I first learned about Fitbit when they presented at the TechCrunch50 conference in 2008. For those that aren’t familiar with the conference, it was an annual 3-day event that had a stronghold on the attention of the technology world. The brightest minds in the industry would speak on panels, while the most promising startups were given a chance to show their dreams to the world on stage. These startups were competing for a grand prize, and Fitbit was chosen as a runner-up. At the time I was an Associate with a venture capital firm in New York. I was so impressed by Fitbit that I reached out to the founders to ask if they needed some funding. Though my firm wasn’t able to invest, they ended up raising money from one of the most respected venture capital firms in the country, True Ventures (the company also recently raised more money from another top-tier fund, Foundry Group).
Fitbit has developed a compact sensor that you can wear all day long to track your steps, calories burned and even sleep. The device uses a 3-axis accelerometer to determine your movements. It then uses the intensity & duration of those movements to determine calorie burn. It’s a magical technology! All of this data is then wirelessly uploaded to their website where you can see it in graphical form and identify patterns. On the website, you can also manually log your food intake and body weight to complete your overall fitness picture.
Because the Fitbit is worn all day long and monitors even the slightest movement, we had to use a different formula to assign points to Fitbit activity. As opposed to the typical “10 points per mile by foot” we give for other devices, we came up with a unique formula for Fitbit. In a user’s daily report, their activities are classified into one of 4 buckets: sedentary, lightly active, fairly active and very active. We decided not to give credit for sedentary and lightly active minutes, opting to focus on fairly active and very active minutes. As such, we give 0.1 point for each fairly active minute, and 0.75 point for each very active minute. While it’s difficult to standardize points across different fitness devices, we feel that we’ve done a good job of creating a way to compare apples to oranges. We’ll also continue to evaluate our formulas to ensure accuracy.
Finally, I’d like to give a big thank you to Paul Marcum who gave us access to his Fitbit account while we worked on the integration. He trusted us with his personal data, and for that we are very grateful.