Author's Archive

Hello, Maker of Sense, Nabs The Technical Head Of The Google Nexus Phone Program

Sense app on smartphone Hello, the startup that smashed its Kickstarter goals by raising $2.4 million for an elegant, spherical sleep sensor called Sense, just poached Scott Bartlett, the technical lead behind Google’s Nexus phone program to be its director of hardware. Notably, Bartlett was one of the people behind the Nexus Q, the failed media player from Google that ended up being a source of design… Read More
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Kim-Mai Cutler

September 16th

Gadgets

Misfit Wearables Launches The Flash, A More Affordable Fitness And Sleep Tracker

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 1.41.52 PM Misfit Wearables, which has sold roughly 600,000 metallic, quarter-sized activity trackers or Shines, has launched a more affordable fitness wearable called the Flash. The company, which was co-founded by an extremely experienced hardware CEO Sonny Vu and former Apple CEO John Sculley, has been building beautifully designed wearables in the health space. Read More
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Kim-Mai Cutler

September 16th

Gadgets

Lean Hardware Strategy Lets Kickstarter Breakout Nomiku ‘In-Shore’ Manufacturing Back To The U.S.

nomiku-2 In the 1980s, Silicon Valley’s hardware elite began outsourcing much of the semiconductor and hardware manufacturing work that gave the region its name to Asia. But now that the economics of hardware startups have fundamentally changed with new ways to test consumer interest and get feedback through platforms like Kickstarter, some startups are finding that it’s easier to build… Read More

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Kim-Mai Cutler

August 19th

Gadgets

Thiel Fellow’s Elegant Sleep Sensor, The Sense, Crushes Kickstarter With $120K In A Few Hours

sense_hand_charcoal_lit When I first took a look at the Sense, a smart sleep sensor launching today on Kickstarter, it reminded me of two things. Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium and Google’s old, discontinued Nexus Q product. “Those are two of my favorite things,” said James Proud, a former Thiel fellow who went on to found a startup behind the device called Hello. “I wanted to… Read More

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Kim-Mai Cutler

July 23rd

Gadgets

Mobile

Nest’s Fadell Backs Smart Garden Sensor Edyn As It Moves Past Kickstarter Goals

edyn-app A month ago, I wrote about an Internet of Things soil sensor called Edyn that tracks light, humidity, temperature, soil nutrition and moisture data for gardeners. The company, which first launched at TechCrunch Disrupt last year, beat their initial $100,000 goal for a first production run on Kickstarter. They’ve got close to $300,000 from backers including Nest co-founder Tony Fadell… Read More

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Kim-Mai Cutler

July 2nd

Gadgets

A Little Startup Called Cruise From The Socialcam, Twitch Founders Is Tackling Self-Driving Cars Too

cruise From mobile-social video apps to self-driving cars? Kyle Vogt, one of the founders behind Justin.tv, Socialcam and Twitch, is getting back to his undergraduate research roots in autonomous vehicles with a new self-driving car startup called Cruise. He’s recruited a team of engineers and roboticists from MIT. Read More

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Kim-Mai Cutler

June 23rd

Gadgets

Edyn Is A Gardening Monitor That Sends Moisture, Temperature Data Back To The Cloud

edyn-app The Internet of Things is coming to a garden near you. Last fall, a company called Soil IQ made the finals at TechCrunch Disrupt with a soil monitor that continuously sends data on moisture and temperature back to the cloud. It was co-founded by a Princeton grad and soil scientist named Jason Aramburu, who had worked with hundreds of Kenyan farmers to increase crop yields. He then teamed up… Read More

