LA's hottest start-ups: FocusMotion

Virgin Atlantic’s Business is an Adventure event series touches down in LA this week, with the aim of discovering how great business ideas can become a success on the global stage. By tuning into the livestream you’ll not only gain insight from Richard Branson, but a collection of the city’s hottest start-ups...

LA start-up: FocusMotion

Founders: Cavan Canavan and Grant Hughes

USP: The world’s first machine learning SDK to track, learn, and analyse human motion on any sensor, on any OS, on any platform.

Here we ask Cavan Canavan to tell us a little more about FocusMotion and what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur in Los Angeles.

Has the success of FocusMotion been down to its location, or do you believe it's the type of business that has a universal appeal?

We started out originally in LA because we thought we’d need to be a fitness focused company with an end-to-end hardware and software solution.  At the time, LA seemed like the ideal location with more trainers per capita and more gyms per capita than any other city. It also hosts some incredible talent, and the draw of the beach and weather helps recruiting as well. As far as business and customer appeal, we believe we offer a global solution for the breadth of motion analysis. 

Every year we seem to be told that it will be the ‘the year of wearable tech’, but a big mainstream breakthrough never seems to materialise. Will 2016 be the year?

We’re seeing a certain fatigue with wearable devices because they’ve really been about the same thing for the past nine years: steps. There’s more to human movement and human biometrics than just steps. I believe that we’ll see a push towards deeper biometrics with better sensors and deeper offerings. It has to move this way. Consumers let their imaginations over-promise, and then the market under delivered; however, we all still see the amazing potential in understanding the tracking human health, behaviour and physiology.

FocusMotion has seen more traction this year than any year prior because of the growth of the wearable market in general; the introduction of the Apple Watch, the push towards open wearable ecosystems, the commoditization of the step tracker and a mind shift that is beginning to look toward the enterprise-based wearable for insurance and employee health disruption.  

How will your technology help develop the idea of wearables?

Our algorithms instantly broaden the reach of any wearable, turning it into a true monitor of what activity was performed, how often, and how well. We extend the reach of wearables from just simple steps to training, sports, yoga, workforce, physical therapy, gunfire monitoring and more. We take extremely complex machine learning and signal processing and put it in the hands of any developer on any platform. Our goal is to broaden the use cases for these devices and open up new opportunities for developers whether it’s a wrist devices, leg devices, a series of devices acting in concert, a prosthetic or even an implantable. We aim to be the number one company at human movement analysis and feedback. 

What one tip would you give to an entrepreneur aiming to expand their business onto a national or global stage?

We’ve maintained a universal mindset when it comes to who would use and could use our product. Even on the first day when we launched our technology, we were seeing use cases come from India and China that we hadn’t imagined yet. This has definitely influenced our development and technology arc. We also pay mindful attention to the companies throughout the wearable value chain; from the chip manufacturers, to the hardware manufacturers, to the end user application providers.  We try to monitor the pulse of the industry to anticipate ready for where it’s going. 

What are the pros and cons of starting up in LA?

Pros: Great locations, great weather and great talent opportunities.

Cons: travel is a constant necessity to SF and NYC for funding and partnerships; staying competitive with the large companies up north is tough when they offer larger salaries and incredible benefits. 

What sort of businesses work well in LA?

This town understands media and content better than any other. It’s a core competency that bleeds from the city. I’m not saying that media and content are an easy pitch; however, investors and angels understand the market or come directly from it. There’s less of a learning curve during initial discussions, and this helps break down walls very quickly.   

The first Business is an Adventure event, featuring Richard Branson and a panel of prominent LA business leaders, takes place in Los Angeles on February 18th. The event will be available to stream for free on virgin.com from 16:00 (PST).

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