The Index: 5 Vancouver wearables companies that are making waves
These businesses wear their technology proudly.
As technology increasingly becomes more embedded into our daily lives, it only makes sense that wearable devices would be all the rage. But these innovations aren’t exactly sure-fire customer hits—or at least they haven’t been in recent memory. For every Fitbit or Apple Watch there’s a Google Glass or a QR Tie that never caught on. And yes, the QR Tie was an actual thing.
But there are a few undaunted Vancouver companies that have been able to find success in the wearables space. Let’s check in with some of them.
The skinny: Former competitive swimmer Dan Eisenhardt founded Recon Instruments in 2008 to make smart eyewear technology for sports and high-intensity environments. Seven years later, Eisenhardt sold the company to Intel for a cool USD $175 million.
But he wasn’t done making an impact in the wearables space. In late 2016, Eisenhardt founded Form and its flagship product, AR-enabled smart swimming goggles that display split times, distance, pace and more.
Recent news: In the spring of 2020, Form raised CAD $12 million in a Series A funding round from a slew of investors, including large family offices in the UK and Denmark as well as Silicon Valley Bank
The skinny: Zack Eberwein co-founded supportive apparel company Stoko out of UBC’s Hatch incubator when he was in his early twenties. The mechanical engineering grad and current CEO helped launch the company after a brutal knee injury with the goal to create athletic wear that would have the comfort and support of a knee brace.
Recent news: In May of last year, Stoko raised CAD $6 million in seed funding from some of the city’s better-known executives, including Traction on Demand CEO Greg Malpass. Then, a month later, Stoko netted CAD $1.2 million from Genome BC.
Words of inspiration: “We started with the knee because it makes up the majority of injuries athletes face. But there are many others—ankles, shoulders, elbows—that we believe our technology will be perfectly suited for and that we’ve started development on as well.” - Eberwein to BCBusiness.
The skinny: Founded in 2012 by Bryan Statham and Stacey Wallin, LifeBooster uses wearable technology to assess injury risk on the job site in real time. The company estimates that its clients have staved off 80 percent of workplace accidents by using its product.
Recent news: Last year, the company announced an undisclosed investment from American manufacturing giant W.L. Gore and Associates. LifeBooster will work with Gore on a multi-year plan to introduce a line of co-branded smart workwear products to market.
Words of inspiration: “The company's vision, experience, capabilities and values are a great match for Gore, and we are confident the products we bring to market will make a meaningful impact on reducing workplace injuries.” - W.L. Gore’s smart apparel business lead David Dillon, in a release.
The skinny: When Mike Gillis was hired as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks in 2008, many in the NHL doubted his hiring of a sleep consultant to help aid the team’s arduous schedule. But Gillis, who worked with Vancouver-based Fatigue Science (founded in 2006) for many years, led the team to some of its most successful years in its history.
Now, many professional teams use some form of sleep consultancy. Fatigue, for example, counted the Chicago Cubs among its clients when the MLB squad broke a 71-year-old curse by winning the World Series in 2016.
It’s not just sports either, Fatigue has clients across sectors, including mining, oil and gas and the military. Clients simply strap on its ReadiBand wearable device and await their easy-to-analyze results.
Recent news: In 2020, Fatigue Science raised CAD $1.3 million in a Series A round from Rhino Ventures. It also won a 2021 BC Export Award in the Professional Services category.
Words of inspiration: "We know they've done everything they can to put us in a good position with the sleep. We're going to travel when we're supposed to travel. We don't worry about those types of things. We know we're going to have an advantage over other teams." - Former Canucks’ forward Daniel Sedin to NHL.com
The skinny: Officially launched last September, Train Fitness’s Apple Watch app is billed by co-founders Andrew Just and Antoine Neidecker as the “world’s first app that can detect exercises and track reps.”
Recent news: The company took second place and a $60,000 prize at October’s New Ventures BC competition.
Words of inspiration: “If you look at the cardio space, whether it’s Strava or Zwift or Peloton or Fitbit, all of these companies have done remarkable things for building a fitness community around cardio. But that just doesn't exist for strength training right now. We want to be the first to bring a broader social community to strength training, to help people hold each other accountable, support each other in their fitness goals.” - Just to BCBusiness
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