Quantified self.... on your marks, get set... measure!


Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz goes my Jawbone Up as it wakes me at the optimal time between sleep cycles. It’s been monitoring my sleep, distinguishing between restful and light sleep allowing it to wake me at the perfect moment so i can get up bright and alert. 

I tap my Up once and it moves into awake mode, beginning to measure my every movement. I step over to my Withings scales and weigh myself. It feeds bmi data straight into my Up app on my iPhone. I grab some breakfast and log the food straight into the MyFitnessPal app. On the bus to the office, i log my mood, it’s pretty good today! 

This is a glimse into the future. Whilst i enjoy the added gadgetary i don’t think this is quite ready for the mainstream, but it is painfully close. A few cycles of Moore’s law and we will have devices which require less effort and give us more.

Picture the scene, you’re about to sit down to a double-whopper on the M4, you glance down to your phone and you receive a notification that your blood sugar level is a touch high and consuming 1000 calories of Burger King goodness will most-certainly be a lifetime on the hips.  Plus, your three quantification team-mates have all been to the gym today and are have been eating healthily. You don’t want to loose second place to fat-tony do you? 

As the sensors improve (bsl, heart beat and cns sensors are on the way) wristbands such as the Up will become more and more common. It’s going to lead to a slew of innovation in healthcare. Perhaps GP’s will monitor obese patients or those with under-eating disorders to make sure they are eating properly. Perhaps I will be able to keep a track of my mum’s movements and general activity levels from the other side of the world. I have to confess to finding this all extremely exciting and I believe it will allow those who use the technology properly to lead a more healthy, productive life. 

As with all measurement, obsession and abuse are likely in a minority. People recovering from food disorders often have to learn to eat ‘normally’. With a mountain of data on hand, surely some people will become even more obsessive to the point of neurosis. However, i do believe that a scary proportion (read most) people actually don’t understand the fundamentals of food groups and portion control. If we can (dare i say it) gamify diet, exercise and nutrition for the masses (current Up users don’t count as the masses), then I think we have a real chance of improving public health. As much as the Wii Fit board was supposed to do this, most are used as glorified foot rests. The impact was net zero. 

There is a question around data. Who actually owns the data of you? The insurance company would love to have it i’m sure, (as would your GP, employer etc) but how will we control and grant access to this pot of actuarial gold? Having used several of these services to date, one thing remains clear; the central platform has yet to appear. Each service seems to integrate with each other. MyFitnessPal can integrate with my WiThings scales, but Up can integrate with both. Whether we realise it or not, there is a battle in progress for the “dashboard of self”, the central place we go to for a snapshot of everything “us”. I would argue that the service that wins the day will not be a measurement service itself for the simple reason that i want to be free from any single device. It will be a dedicated service to manager collection, monitoring, storage and access. Imagine 'Google Self'.

I predict there will be a few dashboard-of-self startups over the next 12 years. 

Now if only my memoto camera would arrive.....


Seth Godin on The Icarus Deception, risk-taking and why it’s better to be sorry than safe [Video] - The Next Web

Seth Godin is a great thinker, speaker and author. His fantastic podcast Seth Godin's Startup School has been my staple on the treadmill over the past few weeks. Check it out here alongside this great video where he discusses his new book. 

MailBox App's Viral Growth

Mailbox is a new email client for iOS and Gmail that is currently running a staged alpha program. Upon opening the app you get a welcome screen showing you your place in the queue and a realtime ticker of the people behind you. In short it's growing like a weed. Between last night and today, the backlog has grown to 212,000 people behind me. 

People are clearly not happy with the native mail client on iOS as demonstrated by the growth of Gmail's app but Measure proves that isn't good enough either. I myself find the Gmail app a huge improvement on native mail is iOS6 but still far behind Android. As discussed on This Week In Startups recently, we may well see Apple acquiring some of the rising stars of the ecosystem to prevent Google from eating the iOS ecosystem from the inside out - you only have to look at the top 10 apps in the App Store to see how that is a real threat. 

MailBox App last night

MailBox App last night

And then by this morning.

And then by this morning.

Comfort zones


I have be fortunate enough to be the founder of a number of  startups, playing the role of CEO and ultimate decision maker within a fledgeling company. It's a position which requires a number of skills, continuous context switching and the ability to quickly and efficiently deal with whatever the day throws at you.

The question of CEO time management has come up a number of times, at one board meeting in particular. Was I spending too much time and resources on the product development and not enough managing the other functions of the business? It got heated to say the least. The criticism was that i  spent too much my time in product development because that was my comfort zone. Perhaps they where right! (i don't think i was quite so accepting at the time).  

The spectrum of skills required as a startup founder is huge. I find myself rapidly switching between investor relations, product management, finance, marketing, networking. This is part of the joy of the role, being able to add value in many different areas is hugely satisfying. 

Anyone playing a multi- faceted role has a to-do list peppered with a variety of tasks to do, but i have, in the past, suffered from what I will call a 'comfort zone bias'. As the name suggests, this draws me towards the tasks which i find the most pleasurable or easiest.  If you enjoy coding and creating software (as i do), you may well retreat into the software development challenges, dealing with engineers and making a few commits. If you're a former management consultant, you will probably want to avoid product development decisions and stick to spreadsheets and models. This is counterproductive and will ultimately be detrimental to your organisation  I have learnt to try and get my head out of trying to solve the problem with my skillset, and instead try and guide the team to solve the problem in the right way. 

This is undoubtably a contributing factor to the unceremonious management reshuffle that often happens in startups as they move from the discovery to growth phase. The core team members and skills that worked so well when the company was finding it's model aren't necessarily the right people to be managing a growing headcount and the new class of challenge that a growing organisation brings. 

A new year's resolution from me then. Take a holistic view of my startup's challenges and then work out of I am the best person for the job, rather than the other way round. 

digipill.com - a lesson in merchandising for the appified world

digipill is a service allows users to in-app purchase a range of "digital pills". Each 'pill' comes with it's own prescription and is designed to offer certain benefits to the user ranging from a clearer mindbetter sleep or even becoming a better man magnet. 

I downloaded my first pill today, called T-Break, which allows the user to take a 14 minute guided mediation supported by some sonic-therapy, designed to relax the user. Although i looked slightly weird with my eyes closed for 14 minutes in the office, by the end i felt a noticeable lift and I can safely say that my afternoon's productivity was boosted.

Guided Meditations are nothing new, but what digipill does successfully, is re-productises/re-packages this fairly well established product category. The 'pill' metaphor is a marketing gimmick, leading to writeups like this : Drugs are going digital and it was certainly effective enough to get me to give it a go. I think there must be other product types that can be repackaged in a similar way. 

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Just as a side note, design does remind me a lot of this dribble shot: