Here’s an interview we did with Nicola O’Sullivan of ExerWise, a wearable tech startup. Nicola and her team have come up with a product to encourage young children to take 60 mins of exercise a day.
So the first question I’m going to ask Nicola is “How did you actually come up with your idea?”
So myself and my co-founders did the Sports and Exercise Engineering degree in NUI Galway and we had to come up with final year theses of what we wanted to do; Laura my co-founder is very much into assistive technology, and how we can use technology to change how we live and use it for different things. So she came up with our idea of using an activity tracker but for kids to encourage them to be more physically active.
So it came that idea wasn’t appropriate for our final year project. Then we ended up doing a business module called ICE – Innovation, Creativity, and Enterprise – within NUIG where you basically build a business, you build a business model canvass, and do all the research behind it. So we decided that we wanted to use this idea and see what we could do with it. And it kinda took off from there. We started presenting to different mentors and they liked our idea and how we were going to go about it. And it kinda just took off from there; we came second over all in that, we got office space, and it just seemed right for the three of us.
We’re all into exercise and how it can change the way we live, especially within children. Wenoticed the growing trend of childhood obesity, with every paper basically at the time when we were looking into the idea stating that “Ireland on track to be the most obese country by 2030”. We were wondering how is this possible, what can we do about it. And we were thinking, well 2030: the adults of 2030 are the kids today. So why not apply technology that is out there and change it specifically for kids. So activity trackers are not necessarily kid friendly – I just about wear one and at that it’s pushing it.
We want to be able to have a product that encourages kids to be more active, and that’s how ExerWise came about.
Ok, thanks Nicola
Thanks for that Nicola.
Would you like to tell us how you went from that idea, which seemed like a very good idea, to then actually validating your idea as something that you could bring to the market; that there’s demand for it and, you know, figuring out what kind of designs children might like, and that whole process?
Yeah so we first looked into the wearable tech industry itself because it’s just a massive industry, and every day you’re hearing about new products that come out on it, and how the technology behind it is all changing. So we looked into consumer products that are out there on the market and we categorised them; so ones that are adult appropriate, a lot of the leaders out there actually have in the terms and conditions that they’re not child appropriate – so they can’t be used for children aged 13 or under. We looked at that, and then we found ones which are competitors and we looked at them and did the positives and negatives and we found that the design wasn’t necessarily child friendly. So it was people designing them and kind of going this is what a child should like but not actually asking the children.
So we then did a lot of our customer validation with online surveys, and with parents because they’re obviously they’re going to be the ones who will buy the device initially, to see if it’s something that they’re interested in having – children activity trackers – but also we did “do they know what the recommended daily activity levels for children?”, which is 60 minutes. We found out that a lot of parents don’t actually know children need 60 minutes.
So we kinda went from there when we found out that main thing we realised, ok well 60 minutes is very important, and we looked at then how children respond to different things – very much so respond more to visual feedback, rather than me telling you you’ve done 12 minutes of exercise or whatever. So if you’re able to put it into a visual basis, they respond a lot better to it. So we did a lot of research into that and it’s now only kinda coming into where we’ve got our technology nailed down a bit that we’re reaching out to children, and looking and working on the design. We want our product to be design focused so that a child will see it and go l”Mum I want that!” rather than parents giving it to their children and being like “there you go, wear it”. We want it to be a fashion forward and cool thing to be wearing.
Ok, thank you.