What Happened to WiseWear.com?
The technology industry is in a constant state of change with new products coming into the market and others disappearing. Innovative companies often discover that building a viable business around their innovation is harder than coming up with the innovation itself. This is a reality that the fashion tech company WiseWear.com realized before filing for bankruptcy and liquidating its assets in 2018.
The Tragedy behind the Company
In 2013, Gerald J. Wilmink founded WiseWear Corporation, a digital health company that developed wearable products for fitness and medical applications. Even though the San Antonio-based entrepreneur had his sights set on the smart jewelry industry, the idea behind the company was inspired by a family tragedy.
Wilmink’s grandfather broke his hip one day in 2010 after a fall at the bottom level of his own home. Wilmink reports that even though his grandfather seemed okay after the fall, he later succumbed to the injury a few days later. The family would later discover that the fall was a result of changes to the older man’s gait, resulting from dehydration (Source).
“If we had noticed he had changes in his gait, we could have prevented him from falling,” Wilmink is quoted by the Silicon Hill News saying. This lead Wilmink to introduce the first WiseWear product: a “line sensor system to pick up when a senior was dehydrated, and his gait was changing” (Source).
WiseWear began to make inroads into the tech-fashion space, launching a range of innovative, luxury smart wearables. These wearables would alert wearers about calls, texts, and emails while also collecting detailed insights on health and wellness, thanks to their built-in sensors. With this technology, individuals or those who look after the elderly would identify problems before they cause the kind of injury suffered by Wilmink’s grandfather.
One of the most appealing features of Wisewear’s wearables was their innovative safety feature. For instance, in the event of an emergency, you could simply tap your WiseWear product, and a distress message would immediately be sent to a call center. You could also send private security alerts to your loved ones if you felt unsafe (Source).
The Man behind WiseWear.com
Given Wisewear’s ambitions, the corporation seemed to have the right man at its helm. Wilmink is a man of accomplishment. The PhD-turned-entrepreneur has a passion for biotechnology and set himself a goal to develop a range of wearable technologies that would empower people towards what he called “happy, healthy and productive lives” (Source).
Apart from holding a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Vanderbilt University, Wilmink also has vast experience as an inventor and a start-up business consultant for several venture capital firms. He has also served as a program manager for the $3-Billion SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program funded by the Department of Defense (Source).
The Changing Face of Wearables
When Wilmink launched WiseWear in 2013, he was effectively merging technology with fashion. At that time, few fashion-forward consumers would have considered wearable technology as something that could be trendy. Nevertheless, by 2016, a CNBC report quoted predictions that the wearables market was valued at around $20 billion, with projections of $70 billion by 2025. However, the market was comprised mostly of basic activity trackers at the time.
As aesthetics became a priority for consumers, it started stimulating demand for innovative, high fashion jewelry, and wearables with smart functions. In January 2016, WiseWear launched a stylish line of bracelets that triggered Meggen Taylor, a contributor at Forbes.com to ask: “Has this tech -start-up created the most stylish and functional wearable for women?” (Source).
The technology in WiseWear’s products allowed users to count the calories they burned and to keep track of the steps and distances they traveled. Wearers could also get alerts if they had received text messages, emails, or had upcoming appointments.
The Distress Messaging Feature
Perhaps the most essential feature of WiseWear’s wearables was a distress messaging feature. With a gentle tap to a bracelet, a wearer could text their GPS location to their contact list, thanks to a patented antenna that could transmit Bluetooth with Wi-Fi (Source).
In 2016, WiseWear products were being featured on world media like the BBC World News, ABC News, Time, FastCompany, Engadget, CNBC, USA Today, and Money. Naturally, this attracted potential partners, including 94-year old fashion icon Iris Apfel. The partnership with the flamboyant designer created a line of luxury smart bracelets dubbed the Socialite Collection.
WiseWear Files for Bankruptcy!
WiseWear sold its products online and in major retail stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 2017, the company paid just over $500,000 to acquire Reserve Strap Inc., a company that holds patents for a battery band that could charge Apple watches through a service port on the watch (Source). However, before WiseWear could bring the product to market, the company claimed that Apple blocked its capabilities through an operating system update.
WiseWear decried the move by Apple and later claimed that the decision played a significant role in the company’s bad fortunes. The corporation branded Apple’s move an illegal restraint of trade and announced plans to challenge the tech company in court. There is no information as to whether this case eventually reached litigation.
In 2018, WiseWear failed to raise $2 million in a Series A round of financing to support its operations. Without the cash injection, the business was unable to produce enough products for it to benefit from the economies of scale. The firm filed for bankruptcy in March 2018 and began the process of liquidating its assets a few months later.
Auction of WiseWear’s intellectual property
In June 2018, a report that WiseWear’s intellectual property had a prospective buyer surfaced. Wilmink’s new employer, CarePredict, had made a bid for $110,000. CarePredict describes itself: “CarePredict replaces Human Observation with Machine Sensing and Learning to let the elderly age Independently, Economically and Longer.” This is achieved through the development of technology that can “continuously observe, learn, and trigger just in time care for aging seniors, anywhere.” The same report indicates that WiseWear agreed to the offer in court papers filed in June 2018 in Texas.