Posted February 18, 2016

Company with "stunt" offer to LeBron James making strides in Silicon Valley

CLEVELAND, Ohio – If LeBron James changes his mind, Phenom's offer of a 1-percent stake in the app-making start-up is still on the table.
Only, unlike the summer of 2014, ownership in the Ohio City-founded company is a lot closer to being worth something.

Phenom, which was a fledgling company trying to create a mobile app for teen athletes in the summer of 2014, offered James 1 percent of the firm if he chose to return to Cleveland from Miami.

James, of course, did come back to the Cavs and the original offer to James never went anywhere, but Phenom is taking off. Last month, the company was accepted into one of the top venture capital programs for new tech companies in the world, given $100,000 in seed funds, and relocated to San Francisco.

Brian Verne, 28, and Mike Eppich, 28, the co-founders of Phenom who made James the offer, have 10 employees now. Their app, designed for prep athletes to post their favorite brands and styles of athletic apparel and equipment, has 60,000 users according to Verne. It was ranked as high as No. 22 in the App Store's sports category.

Things have come a long way since their 2014 "stunt" to offer James a slice of their no-name company. Phenom is making a name for itself, without James.

"Hey, we like to be bold in what we do," said Verne, Phenom's chief executive officer. "At the time, the offer wasn't a joke to us. We were very serious about it. We thought at some point as we grew our business we'd be able to get LeBron involved."

At the time, Eppich told that a mural they painted above their office before James chose to return, which allowed them to tell media outlets about their financial offer to James, was indeed a "stunt."

It worked then – multiple local and national news outlets wrote of their offer – and what they're doing now is working, too.

The Silicon Valley incubator to which Phenom now belongs is called 500 Startups, which was founded by former PayPal and Google executives. Verne and Eppich are the first Cleveland-based entrepreneurs to be accepted; there were 1,500 applicants.

Phenom's app is attractive to sports apparel and equipment makers because it serves as a large, daily sampling of consumers' tastes. The high school hoopsters who buy sneakers, the shortstops who need new leather, the quarterback looking for compression shirts – they're all posting and viewing the content that streams through Phenom each day.

Wilson Sporting Goods is a Phenom partner, Verne said.

"Our business model is brands, retailers, and marketers, they crave eyes for the marketplace," Verne said.

James, of course, has his own huge business and investment portfolio that's only grown larger since Verne and Eppich's stunt.
But they still hold out hope.

"LeBron was a phenom himself," Verne said. "He's been covered since he was 12. The Phenom app users want to be the next LeBron James."

Posted January 6, 2016

CES 2016: OMbra Biometric Smart Sports Bra Woos Women
Posted January 4, 2016 by Mark J. Miller

Wearable tech is all the rage so it was only a matter of time before the suffix “smart” moved from outerwear to underwear. Canada’s OMSignal (tagline: “It’s on”) has unveiled OMbra, dubbed the world’s first smart bra, which will be available this spring.

The Montreal-headquartered company (with an office in San Francisco) is hoping that women are tired of strapping on Fitbits and Apple Watches and other such wearables to measure their daily biometrics and would rather shell out $150 for a sports bra that can, well, support all their health tech needs and goals.

“Women gravitate towards wearables, but they don’t want an item they have to put on or worry about every day,” OMsignal chief marketing officer Shaz Kahng told USA Today. And “if they’re going to be wearing it all day, they want to get more information.”

Cue the OMbra, described in OMsignals’ blog post as:

The OMbra is a product of science and engineering as much as it is the product of design and creation. Over the course of a year, we developed 1,633 prototypes and used software development methodologies and approaches throughout the development of the bra to test and optimize every parameter methodically.

The evolution and growth of the OMbra came to fruition through exhaustive scientific research, ensuring that only the most sophisticated and premium of sports bras was built. A great deal of our research was focused on biomechanics (the study of the mechanical aspects of human exercise) and support – key features of the OMbra that sets it apart from the rest.

Some other equally important findings during the course of our research included:

 – 70+% of women do not pick the right size bra

- Straps are the most common complaint about sports bras

- The way a woman runs will change depending on how the breasts are supported.

OMsignal isn’t new to the high-tech sports apparel business. It already makes the Athos brand of “smart” shirts for men and has partnered with other brands on their wearable tech forays. Now its innovative sports bra for women will allow the company, led by co-founder and CEO Stephan Marceau, to move into a new marketplace.

