Entrepreneurs of Austin: Atlas Wearables

Feb 19 2014, 12:29pm CST | by

Entrepreneurs of Austin: Atlas Wearables
Photo Credit: Forbes Business
This begins a new series by Gay Gaddis entitled “Entrepreneurs of Austin2014-02-18T17:31">.” 
The city of Austin is booming with big business, but has remained small in feel due to its strong entrepreneurial character that different visionaries have brought to the city. As an entrepreneur from Austin who started her business in 1989, Gay will be highlighting the intriguing successes that can be found in the city today. 

Peter Li, Founder of Atlas Wearables, sat down with me to discuss his team’s recent success with raising over $470,000 via crowdfunding on Indiegogo and what it is like to be an entrepreneur in the fast-growing wearables industry.

Gay Gaddis: Peter, give me some background on you, your team and how Atlas came about.

Peter Li: I actually grew up in North Boston with Michael Kasparian and then I met Alex Hsieh at Johns Hopkins University where I went to undergrad and graduate school. While Michael was at Boston University getting a degree in electrical engineering and later working at Phillips Health Care, I was at Johns Hopkins working with tissue engineering and getting my graduate degree in biomedical engineering. Things seemed to come together at the right time. It also helped that we all saw the same problem. Writing down our workouts to keep track wasn’t working for us and we wanted to find a solution.  Alex swam at Johns Hopkins, I would work out 5 to 6 times a week and Michael did athletics too, so it was a pretty consistent frustration. We put our heads together and Atlas Wearables was born.

GG: How does Atlas stand out in the sea of wearables?

PL: Wearables are huge right now. Jawbone, Fitbit, etc. have really created product awareness, but from a health and fitness perspective, they are limited. For people who log workouts, they aren’t valuable enough. Where we shine through is at the gym, where we can dive deeper into the data. Atlas reads on an –x, -y, and –z axis so it leads to more motivation to get off of the couch. It not only follows your workout, but it will also lead you through a workout if you don’t have one. I also love that gym-lovers can still compete with others through apps like Map M yFitness, and Fitocracy. It really helps that people can purchase an Atlas, but not feel pressured to change the applications they already know how to use.

How has crowdfunding impacted your experience?

PL: It’s great because you can share your ideas and reveal the concepts before having something, which causes for some humility in the process, but the benefit is to be able to test traction and build a connection before the product is built. Our Indiegogo campaign was just extended to target us at the half million mark. It will allow us to create 50-100 meter waterproofing so we are interested to see the responses in demand. We can already tell people want our product, but now the question is what do they really want it to do?

Did you expect to become an entrepreneur when you were in school? Biomedical engineering into entrepreneurship doesn’t seem like a typical path.

PL: No, not really. After being in research, I wanted a change of work environment. I loved my studies, but it took so long to see any results. Once I talked to Michael and we saw the difference in metrics between general pushups and triangle pushups (6 to 12 inch difference) on a wrist sensor, I was sold. The awesome thing about Atlas is that it took us two years since first starting work to get something real out for use.

What’s the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur?

PL: The uncertainty is always hard and emerging tech will always be expensive. There are a lot of tiny costs that go into the development. Whatever you guess you think you will need in time and money, add 50-100% more and you are probably hitting the target. [Being an entrepreneur] also forces you to have to create your own habits. If you have a normal job, there is structure. The perk is that you have your own choices, but that can also be a hazard in disguise.

What advice do you have for emerging entrepreneurs?

PL: Three things,

Be receptive to feedback. It isn’t always easy, but you have to be comfortable with what your vision and passions are, but also be willing to realize that other people may not have the same visions.

Immerse yourself with the kind of people that you believe can make a product successful. The people you recruit have to know what to do before you make your product, but they also have to be adaptive. For example, Alex is software design, but he has had to put on multiple different hats. Flexibility and having the same passion is key – someone told me when I first started that if there is poison in the well, it will spread everywhere.  As an entrepreneur, that foundation of support is necessary.

Try things: Before Atlas, I founded Froots & Co. at Johns Hopkins. It is like Netflix, but for fruits. My mom always complained about me not eating enough fruit, but I never had the time to consistently purchase produce. Instead of continuing to have the “missing link”, I created a solution – Froots & Co.We would deliver fresh fruit to customers every week. From that experience, I learned a lot from logistics and operations. It also helped me realize that finding things I know and love motivate me and makes work not feel like work.

Source: Forbes Business


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