June 11, 2014
Is MC10 the Future of the Wearables Market?

I recently had the chance to meet with MC10, one of the most fascinating companies in the wearables market.  This company is innovating quickly with new products and they have a shot at building a massive company with the “WOW” factor here in Boston.  

The company was launched in 2008 from the mind of John Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder Chair Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign.  Rogers couldn’t understand why electronics did not conform to the human body.  So, he set out to change that with MC10. 

Like many, I was aware of Cambridge-based MC10 through their sports consumer product CHECKLIGHT (pictured below), their first product which was created in partnership with Canton, MA based Reebok International.

The device, which can be worn with or without a helmet, uses multiple sensors to capture head impact data during play, while being virtually invisible to the athlete.  This non-invasive strategy is the key part of MC10’s focus that was stressed to me by Isaiah Kacyvenski, MC10’s Head of Sports.  Kacyvenski, a former NFL player, knows first-hand that athletes have a low tolerance for interference, which is why MC10 has been successful so far in the wearables market.  In their eyes, gone are the days of boxy technologies that do not conform to the human body. 

MC10’s business goes well beyond sports, however. With the wearables space taking off, MC10 is playing in several areas: Sports & Fitness, Consumer Health, and Regulated Medical,. Just as they partnered with a major player in the sports and fitness industry in Reebok, they have other major partnerships secured and more in the works in other verticals. While many are undisclosed a few known are Medtronic, Massachusetts General Hospital and Diagnostics For All. 

With their proprietary Biostamp platform, MC10 is able to produce flexible, stretchable, human-friendly products that fit naturally with human bodies.. They are setting a new standard of what it means to be a wearable device. They have several secured patents and hundreds more pending.

The products they produce will be able to measure movement, rotation, body temperature, heart rate and hydration as well as environmental conditions such as CO2 and sun exposure. Due to the ability of these products to conform to any part of the body the results produced are much more accurate than ever before.  The health insights that are realized open up a world of possibilities. 

Today, patients are often asked by doctors to keep a diary of symptoms..Clearly, this is not as effective as it should be in 2014. A burden of that magnitude shouldn’t be left to an untrained person, especially if that person is fighting a serious medical condition. MC10 is improving this problem by developing technology that provides accurate, actionable data and insights for doctors. No more self-reporting. 

This same technology will also allow for better in-home care from family caregivers. Today, people call doctors with limited knowledge and often times in a state of panic.  Instead, imagine calling a doctor with meaningful data and getting immediate feedback to help your family member. 

MC10 is behind the technology and they are partnering with companies who have the direct knowledge and access to the consumers. As these partnerships grow and new products are built and launched to the world, as Kacyvenski put it, “is going to get peeks at how groundbreaking this technology really is.” By the end of 2014, they are launching a second product with new skin-mounting technology which will be released in partnership with a well-known brand. 

Elyse Winer, MC10 Manager of Marketing & Communications, tells me playing in the different segments has been highly beneficial for product development. The sports segment taught them how critical it is for products to withstand an athlete’s rigor of performance and training. In consumer health, the conformability matters in order to allow for 24/7 wearability.  And in medical, the data produced needs to be clinically relevant, which is why MC10 is building the medical expertise required to bring life-changing technology applications from the lab and into the clinical setting or home. 

These lessons led MC10 to innovate on form factor to create a seamless experience for consumers, who don’t want to deal or put up with rigid electronics. They have lowered the barriers to wearable technologies and simplified the experience – from application to insight to change in behavior. The ease of use will lead to an overall increase in use. 

Why Boston? 

With the founder originally from Illinois, why did they choose Boston to build the company?  Pretty simple really. As Kacyvenski put it, “the ability to build this technology takes a lot of resources… MIT, Harvard, etc…” Out of the 51 employees of MC10 43 are engineers, so talent is the true company driver and Boston, as we know, provides talent. 

The connection goes a bit deeper as well, though. Rogers had a close connection with MC10 Co-Founder Carmichael Roberts through their time at The Whitesides Lab at Harvard. Roberts, who is part of North Bridge Venture Partners, assembled the original team and invested in the company. 

MC10’s investors also include Braemar Energy Investors, Osage University Partners, Aberdare Ventures, Windham Venture Partners, Terawatt Ventures, MedTronic, Mitsui Ventures as well as additional strategic investors. 

The company is also very fortunate to have a lot of major athletes supporting their technology.  They formed a Sports Advisory Board which includes current NFL players Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck, former NBA player Grant Hill, Retired US Women’s National Team Soccer player Kristine Lilly, and several others. 

As we wait for their skin-mounted product to be released later this year, the headband version of the CHECKLIGHT will be available next month.  As this company’s products start to take off in the consumer market, Kacyvenski and the rest of the MC10 leadership should expect even more inbound prospects seeking partnership opportunities to leverage their technology.

Josh Boyle is Director of Community & Marketing, VentureFizz.  You can follow him on Twitter: @jb_sid