As the four-year-old OMsignal describes itself, it’s “the world’s leading smart clothing platform, built on bio-sensing apparel that connects seamlessly with mobile devices. OMsignal’s technology powers its own-branded collection as well as apparel from iconic brands such as Ralph Lauren [on its PoloTech Shirt]. OMsignal apparel is designed for everyday wear – to complement life without getting in the way. Physiological signals are filtered and interpreted to deliver useful information and actionable insights to consumers, health practitioners and to researchers.”

Its new biometric bra will track heart rate, breathing rate and calories burned, among other health-related data. That info is then sent wirelessly to OMsignal’s mobile app, while the bra also integrates with Apple Health, Nike+, Strava, MapMyFitness and Runtastic.

OMbra is powered by OMsignal’s proprietary OMrun platform, a mobile app that allows the bra to measure distance, pace, breathing rhythm, and fatigue levels while the wearer is running. As detailed by the startup:
OMrun is OMsignal’s revolutionary running platform created to help runners of every level manage their running performance. On top of all the basics such as distance, cadence, pace, heart rate and calories, our scientists have developed additional metrics exclusive to OMsignal. While the basic metrics are important markers, OM’s exclusive insights help you push for optimal performance, speed up progress, and see results faster by tracking your:

Running economy: Think of running economy as fuel economy in a car. It’s a measure of how much fuel (O2) it takes for you to travel a certain distance – the less O2 your body needs to consume while running, the better your performance will be.

Breathing rhythm: Breathing rhythm refers to the number of footsteps you take with each foot while breathing in or out. For example, a 2:2 rhythm would mean you take two steps (one with your right foot and one with the left) while breathing in, and two steps while breathing out. Use breathing rhythm to help you focus on keeping your breathing rhythmic and in-sync with your steps. The more rhythmic your breathing is the less you’ll tire out your respiratory system, which can use up to 15% of your energy expenditure when exerted.

Fatigue: Your Fatigue gauge is an indicator of what state of cumulative fatigue your body is in, based on the last 14 days of training. It is calculated by assessing your state of rest before, your biometric effort during, and your state of tiredness after each run in the last 14 days. It uses your heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV) and proprietary breathing algorithms to assess each state. Most technologies only use HR to estimate a state of fatigue. Few technologies like OMsignal, can also measure HRV. Only OMsignal adds an additional layer of accuracy by factoring in your breathing, a biometric that can vary (relatively) just as much as your heart rate when exerting yourself.

Biometric effort: Biometric effort is the level of effort your body put into each run, quantified on a score of 1 to 10 (max effort). It is calculated using your heart rate (HR), breathing rate (BR) and heart rate variability (HRV) measured throughout the run. Your biometric effort will give you an accurate and objective assessment of how much you pushed your body. It ties into your fatigue to help you avoid overtraining.

Biometric Coach: Your body doesn’t lie, so who better to tell you how you performed than your own body? The Biometric Coach aligns your biometric effort with the target effort you set for yourself before your run. You might have been gunning for a hard run but the effort your body actually put into it was only moderate. The OMsignal Biometric Coach will tell you that you could have pushed yourself a little harder. It also gives tips on your other metrics like cadence and breathing rhythm to help you digest the information more easily.

But is it comfortable? The Verge’s reviewer found the bra to be surprisingly so, while the app’s analysis of her performance data to be relevant as it showed “heart rate zones [she] hit and for how much time, [her] estimated recovery time” as well as a “push score,” which gives you an indication of just how hard you were working out throughout the session.

OMsignal’s San Francisco-based CMO and board member Kahng, by the way, brings an impressive track record to OMsignal. She was previously president of Lucy Activewear; and while at Nike, she served as global general manager for the brand’s cycling business, and later as global director for the $1 billion global women’s training business including footwear, apparel and equipment.

As she wrote in a recent column (“Why ‘Smart’ Women Are the Future of Apparel”) for WWD, “Designing, manufacturing and selling quality, fashionable smart apparel that makes the customer feel good and look good are the key ingredients in the recipe for success in the up-and-coming female-driven smart clothing industry. The companies that execute these elements well will succeed on the apparel side of the equation as well as the tech side.” Sports Apparel

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