You Need This GPS Sport Watch, and It Needs You: Bia, the Sport Watch for Women by Women

Cinnamon

Cinnamon

Kyle has written 164 posts on Salty Running.

I'm a camera assistant in New York's film and TV industry, underboss at Salty Running, working toward a 22:00 5k and a 3:40:00 marathon and trying to find time for everything else too!

How big is that GPS watch on your wrist, does it chafe a bit?  Can you wear it in a downpour? How about while you’re swimming?  Can your friends use it to track you in a race?  Wish it came in snazzy colors?  What if it had a built-in alarm system to send your location to authorities in case something goes wrong?

Anything your watch can do Bia can do better.

When you get a chance, check out Bia, “a GPS sports watch for women that men want too.” It’s a tiny electronic device you wear on your wrist that is power-packed with quick-connect GPS tracking, water resistance up to 100m, and a safety alert.  Users will have the iPod-like ease of a touch-screen, so you’ll never have to fumble with complicated buttons (or that stupid bevel). Not to mention it’s ergonomic design allows it to nestle between the bones on your wrist, so it won’t rub or chafe (like some other watches I know).  And all this will retail starting at $249 (which is $150 cheaper than a Garmin 310), but you can order one today for $199.  Sounds too good to be true, right?

That’s because it doesn’t exist. In part, that’s because major retailers don’t believe women are serious athletes that care about performance. Seriously? I thought we were over this.

Pissed yet?  Yeah, me too.  That’s why I pre-purchased a watch through Bia’s Kickstarter campaign and you should too (the $99 level buys you a Bia watch, and the $200 level buys you a GPS-enabled watch).  With Bia we have a chance to do more than just buy a cool new gadget that will help us train, we have a chance to show major athletic corporations that we are their target market just as much (if not more than) this:

How's that for creative use of pink?

Bia needs to raise $400,000 to go to market, which (for a great product that appeals to a wide range of endurance athletes, men and women alike) should be peanuts to a corporate investor, but strangely enough investors have been stonewalling Bia creators Cheryl Kellond and Sylvia Marino, saying 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 athletes.

What’s crazy is they’re saying that to this product: a GPS-enabled sport watch that’s smaller, lighter, easier and superior in its function to Nike+, a phone app, or even a Garmin. Check out the video:

Kellond and Marino have been interviewed and profiled on a few great blogs already, like Shut Up and RunDCRainmaker and Another Mother Runner, but I had a few of my own questions, especially since I don’t know that anyone has really focused on the startling gender-bias that is holding Bia back. Cheryl was kind enough to answer my questions via email this week; here’s what she had to say:

Cinnamon: I know from your Kickstarter page that you have professional backgrounds in technology engineering, a male-dominated field.  When you initially came up with the idea for Bia, had you had any professional experiences that made you worry you might have trouble pitching to investors?

Cheryl: No, not at all. In fact we thought we’d have an advantage pitching this type of business to investors because we have unique insight into a large, underserved, and fast growing market – and the technical chops to pull it off.

I imagine ‘pitching to investors’ as you all standing in some kind of board room and presenting charts and graphs to a bunch of suits.  Is it really like that?  What kinds of groups do you approach for something like Bia?  Why not just go to Nike, Apple, Brooks, Saucony, etc.?

No suits. Just khakis and loafers. It’s a fun excuse for us to jettison the Newtons and rock a pair of cute peep toes – and show off a missing toenail or two naturally.

Can a big ugly Garmin do THIS?

We talked to traditional tech investors and we’ve had some great angel investors hop on board to help us get to where we are today.  We talked to one potential partner like those you mentioned and they couldn’t get over the fact that we didn’t look like a Garmin. It was too high risk to go with a different look. …and copying Garmin would get us where?

As for a strategic investor like a Brooks, or KSwiss, or Under Armour (hint hint) we got some advice that we should wait until we had a shipping product and proof that people were buying it before approaching them.

Between your website, your test models and your experience it really seems like you gals have the whole package – why do you think investors disagree?

 I don’t think they disagree. Part of the problem is that we are doing hardware. Hardware is scary to most investors. Tech investors have become used to low investment and quick cycles that comes with mobile apps or a website. You can’t do that with hardware.

Terrifying, isn't it? Terrifyingly ADORABLE.

But the fact that most investors don’t have an emotional connection to our initial market has also played a role.

The data that women make up over 60% of marathoners and half marathoners, that we buy 80% of all sports apparel and that we are the fastest growing segment in triathlon doesn’t cut through the biases we heard:

  • 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 athletes.

