Bia Sport Closes, Offering A Cautionary Tale In Fitness Wearables


Smart sportswatch maker Bia Sport announced Friday that it would cease operations, citing insufficient capital  and a lack of investors. Its device, marketed towards women, tracked running, swimming, and biking, with a number of other features designed to appeal to sports enthusiasts. 

Bia had raised $408,000 through a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in 2012, which led to her company being hailed as a success story last August in the Wall Street Journal. But according to an email Bia sent to supporters announcing its shutdown, the company had stopped paying employees’ salaries around the same time that article came out.

Perception was the primary issue for Bia, CEO Cheryl Kellond told ReadWrite.

“Our product was the top-rated fitness device on Amazon,” she said. “So the problem wasn’t the product or the business model. The market has gotten really crowded and competitive. For the outside investor, it looks noisier than it actually is.”

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, VentureBeat’s Harrison Weber personally tried on 56 wearable devices—and he may not even have gotten to everything on display on the show floor. While it’s easy to create a wearable device, getting retail distribution is much more difficult. Apple used to be a powerful distributor for wearable devices through its stores—until it decided to start making its own wearable.

Kellond didn’t think products like the Apple Watch directly competed with Bia’s watch, which was designed for athletes, although the amount of hype around the Apple Watch in particular may have clouded some potential investors’ minds about the market’s saturation. 

One challenge for Bia is that it used a relatively expensive cellular service to allow the Bia to function independently, unlike other smartwatches and fitness trackers which use Bluetooth to connect to smartphones. That service will cease on April 3, as will features of the watch which rely on it, like automatic data upload and SOS functionality. Otherwise, the watches will continue to track data. 

In the meantime, Bia will continue to seek a buyer. Kellond said she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the company’s prospects, thinking that someone with a more established distribution network and more robust marketing budget would be interested in purchasing Bia. 

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