Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Ex-HTC Exec Launches Zero, a Startup Aiming to Keep That Fitbit or FuelBand From Ending Up in a Drawer

Fitness bands like the Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand and various models from Fitbit, are selling pretty well. The challenge, though, is that many people use them for a month or two, before tossing them next to the Ab Roller and Shake Weights.

kouji headshot

Former HTC executive Kouji Kodera thinks there is a way to make those fitness bands more useful, by making them more social. People who go to the gym with friends, he said, tend to stick with their regimens better than those exercising solo.

“That’s the same thing we’d like to do in this wearable space,” said Kodera, who has created Zero, a Seattle-based startup aimed at creating services for exercise bands and, later, other devices.

Kodera, who left his role as HTC’s chief product officer earlier this year, said that one problem is that people who buy one type of fitness band generally have a hard time comparing their workouts with friends who have another brand of device.

“If you go with a Fitbit, you are living in a Fitbit world,” Kodera said in an interview. “Same with Jawbone.”

In addition, such devices offer limited data, and are actually not that social beyond letting people brag on Facebook or Twitter.

All that has led to a severe problem when it comes to long-term use of the devices. Kodera said he has seen data suggesting that more than three quarters of users stop using their devices after around two months.

“None of these devices are driving long-term usage from consumers,” he said. The right services, he said, might be able to change that.

Kodera is not alone in that observation — many throughout the industry are predicting that better services are needed to make the fitness wearables market really show some muscle.

Zero hopes to launch its service in the first quarter of next year, offering up its own “energy index” that shows a sense of how one is doing mentally, physically and socially.

Kodera said it is too soon to share all the details, but said the first release will likely be limited to the major fitness bands. However, he said, the inclusion of chips like the iPhone’s M7 paves the way for smartphone owners to eventually take part, as well.

The company, Kodera said, is also still weighing what the right business model is to support the 10-person company in the longer term.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik