Pebble bets on open platform for wearable tech
Eric Migicovsky was warmly received at his alma mater on Tuesday, where the smartwatch pioneer and founder of Pebble was a keynote speaker at the university’s Innovation Summit.
Migicovsky skyrocketed to fame when his plan to produce the Pebble smartwatch raised $10.2 million on Kickstarter during a 30 day crowdfunding campaign in May 2012. After that, with a team of 10 employees in Palo Alto, Calif., Migicovsky’s company sold tens of thousands of watches.
Last year, Pebble sold 400,000 watches that allow wearers to control the volume of music from their car or home systems, check messages, measure cycling or running speeds, play games and calculate the range of golf balls.
This year, Pebble expects to sell 800,000 watches. The company now employs 50 people in Palo Alto and another 31 at other locations around the world.
“We are growing quite a lot,” Migicovsky said. “We are hiring quite a bit.”
Migicovsky unveiled the Pebble app store a couple of months ago and it now has 2,500 apps for his watches. It is a far cry from the original Pebble that alerted wearers to incoming calls and text messages on the smartphones in their pockets or bags.
He is now competing directly against some of the biggest brands in technology Apple and Google.
“It’s going to be a battle, I would say,” Migicovsky said. “We are focused on building what w red bottoms e think is the best possible platform for wearable computing.”
It is an open platform that developers can build on. This strategic change in direction for the Pebble smartwatch occurred when Migicovsky realized that apps and the ecosystem around apps are really important.
“We built a new platform that was purpo red bottoms se designed to run apps on your body,” Migicovsky said. “Now what we are thinking about is: ‘How does Pebble connect to other devices in your house, around your car, your office, around your school? How does it become part of it?’
“So we are working hard on that right now,” Migicovsky said.
This summer, Android Wear releases the Moto 360 a smartwatch using the Android operating system.
“I imagine it is a very different vision for what wearable computing is. It is much more reliant on your cellphone. It is much more like that closed Google ecosystem,” Migicovsky said.
“And our angle is to be that open platform that other people can build on top off, that they can make it their own, that they can customize and personalize, that’s really our goal,” he said.
Wearable tech’s future is based on an open platform, he said.
“I think there is going to be a lot of opportunity for app developers to play out their own experiences on wearables,” Migicovsky said. “If there is one thing we need to do as a company it is nurture and build a framework that other people can build their dreams on top of Pebble.”
Migicovsky, a graduate of UW’s systems design engineering program, came up with an early version of a smart watch that alerted wearers to calls and texts coming into their smartphone while he was in school. Called Impulse, it was dev red bottoms eloped in the garage of a rental house in Waterloo for his fourth year design project.
In 2011, he went through the Y Combinator technology accelerator in Mountain View, Calif., and secured $375,000 in angel financing. Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, said if he had to pick someone who would be the next Steve Jobs, it would be Migicovsky.