If these women from the Nike Women's Marathon in Chicago don't look like athletes, what do they look like? Spa-goers? (img pilfered from Time Out Chicago)

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.

Have investors suggested changing Bia in any way to make it ‘more marketable?’  If so, how?

The biggest suggestion we get is to forget about the watch and just focus on the online site. Build up that business and then 2 years from now make the leap into devices.  But we live and breathe this market everyday and we see the pain around devices. We are not giving up on this product without a fight.

Why not make Bia gender-universal? If it performs the way you say it will your device is going to be better than anything Garmin or Nike have to offer and it’s not even very expensive – why tailor specifically to women instead of embracing the men’s market as well?

Having a watch that's better than a Garmin doesn't make you any less of a man.

Ah great questions. Bia is actually gender universal. While we started our product development efforts focused on female needs what we ended up with was a device for the 99% of us who don’t have time for technology that gets in the way of our workout. Clearly that’s coming through because guys are scooping it up on Kickstarter too.

That said, we chose to emphasize the female angle with Kickstarter because with 30ish days and zero marketing budget we needed to tap into something emotional. And we needed it to tie really tightly to our personal stories. It was a risk, but it felt right.

When this product ships next year, expect to see a wider range of man-friendly watch bands and a more gender neutral approach.

My favorite thing about you is that you understand how upsetting “shrink it and pink it” is to me!  Tell me what you think Bia could do to help change the (frankly offensive) assumption by manufacturers and retailers that women will just use men’s products if they’re pink. 

The only way we change those assumptions is to change the facts. To change the facts we need to vote with our dollars as investors and consumers. Garmin puts a pink stripe on it and we buy it, so they think that’s all they have to do for us.  If Bia fails on Kickstarter we’ve sent a message that we are fine with the existing products out there (and they are watching what happens).

It’s funny because so many other products have taken a women-specific approach and just unleashed whole new markets. I think that is what we are about to do. But each new product is so hard-fought because it’s so infrequent that women are the designers and the decision makers and, in the case of a start-up, the investors. But don’t get me going down that girl-power path.

I hate to even think it might happen, but if your Kickstarter campaign falls short, what are your plans for Bia?  Will you renew the campaign so we can all try again?  Please?

I am glad you asked that because this is important. We are tapped out. We bootstrapped, borrowed, and begged to get as far as we have. There is nothing left. If Kickstarter falls short, there will be no watch.

If we succeed we have the money we need to get Bia to market and the proof we need to get investors to fund us and ensure we can build a strong long-term business. But if we fall short, we’ve proven their point, and we are done.

We’ve actually already been asked by a MAJOR retailer if we’d be open to an exclusive. Unfortunately until they get to field test units of their own, they won’t put in an order. Investors need to see the order, not just the interest. We are in a Catch-22 right now, which is why Kickstarter success is so important.

Is there anything else you’d like to add for the Salty Running readers?

Back us on Kickstarter and then tell your friends about it. Not just in a posting on your facebook wall or some tweets, but tell them directly.

Say “Hey, I really need YOU to get on board this Kickstarter project with me today.”

If everyone already on board got two friends to join them, we’d EASILY hit our goal. So it’s VERY much within our power to make this project successful.

Also – super important – We have an awesome contest going on where teams can get their own custom designed watch band. If you have a team or a group, email us at founders@bia-sport.com. We’ll send you an easy-to-forward email to help you get your team on board. We have 3 of Competitor Magazine’s Top Triathlon clubs already participating along with a slew of others.

 

Love it? Pre-order today for $99 and help these women get it done!

At the time of this writing, Bia’s Kickstarter is only up to$147,999 out of $400,000 needed.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE back them on Kickstarter today!  Better yet, get two of your friends to back them as well.  We only have until 3 am on July 14 EST (that’s basically next Friday night)!

This little watch has the potential to change the general corporate attitude toward women’s athletic funding forever! Please, if you’ve ever wanted an option other than pink, back them! If you’ve ever wanted a GPS watch that wasn’t a pain in your ass, back them! If you’ve ever wanted a smart alarm that can get you help when you’re running or riding alone, back them! If you want athletic corporations to take notice that WE are their market, please back this Kickstarter–even if it’s just for $1.

26 Responses to “You Need This GPS Sport Watch, and It Needs You: Bia, the Sport Watch for Women by Women”

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  1. Mint says:

    Looks cool! I personally want a new Garmin (I have the 305), but the 2 latest versions have gotten such bad reviews I am sticking with my old stand by. I’d love something more accurate, trendy looking. And I love the idea of the safety feature.

