Updated: You can tell the influence of uber designer (and chief creative officer) Yves Behar on the San Francisco-based wearable computing products company Jawbone. The company is buying two startups – Visere and MassiveHealth (behind the Eatery app) for an undisclosed amount of money in order to create a better experience around the UP, its personal health focused wearable computing device.
As I have often said, hardware today needs to be more than hardware; it needs to marry connectivity, data and design to create a compelling user experience that keeps people coming back. The better the user experience, the more people engage with the device. Amazon’s Kindle, Nest’s thermostat and Sonos’ devices are examples of this new hardware equation.
Wearable computing’s building blocks are sensors, which record a lot of data. In order to make sense of that data, companies needs data wranglers. But to translate those data inferences into human-understandable experiences, companies — big and small — need design and user experience expertise. And with these two small app-makers, Jawbone is getting that in spades.
MassiveHealth was started by well-known designer and UX thinker Aza Raskin and it launched with fanfare, though it failed to attain the scale normally associated with winning apps. The Eatery app did win a lot of critical acclaim. MassiveHealth raised $2.25 million from various venture funds including Greylock and A16z, and a source tells us, that it was sold for low single digit millions.
Raskin, who in the past worked for Mozilla and helped come up with cool concepts for Firefox, is joining Jawbone. He had helped build a top-notch mobile design and engineering team. Visere, a digital design firm that has storied pedigree and is chock-full of talent. It has worked with Nike in the past.
Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman said that both these acquisitions bring in about 25 new people who will add to its growing software, data and design teams. The company has not decided what to do with the two apps just yet.
Today nearly 40 percent of Jawbone 300-plus employees work on software. “A year ago we had no one working on using data to enhance our offerings,” said Rahman, “Today we have fifteen and that number is going to keep growing.”
Jawbone started life as a company making headsets for mobile phones and about two years ago it has expanded into wearable computers. It launched UP in 2011 but the initial version came under widespread criticism. The company went back to the drawing board and re-jiggered the UP and released it recently along with a new iPhone application.
While these are early days for wearable computing, the market is chock-a-block with a lot of devices and it has drawn the attention of Nike whose FuelBand is a runaway hit.
Correction 2:23pm: An earlier version of this story misspelled Visere.