predicted that with the internet, power would shift from companies to people, and that companies had better get ready for the shift.  Now, with the internet and social media no longer new, people are indeed […]

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Are Wearables Ready for Prime Time?

January 3, 2014

This was the Christmas when the quantified self might have been you. A Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) report found that consumer interest in fitness devices has risen to 13%. Dedicated wearable fitness device ownership has tripled year-over-year and now sits at 9%. CEA also predicts that revenues from fitness and activity tracking devices as a […]

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