July 13, 2012 at 7:07 PM ET
Solo runners, listen up: A crowd-source fundraising campaign is on for a GPS-enabled watch that not only calculates your distance, pace and heart rate, but also comes equipped with something that could come in handy in worst-case scenarios during those long, lonely training runs – a panic button.
Cheryl Kellond and Sylvia Marino, both endurance athletes, decided to create a GPS watch specifically to meet the needs of women, who account for 59 percent of half marathon participants and 41 percent of full marathon participants. The watches Kellond and Marino had used to track their distance and pace felt bulky, and only seemed to weigh them down on a run.
Kellond is a former vice president of Yahoo! and Marino worked at Endumnds.com, Cisco, and others. Neither woman is a stranger to start-ups; Kellond sold her first company to pay for grad school and Marino has served as a start-up advisor.
So over the past 18 months, the two developed the Bia Multi-Sport GPS Sports Watch. In addition to offering a panic button, the watch provides a robust GPS system. The smaller watch relies on touch-screen technology—think of an iPod. It even tracks mileage while you swim; it’s water resistant up to 100 meters.
“It was one of those necessities,” says Cheryl Kellond, co-founder of Bia. “We tried all the existing products on the market. They were too big or too hard to use and did not do the things we needed them to do.”
The Bia watch maintains its dainty appearance because it’s a two-piece system. The Bia GPS Go Stick, which is the size of a stick of gum, houses the GPS and fits easily in a pocket. People can chose to only buy the watch, but won’t be able to track distance and times without the Go Stick.
When Kellond and Marino approached investors to secure capital, investors balked at funding the project, believing that women were uninterested in GPS training technology. The women turned to Kickstarter to raise funds. Kickstarter, a crowd-sourcing funding site, is all or nothing. If Bia is $5 short of its goal, the company gets none of the promised funding. If they do not reach $400,000 by midnight tonight (PST), the project will be at a standstill.
Kellond says that 90 percent of their backers are women, who were unfamiliar with crowd-sourcing funding, but it shows how much women athletes want Bia (while the product is being marketed to women, a men’s version exists as well).
And Bia offers something different—a panic button. Athletes can call for help if a car hits them, if they get lost, or if someone attacks them. Kellond believes it gives women freedom and independence.
Athletes just need to press the panic button and an alarm sounds from the watch and sends your location information to a loved one and emergency services.
The panic button offers piece of mind to worried loved ones. Rachel Sklar, founder of Change the Ratio, who has backed Bia, believes that this product is essential to the safety of all long distance runners.
“There is nothing weak about wanting to be safe when you go out for a 26-mile run. This is very useful for men, too,” she says. “(I)t’s about safety. If I go out on a boat I use a life jacket.”