    I am actually really surprised they cannot get funding. The economy sucks, but there are still a lot of potential investors out there. It is going to be really hard to raise $400K doing it this way…

    • Salty Salty says:

      Even if they don’t make it every dollar is an FU to those a-holes who told them women rather go to the spa. Please consider giving them something. I just did and I otherwise wouldn’t be in the market for a new watch just because it’s not in the budget for me right now. Even so, I will do everything in my power to support this awesome venture and I wish the ladies of Bia Sport all the luck in the world!!!

    • Cinnamon says:

      Mint, if you’d really be interested in having one, pre-order one on Kickstarter! If they don’t make it you lose nothing and if they do, you get an awesome GPS watch!

  2. Pepper Pepper says:

    I guess my question would be why the deadline on funding? Why not raise the money for however long it takes?

  3. Cheryl Kellond says:

    Great question Pepper.

    That’s just how these platforms work. Also they’ve seen that if a project drags out forever, backers don’t see a need to pop to action. To be honest we’ve had people that said they were going to back us weeks ago that are finally jumping in now.

    The deadline is motivating …. i just hope we don’t run out of time.

  4. Sheena says:

    Those women who “don’t look like athletes” are running or walking LAPS around the men sitting on the couch at home.

    I don’t look like a marathon winner, that’s for sure. But running has made my body into something it’s never been before – strong, “athletic” and a lean mean man eating machine.

    I buy what I want. No man has to tell me what technology to purchase – unless it’s only men that work at Brooks Running or Runner’s World. I do take those to heart :) So tell em to stuff it!

    • Cinnamon Cinnamon says:

      Yeah, stuff it! You’re so right, Sheena, which is exactly the reason I backed Bia. It’s so important to vote with our dollars in a consumer-driven economy. I hope you can give a few bucks and spread the word to a friend or two!

  5. Ginger Ginger says:

    Great interview! It’s unfortunate that the big timers said such words. I’m not a GPS fan but for some of the reasons this watch goes against (size, portability). Good luck! I’ll pledge a few.

  6. Rachel says:

    I LOVE this idea and I can’t believe they are still so far from their goal!! Just today I upped my pledge from the “get a watch for yourself” amount to the “his and hers” amount because I’m an insane person and the bf has never had a GPS watch and I know he would use it. I personally have the old school giant square Garmin wrist computer and while I love its reliability, it is just uncomfortable and something smaller with a fabric band (and waterproof) would be AWESOME!! Also love the safety alert feature… just genius. I really hope they make it!!!

  7. Cheryl Kellond says:

    Hey you blog is lighting up some female angel investors. We just had another step in offering to match the next $5K of pledges. Get your crew on board today – everything they do will be doubled.

  8. tim footman says:

    “That said, we chose to emphasize the female angle with Kickstarter because with 30ish days and zero marketing budget we needed to tap into something emotional. And we needed it to tie really tightly to our personal stories.”

    Sexism is crap, but marketing is utter crap. Why should the “personal stories” of the makers (of whatever gender) affect my choice of sports watch?

    • Salty Salty says:

      Ever heard of the case Citizen United? The concept of money as speech. Use your dollars to support causes and people you believe in. I believe in the concept that women can be serious athletes and that makers of things like GPS watches should consider them when making products rather than ignore them as has apparently been the case. That’s one of the main reasons I supported Bia on Kickstarter.

  9. The slower 1/2 of @TwinsRun doesn’t use a GPS sports watch but after looking at all the information she’d love to try Bia! We are backers and we hope Friday the 13th will be a lucky day for Bia! :-)

    • Salty Salty says:

      Woohoo! You can always leave the GPS stick at home if you don’t want the data. Yet another cool thing about Bia!

    • Cinnamon Cinnamon says:

      That’s awesome! I keep meaning to write to Ginger – If you’re training for a marathon GPS brings a whole new level to your training! If you can head out for a long tempo without micromanaging your route for an hour beforehand and without your tired brain having to worry too much about math it makes a big difference to have GPS on your side. I think your slower half will really enjoy a really fantastic tool for distance training!

  10. Sam says:

    I am a massive fan of GPS watches! I ran with a Garmin Forerunner for years before switching over to a 910 so that I could use it for triathlon training as well as the occasional jog. The open water swim features are great despite the large profile on my wrist.

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