Tag Archives: strategy

Quantified Self Expo, Part II

Here’s my second installment from the Quantified Self Expo in San Francisco over the weekend.   It’s too bad I have other work to do because I could write about this all day.

1. Vinod Khosla – The famous Silicon Valley investor spoke about the rise of algorithms as a contributor to our health care and their ability to help doctors and other caregivers deal with the massive quantity of data becoming available.  Psychiatry was a field he picked on as having a horrible model of using very small data sets (self-reported by the patient, no less) to make important decisions.  This is changing fast.  He commented that the FDA has been fairly progressive in trying to move faster on some of the new technologies, citing the example of AliveCor, which got approval within 6 months for its mobile ECG app.  He also referred to a meta-study of medical publications which found that fully half of them contain erroneous results – something that big data and artificial intelligence ought to help fix.  Bryce Roberts, in his Q&A with Tim Chang, seemed to lean more toward my own view of wearables + analytics + big data, saying that there would be a subversive (I love that word…) aspect to how it affects health care and the medical establishment.


2. In my first installment I mentioned Tim Chang of Mayfield Ventures.  He made several other good points about the development process, the most important of which was that you need a really strong VP of Systems engineering to ride herd over the hardware, firmware, and web service guys who want to point the finger at each other.  One idea he discussed was that of giving away the device and selling the data services around it.  I absolutely believe this is the future for a whole host of reasons.  As Bryce Roberts pointed out, it is very hard for hardware companies to give up the device revenue and make this jump.  I believe there is an opportunity for a middle-man to step in and offer up the data services and coaching around the idea of free devices with a monthly coaching commitment.


4. DataSense – There has been much talk about the need to aggregate and make sense of data, and Intel’s Research Lab cooked up a web service to do just that.  There is nothing particularly health focused about it, it’s really a very generic tool for pulling data together and displaying it in creative ways, but they happen to have chosen a few health trackers to start with.  I’m playing with a beta version now.   My favorite feature was the super intuitive slider for adjusting the time-binning of data so that you could smooth out noisy looking graphs.  Any former acoustician/signal processing buff has to love that.


5. Inside Tracker – a more user friendly and advanced form of blood testing than you might have used in the past (say SpectraCell), with more accurate reference ranges for values (like hormone levels) based on your age and activity and specific guidance on foods that can help correct imbalances.   Interestingly, during a presentation on the product Gil Blander pointed out that they sometimes end up telling customers to stop taking supplements, because they are overdosing on specific nutrients.


6. uBiome – there’s been a lot of focus in the last few years on the microbiome (that collection of bacteria in your gut and other places on the body) and the importance of keeping it healthy.  We’re now getting the ability to measure and catalog these bacteria, although when I spoke to Alexandra Carmichael she admitted that the science on this is still very early on this, and the ability to tailor behavior and diet in a deterministic way with these data is limited.  uBiome will tell you how your biome looks compared to others with particular lifestyle or dietary habits (Vegans, Paleos, etc.), which I think this is pretty cool.  As Khosla pointed out during his talk, much of your serotonin comes from your gut, so what happens there is pretty important to mental health.


I have a few specific posts in the queue following up on some of these themes, it was a great expo and I am already looking forward to next year.

Nike+, TomTom, Customer Ownership

One theme you’ll hear me harp on if you hang around long enough is the somewhat grating concept of “owning the customer”.  This phrase comes up all the time in marketing and biz dev discussions, and while it’s not necessarily intended in a disrespectful way, I think the underlying premise can be dangerous and create real blindspots in guiding companies and product lines.

Once upon a time, humans struggled with scarcity.  Scarcity of food, shelter, day to day stuff.  Any cursory look around will tell you we have the opposite problem today – as the means of producing and marketing things became more and more efficient, cheap, and accessible, the availability of stuff has exploded.  Combine this with Marc Andreesen’s famous observation that software is eating the world, it’s no wonder that for so many problems, the number of viable software solutions (especially cloud based solutions) is large.

Obviously this does not apply to every industry or go-to-market approach.  Enterprise sales take a long time, car factories are still expensive and hard to build.  But in the world of fitness devices and cloud-based solutions, I’d argue the barriers to entry are low and getting lower.  So the market is likely to be fractured.  In the consumer space, your odds of owning the customer are slim.  You don’t own them, you serve them.  So you must focus maniacally on doing this the best you can, and not worry about locking in the customer.

I was inspired to write on this topic by the news of Nike re-energizing their partnership with TomTom, and announcing Nike+ compatibility with Garmin devices.   Of all the companies that might want to take a “walled garden” approach in fitness tracking, Nike and Garmin are two that you might guess have a decent shot at locking customers in to their complete solution.   But even Nike got chased out of the wearables market in favor of partnering with other hardware companies.  All these vendors are smart enough to see that while they can each offer end-to-end solutions, they can do better by making their products and services cross compatible.

I still see a lot of companies in the fitness space who are under-promoting, or altogether avoiding, cross compatibility.  I think every company in this space ought to have the technical resources, like APIs, that open the right level of services and data access to third party developers, and  I’m working on a database of apps and their third party ecosystem support.  Shoot me an email (karl@fitbusinesstech.com) if you want to learn more.

Look here for official press announcements from: Nike, TomTom.