Look at this pretty thing that is going to crush our Garmins. And no, I don’t mean these pretty ladies. I mean that peppy little blue thing sitting atop the Garmin and declaring, “Your days are numbered, dude!”
I sat down with the Bia Ladies for an interview. (Well, okay – so they are on the West Coast and I’m on the East Coast, so there was no official “sitting down,” but I imagine if we did, we would have gone out for a swim and a ride followed by some sort of frozen yogurt and sitting down.) Anyway, this interview is to tell you about the Bia watch, the brains behind it, and how you can get one…
Who Are These Ladies?
Name: Cheryl Kellond
Previous Profession: Tech exec with a specialty developing and launching new products.
Number of kids kids: 4 — ages 21, 12, 10, 7
Triathlete. Is signing up for IM Lake Tahoe Monday at noon (doh!)
Mantra: Pretty Form + Pretty Smile = Pretty Fast
Name: Sylvia Marino
Previous Profession: Expert on social media and data operations.
Number of kids: 3 — ages 11, 9, 7 plus a dog
Open water long distance swimming, swam the English channel on an all women’s relay team this summer.
Mantra: If you have to ask how cold or how far, why are you here?
Sylvia and I met through work nearly 15 years ago and became fast friends. I was a last minute stand-in bridesmaid at her wedding, and she donated 250K frequent flyer miles to help me get to China to pick up our youngest daughter. But this adventure with Bia trumps it all.
How did you get started in Triathlon?
I’ve always loved to swimming and cycling but I was never anything close to an “athlete” growing up. Plus I hated running. Still two out of three isn’t bad so I started triathlon to “re-set” between kids. I showed up at my first race – Wildflower – with no wetsuit. The water was 58 that year. Luckily I was able to borrow one from a sympathetic stranger. Now I have an amazing group of TriChicks to workout with …and my own wetsuit.
So, you have a family, a new company, and still train for triathlons? How do you not feel overwhelmed?
Oh trust me, I feel overwhelmed plenty of the time. Actually most of the time lately!
I am one of those crazy hypo-manic types. I have a lot of energy and I think I would be bored with any less on my plate. It makes it easier that my life is full of things I love.
Still, something always has to give. I don’t beat myself up about it. I’ve taught my kids how to do their own laundry. The Vineman PR I had my sights set on is taking a backseat to Bia. And well, showering? I decided a long time ago that it was overrated.
Honestly, the key to making it all work is my husband. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook said a woman’s most important career decision is her choice of a partner. She’s right.
Why the name Bia?
In Greek mythology Bia is the goddess of force and power. She is also Nike’s youngers sister.
How did you come up with the idea for Bia and what motivates you?
Two summers ago I started looking for a GPS training device for triathlon. I was NOT going to strap my $600 smart phone to my arm to workout. I ordered every GPS watch on the market. I returned every one. There was nothing that fit my wrist and didn’t hurt to wear. Plus they all required a user’s manual to operate.
I went to MIT, so I’m no dummy when it comes to technology, but seriously? There is no excuse for the complexity of these devices. Clearly we could do better.
Plus, doesn’t everyone wake up on the morning and say “Heck yeah, I want to go head to head with Nike and Garmin!”? Ok, maybe that was just us. But luckily we found a few more folks that think the same way (ironically some from Nike and Garmin) so have built an amazing team to help us do it.
The watch was the trigger point, but what motivates us is bigger than the watch. Both Sylvia and I have seen the effect of endurance sports on our lives. Achieving new athletic firsts, no matter how big or small, makes you more powerful in all aspects of your life. This is what drives us. We want to provide products and a community to help more women kickbutt…and look awesome while doing it.
I saw this product and loved it. But I know the female-centric positioning can rub some folks the wrong way. Why a GPS for women?
Women need our own GPS watch for the same reason we need women-specific running shoes, running shorts (or skirts!) and bikes: Our bodies are sized and shaped different. Our style is different.
A lot of women hear “for women” on a sports product and they immediately assume it’s another insulting “shrink it and pink it” product. Historically women’s products have been dumbed down de-featured versions of male products with a pink stripe on it. Not with Bia. This is a product Sylvia and I are going to use. More importantly, our friends are going to use it. That’s high stakes! We don’t just want something that is prettier. We want something tougher and smarter as well.
…but it case you are wondering, it is also smaller and does come in a PR Pink!
What makes Bia so different?