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Kim-Mai Cutler

June 5th

Gadgets

Mobile

Misfit Raises $15.2M From Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures For Its Activity Tracker, The Shine

misfit-shineMisfit Wearables, the hardware startup that built a sleek activity tracker called the Shine, just picked up $15.2 million from Li Ka-shing's Horizons Ventures in a big, new growth round. Jason Wong, a director at the Hong Kong-based firm, will be joining the board. Misfit added that all of its existing investors, including Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Paypal co-founder Max Levchin and incTANK all participated and took their full pro-­rata in the round. Misfit was co-founded by former Apple CEO John Sculley along with Sonny Vu and Sridhar Iyengar, who were behind the medical devices company that had the first Apple blessed add-on for the iPhone, which was a glucose meter. Misfit launched the Shine earlier this year; it's a quarter-sized activity tracker that awards users points for walking, running and swimming among other activities. Unlike other wrist-bound activity trackers, the Shine can be worn anywhere - as a clip-on to your shoes or your shirt, or as a necklace. That form factor has made it surprisingly popular among female consumers, we've heard from sources close to the company. Like competing products such as the Jawbone, the Shine pairs itself with a mobile app that shows day-by-day graphs of activity. It has a cool syncing behavior, where you place the Shine on top of your smartphone and little circles radiate outward from the device until your phone downloads the data it contains. The company hasn't shared detailed statistics on sales so far except to say that that they've shipped “hundreds of thousands” of units to more than 20 countries in the last few months. They've also scored key distribution deals with retailers like Apple, Best Buy and Target, which will help on top of online sales through their website. The funding is going toward new, yet-to-be-launched products that should come out next year. CEO Sonny Vu says that the Shine was merely a starting product and that they have a number of other wearable concepts in the works.

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Kim-Mai Cutler

December 4th

Gadgets

Mobile

Misfit Wearables Finally Launches An Android App For Its Activity Tracker, The Shine

Misfit Wearables, the Khosla and Founders Fund-backed startup that builds elegant activity tracking hardware, is patching up a weak spot with the launch of its new Android app today.

It was something that prospective customers balked at when the company launched back in the summer.

Misfit makes the Shine, a quarter-sized activity tracker that's popular among women and costs about $99.95. The team behind the product is an experienced one that built the first medical device that was approved for use with the iPhone - a glucose meter. Those relationships helped them secure key distribution partnerships with all Apple stores worldwide, Best Buy and some Target locations.

It has a paired app that syncs through Bluetooth with a cool animation, and pulls in all of your activity data in day-by-day graphs.

They're bringing the Android version to market today, at least a month earlier than they had promised. They had pledged to have a live Android version “early next year.” Early reviews show that it's crashing on some devices, though Misfit says it has fixes coming in the next version.

Earlier this week, they also released an update to the app that brings some social features - users can see when their friends are passing them in points and get regular alerts. Jawbone has a similar feature where you can compare yourself against friends.


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Kim-Mai Cutler

December 2nd

Gadgets

Mobile

A Love Story That Spawned A Hardware Revolution In The Kitchen

nomiku-team

Neither of them had any entrepreneurial history before they met. Abe Fetterman was a plasma physics Ph.D at Princeton and Lisa Qiu had worked in hospitality at Jean-Georges and Mario Batali before entering the magazine world.

But while watching Top Chef episodes during their first week of dating, they clicked.

Lisa, who was working around some of the most elite chefs in the world, saw an immersion circulator on a Top Chef episode. These devices are used to cook with the “sous vide” method, where food is vacuum sealed and slow-cooked in a water bath to a precise and even temperature. High-end chefs have raved that “sous vide” helps them create perfectly cooked food, like steaks where the core is evenly rare without having burnt exteriors.

She confessed that she would've loved to have one.

But at the time, sous vide machines cost well over $1,000, which was far out of reach for an admittedly money-poor grad student and associate magazine editor in Manhattan.

So Abe gallantly offered to make one with off-the-shelf parts for about $50 or so.

It was the beginning of a partnership that would spawn a company, a family and an adventure through the factories of Shenzhen, DIY workshops in the Lower East Side and then Silicon Valley. Ultimately, the now married couple wants to start a home-cooking revolution where once avant-garde technique of sous vide becomes cheap and easy for everyone.

