I really enjoy reading Brad Feld’s blog, Feld Thoughts. As someone who has been following startups and the startup community for a while now, his post, “Fundraising 2016 – Control Your Destiny” was right on the money (so to speak!). If you’re not familiar with Brad, he’s a co-founder of the Foundry Group and Techstars.
Fitbit unveiled their new smart watch yesterday at CES and their stock fell 12.26% during mid day trading. Why did the folks at Fitbit feel that they needed to chase Apple in the smart watch category? The official release of the Apple Watch was on April 24, 2015. It’s been roughly 265 days between the lackluster release of the Apple Watch and Fitbit’s new smart watch, the Blaze. Wasn’t that enough time for someone in Fitbit’s senior management to say “Hey, we need to reconsider our smart watch, Apple didn’t really pull it off”?
Fitbit is a great company and they’ve been doing really well, so I’m surprised they decided to take this route (disclaimer, I don’t own stock in Fitbit). There are plenty of other directions Fitbit could have gone, as the health IT space has really been blowing up lately. Plus, the whole watch concept (beyond just the Apple Watch) has been an issue for a while. However, Fitbit was probably knee deep in development of the Blaze during this time and would have lost millions if they had changed direction on their product. So, the question becomes, when you’re a public company is it better to lose money on the back end (i.e. scrapped work costs, etc.) or the front end (i.e. shareholders, employees, etc.)?
Unfortunately for Fitbit this will sting for a while, but it’s a good lesson for companies similar to them who have recently gone public. Regardless of what the R&D or engineering teams think, your shareholders and the court of public opinion become very important drivers.
GM and Lyft have partnered up to create a fleet of driverless cars. It’s exciting, however, let’s not get carried away just yet. What about the user experience of the driverless car? Deals and handshakes happen in boardrooms. Nuts and bolts UI / UX happens in the field, with a cast of thousands hammering it out with the help of an endless supply of Red Bull. GM and Lyft better get the UI / UX right coming straight out of the gate, or they’ll risk becoming “the machine” where cars will attempt to murder you as they did Michael Scott.