Bia is different because it has robust multi-sport functionality, but feels great to wear, is super simple to use, and has some really unique, smart features.
Just about everyone we talked to said: “I love the data but I don’t have time for technology that gets in the way of my workout.”
For women, getting technology out of the way includes smaller size and lighter weight. But it also involves ease of use, which is gender-neutral.
No one wants to spend time futzing with their watch when they could be working out. So we did some smart things like:
- One button instead of seven.
- Data automatically sent to your online training log without sync’ing.
- GPS that connects quickly even on a cloudy day in the city.
Plus the edgy colors and swappable bands don’t hurt.
Maybe Bia is different than other GPS watches simply because we are real people making something we are actually going to use.
The biggest proof to me that we’ve done something right is not just that women are gushing over it. It’s that even though we are saying Bia is “for women” guys are scooping it up too. When have you seen that happen before?
The safety alert system is brilliant. Where did that idea come from?
Thanks. Everyone seems really excited about it. For those who haven’t seen the video yet, the watch has a built-in safety alert system for peace of mind on solo workouts. If you feel threatened or are hurt, holding down the button for 3-seconds triggers an audible alarm and then automatically sends your location date to a loved one and emergency services so they know you need help.
This idea came from listing to women and really hearing what they were saying.
No one said, “I want a safety alert system”. But we heard things like “I would love to run early before work, but there is no one to go with me. It’s dark and I don’t feel safe going alone.” or “My husband gets worried when I’m out for 5 hours on the bike but I get bored always sticking so close to home.”
And we had an ah ha moment, not about providing peace of mind, but about enabling freedom.
I had never heard of Kickstarter before Bia. Why did you decide to go that route?
Let me take a minute to explain Kickstarter because it’s new to most people. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform that let’s people help products they are passionate about get to market. Kickstarter is linked to your Amazon account, which makes it easy and trustworthy. It has a unique all-or-nothing funding model. This means:
- We have until July 13th to meet our $400K fundraising goal.
- People that like what we are doing can pledge money to the project. Based on the amount of your pledge, your can be the first to get a Bia watch. There are other rewards to. It’s sort of like pre-buying a Bia, but at a discount!
- If we reach our goal by the 13th, everyone’s credit card is charged and you’ll receive your reward as promised.
- If we don’t reach our goal, no one is charged, but we also don’t get any money and aren’t able to get the product to market.
We spent time courting traditional venture capital investors. Both Sylvia and I are long-time Silicon Valley tech execs – so this is our stomping ground. But pitching Bia to investors? Wow. It’s the first time in my career I’ve felt the gender effect. Babies? Beauty? Fine. But sports? No way!
At one investor meeting they pulled out a ShakeWeight. At another they asked me what I thought of the OhMiBod (yes, really!).
A few told me straight out that they didn’t belived there was a real market for what we are doing. We heard things like:
Women don’t care about performance. They would rather go to the spa.
- Women don’t care about technology. They just buy what men tell them to.
- Many of the women at the start line of a marathon don’t look like real athletes.
I am not sure the right word for it: frustrating, infuriating, or comical. But I know there is no better way to prove them wrong than to show them. Which is why we went to Kickstarter.
Why a $400,000 goal?
We need $400K to get this product to market. Many people advised us to set our goal lower and then hope to exceed it. I wasn’t going to risk setting a lower goal, successfully fund the project, but then not have enough funds to actually deliver what we promised. I am great at taking risks, but I won’t risk the trust of our customers.
While $400,000 is a crazy aggressive, the good news is we have a killer product and a market full of women fed up with the existing alternatives. BUT we don’t have much time. We need everyone to back the project and spread the word. FAST.
I NEED Bia to happen because I want it on my wrist at Oceanside 70.3 next year. You just passed $50K this weekend. What do we need to do to get you to $400K?
Everyone needs to check out Bia at: http://kck.st/GetBia.
If you love our product and can’t wait to get it on your wrist, back our project on Kickstarter. TODAY. Sooner actually does make a difference.
Even if you are not ready to commit to the watch, you can pledge a lesser amount, get a smoking hot Bia tech shirt, and be part of supporting a woman-run business. Every backer at any amount gets us closer to our goal.
Once you back us, spread the word with your workout group, to your team email alias, on Facebook, in person. Blog about it. Talk about it. Tweet it. Recruiting your friends as backers is what is gong to get us to our goal.