Xiaomi-backed Misfit hopes localised app will speed up expansion into Chinese market

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 9:52am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 9:52am

US wearables start-up Misfit, which counts Xiaomi among its investors, will launch an app specifically for users in China in a few months in a bid to localise their services for its second biggest market, a senior executive said.

The San Francisco-based maker of the jewellery-like Shine activity tracker and the less-costly Flash tracker will also be launching a smart light bulb on the mainland this year, making its first step into Chinese customers' homes.

“We’re going to be releasing a special app in several months just for China so we can localise our services better,” said Justin Butler, vice president of commercial development, on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Asia in Shanghai.

“It will be heavily integrated with Weibo and WeChat and other services used in the China market,” he said.

The company did not disclose how many users it has in mainland China, though Butler said between 30 to 40 per cent of its revenue comes from the country. That makes it Misfit's second biggest market, behind the US.

The Shine (US$112) can track multiple activities including running, swimming and sleeping.

Most of its sales in China came from its shop on Taobao’s Tmall and, Butler said, without giving more details.

Misfit plans to launch two new versions of the Shine in China in the next two months that feature a crystal face and look even more like jewellery than the company’s original polished aluminium device.

One of the devices, the violet Swarovski Shine, uses solar charging — sunlight, LEDs, or halogen lighting all keep the device up and running. Like all Shine devices the two in the Swarovski Shine collection feature a watch battery with a six month lifespan, according to the company.

The Misfit Bolt - a smart light bulb - would also be launched in later this year in China, Butler said.

It can be paired with its existing products and tuned to users’ sleep cycle, providing daylight shades when they need to focus and softer, more relaxed tones when it's time to unwind. In addition, users can use the Bolt as a visual alarm clock, with a simulated sunrise feature.

Misfit was founded in 2011 by Sonny Vu, former Apple and Pepsi CEO John Sculley, and Sridhar Iyengar, co-founder and former CTO of AgaMatrix.

The company raised US$40 million in funding from Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi and other investors in December last year. Other investors include GGV Capital, Shunwei Capital Partners and, one of the mainland’s largest online retailers. Investors Khosla Ventures, Horizon Ventures and Founders Fund also contributed to the Series C funding round.

After the funding, Misfit products began to be sold on Xiaomi’s website, but most interactions between Misfit and the Chinese smartphone maker have been financial, not to do with their products, Butler said.

"We keep it pretty walled off so that there’s not a lot of ideas shared. We keep them separated just to make sure we use our own resources. We think the best products are developed through competition."