They just released the Nomiku, which is the product of well over a year's work and has a pre-order price of $299.95. It's a home sous vide machine that you can plop into a bucket of water, and then turn a knob to an exact temperature. It then circulates water around whatever it is that you're working - be it eggs or salmon in a bag.

“Nomiku is all about modernizing your whole kitchen,” Lisa said. “We see the kitchen as a home manufacturing center. It should be both clean and beautiful.”

She went on, “When we started, the cheapest immersion circulator was $1,000. We completely disrupted the whole market and we're making a whole, completely new one.”

Not long after Abe made a DIY sous vide machine, they started running workshops in Lower Manhattan for other hobbyists and chefs that wanted to hack their kitchen appliances.

Eventually, they came up with an idea to create an affordable sous vide machine - something that would be way easier for regular people than the kitchen appliance hacks they had been teaching. To put their project in motion, they joined a cross-border hardware accelerator that links San Francisco and Shenzhen called HAXLR8R.

While getting totally burned out designing the product and negotiating with suppliers, they took a vacation to Thailand where they re-connected with a former Momofuku line chef named Wipop Bam Suppipat, who had taken some of their Manhattan DIY workshops.

Luckily enough, he turned out to be a RISD grad with a degree in industrial design. They spent days together talking non-stop about the product until the point where it became a no-brainer for Suppipat to join as the third co-founder.

Last July, they ran a Kickstarter campaign that raised the most out of any other proposal in the food category.

With the $586,000 they raised, came the tough part, involving working through all of the design and logistical issues necessary to create a functioning prototype.

“We got really really burned out,” Lisa said. “It was 24-7 with barely any sleep, working on a prototype every day.”

Even so, the trio had complementary skills. Lisa had the Mandarin necessary to negotiate with manufacturers and navigate the often frustrating local business culture, while Abe and Suppipat had the technical and design chops to create a prototype that was easy to use and cheaper to make.

“Abe is a genius. He did a lot of the magic,” Lisa said. “I don't think you could've gone to Shenzhen and done this. But we had a good melange of mentors from HAXLR8R, I speak Mandarin and we used a lot of new technologies like 3D printers.”

They were able to build the initial Nomiku with about $20,000. Still, there were setbacks. They found that steam was leaking into the Nomiku's motor system, creating the risk that the device would rust. They also had to secure a UL certification from a third-party lab to make sure the Nomiku was safe to retail in the U.S.

After a few months of production setbacks (which are pretty common for Kickstarter projects), they launched the Nomiku last month. They also raised a small seed round from angels including i/o Ventures' partners Paul and Dan Bragiel, former Yelp and Airbnb community manager Ligaya Tichy and former EA Popcap executive producer and Tilting Point co-founder Giordano Contestabile.

I ran a test of it side-by-side along some other DIY immersion circulators and a competing Anova product. (This is because when you host a sous vide dinner in San Francisco, everyone offers to bring their own machine, even ones they built themselves).

We made vegetables like eggplant with harissa, Romanesco cauliflower with lemon and anchovies and asparagus with the Nomiku, while doing meats and eggs in the other devices.

Overall, I'm very new to sous vide cooking, but it did definitely improve the taste of eggs, shrimp and thicker cuts of salmon.

Nomiku faces competition from much bigger, well-funded competitors like Anova, a lab equipment company that migrated into making water bath products for cooks and PolyScience, another similar competitor.

A more experienced sous vide cook and Anova-using friend had the following feedback: he felt that Nomiku's user experience was more intuitive with a rotating dial instead of a touchscreen. But he said that it lacked features like a timer and was slightly slower in getting the water bath to the appropriate temperature than the Anova.

But the Fettermans and Suppipat don't seem that fazed by their better-capitalized competitors.

“I don't know what their strategy is and I'm not worried about them,” she said. “What we worry about is whether our customers are happy. Did they have a great experience? With every great idea you will have competitors. The only thing you can do is focus.”


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Kim-Mai Cutler

November 1st

Gadgets
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