Ever wondered what it’s really like to build a wearable tech brand? Third Wave Fashion’s new founders series gives you a behind-the-scenes look. This is the first installment from Karol Muñoz, lead designer and co-founder of wearable tech startup Luma Legacy. Her story is one for us all to learn from.
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It’s midnight after a long day, there’s some genre of music I’ve never heard before blasting two doors down and we need to sleep for another long day. We are living in a house with 40 people in the middle of San Francisco’s Mission district. Most tenants are doing something tech related and have places to be in the morning, but there’s this one guy wrapped in a blanket, swaying back and forth in the living room staring at the speaker and soaking in this dark-electro-metal which seems to be bringing him some sort of zen.
We started a wearable tech company, and it’s the furthest thing from glamorous.
Alina and I met at a bar a few years ago and got to talking about our design businesses; it was the summer before she started NYU’s ITP, the so-called center for the recently possible. About a year later she made a texting hoodie. I had this idea marinating in my head for a few years and asked her out to lunch. I didn’t know what was going to happen that day, but Alina seemed like a someone who could point me in the right direction. We ordered our food, and I started telling her about a piece of jewelry that could archive my stories in the way that I capture them today, digitally. I was passionately blurting out thoughts that had built up over the years and Alina waved her hand to cut me off and said, “you can stop explaining it, I’m in.” She wouldn’t stop texting me at midnight, e-mailing me research, making spreadsheets and five-year plans. I didn’t think five years ahead; I was trying to figure out what to do next. She wrangled my ideas and made sense of a business — a wearable tech business.
We dove into research on wearable tech and talked to anyone that would give us their time. A few months later, we went to Women Entrepreneurs Festival where I spoke to a professor at NYU Polytechnic, she was loving the idea and said: “you have to meet my student.” That student was Brigid whose thesis was a cape that changed colors with her mind (using EEG technology). She was the Director of Computational Fashion at Eyebeam and a generally awesome lady who began working with us, on our vision alone. A few months after that we met Cassandra at another NYU event, she mentioned she was interested in starting her own company. I asked her if she would be interested in learning with us. She is now leading our business development from New York.
Earlier in the night we were on a roof looking out at the lit up Mission, discussing the events of the day. We’re in a perpetual state of delirium, joy and stress. We burst into laugh fits all through our days. We send each other funny drawings on our Apple Watches and heartbeats after particularly inspiring moments. We need to make something that is smart enough to enhance our current behavior, small enough to wear, and beautiful enough to be desired. The engineering problem is something we haven’t seen done before. We are raising a new round of funding, and most investors are still hesitant with hardware. Kickstarter isn’t helping us, with so many physical products delaying and failing.
It’s going to take about two years before you see what we’re making on the shelves. That’s the reality for hardware. We’re currently at Highway1, a hardware manufacturing accelerator. Ringly, another wearable tech company, was part of their first cohort, we are in their fifth. Our goal for the program is to have our first looks like and works like a prototype. Being so far away from having an “add to cart” button brings on another challenge: How do we begin to grow our community without boring people by the time we want them as customers? (Psst… we’re sharing our process on Instagram) We have every problem a software company has plus we need to manufacture a physical product at scale. Good thing we like solving problems!
We go home every night and hang out with Tesla and Schrödinger, the house cats. They’ve been trained to know it is feeding time when their Tile beeps. The front door opens with a Slack command, rent can be paid in Bitcoin, and a Dropcam overlooks the kitchen so everyone can tune in to see who didn’t do their dishes. I had to be recently reminded that this is an extreme situation.
In the next part of Karol’s series, she’ll dive into the different aspects of research startups need to do such as desirability, validation and figuring out who they are making their product for.
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Artist Credit: Mr. Hush