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Mike Strasser

CEO & Cofounder, Motiv

Motiv CEO Mike Strasser is sick of wrist-based wearables. It’s why his new invention promises all the functionality of other fitness trackers, but in the form of a slender, stylish ring.

“Every time a new wearable comes out, guess where it is?” Strasser sighs. “But wrist-based wearables are awkward; they’re bulky. You don’t want to wear them all the time.”

Fitbits, Apple Watches, the Samsung Gear S2. Strasser—a product designer who counts Apple, Ideo and Nasa as former employers—tried ’em all.

“But even setting comfort aside, the wrist still presents many issues with data collection,” Strasser explains. “Hair, skin color, tattoos—they all impact accuracy.”

That’s because most wearables rely on LED lights to operate heart rate trackers and accelerometers. Wavelengths reflect off the skin back into the device, transferring information in the process. The lighter the surface, the better the reflection. Turn over your hand. What’s lighter and less encumbered than your palm?

That’s how we ended up with a ring.”

Why A Wrist-Based Wearable Doesn't Matter

TO UNDERSTAND WRIST-BASED WEARABLES, one must first consider how they came to exist.

“I think it started with the Livestrong bracelet [in the early 2000s],” Strasser recalls. “That was the first time we saw silicon wristbands. Then Fitbit came along and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to make the same thing, but with a pedometer?’”

And that’s what many wearables became: pedometers. Perhaps ones with heart rate trackers and second screens promising the delivery of texts one second sooner, but pedometers all the same.

“There aren’t, however, any attributable health benefits to steps. They’re just a number—a number you can use to compete with friends, but which most scientists agree is fairly meaningless.”

If as promised, Motiv’s ring (currently on presale for $199) uses bluetooth to relay active minutes to your phone—a metric even the World Health Organization agrees can help decrease the chance of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Want to live long enough to see a Democratic Supreme Court? The ideal number is 150 minutes/week for most adults.

A Brief History of Werables

There aren't any attributable health benefits to steps.”

ANYONE WHO HAS WORN a Fitbit or similar device knows they can be awkward, bulky and uncomfortable.

“You simply don’t want to wear them all the time,” Strasser continues. “Think about it: How many people do you know who sleep in their watch?”

It’s easier, however, to forget you’re wearing a ring. Just ask anyone who is (or has ever been) married.

“People are also frustrated with the current charging situation. It’s like companies created these devices and then realized, ‘Oh crap. How are we going to charge these things? Let’s make some plastic cradle.’”

If your wearable dies while out of the house? No luck. The only good to time to charge is while you’re sleeping—why there’s an increasing population of wristbands, most likely holiday gifts from concerned mothers, dying slow deaths on bedsides tables across America.

“A Motiv battery can go from empty to full in 90 minutes and it charges via a ‘memory stick-looking thing’ that plugs into your laptop’s USB drive… [The battery] was probably the most challenging part of production.”

Motiv understood that everything from their battery to their metal shell needed to be small enough—tiny enough—to be worn whether sleeping, jogging or attending a cocktail party. In essence, everything would need to be custom.

Style, Comfort And Ease

How many people do you know who sleep in their watch?”
A Motiv battery can go from empty to full in 90 minutes.”

WHICH LEADS to our final question: If wrist-based wearables suck so much, why do groundbreaking companies keeping making them?

“They’re not innovative; they think in the box,” Strasser proclaims. “They see a competitor sell a lot of something and think, ‘Ok, that’s cool. Let’s make our own version with one additional feature.’”

What we end up with, he says, is a lot of X+1 or X+2, when what we really want is Y—an entirely new device.

“If you’re going to disrupt a market, especially a saturated one, your product better be novel,” Strasser finishes. “Just remember MP3 players, which a lot of people considered fully-charted territory in the early 2000’s… Then Apple came along with the iPod and it was like nothing else had ever existed—because they were different.”

But Strasser’s shiniest pearl of wisdom?

“Motiv solved a personal problem of mine, but you can’t just solve your own problems. You have no idea how many Fortune 100 CEOs have approached me with the idea for a product without any consideration to whether [the issue] extends beyond them. Great products often come from personal stories, but that story needs to be widespread.”

Follow The Leader, Leader, Leader

If you're going to disrupt a market, especially a saturated one, your product better be novel.”


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