Fitbit’s newest fitness tracker is just for employees and health insurance members

Fitbit has a new fitness tracker, but it’s one that you can’t buy in stores. The company quietly uncorked the Inspire on Friday, releasing its first product that is available only to corporate employees and health insurance members. The idea is to offer a fully subsidized wearable that helps the company dig deeper into the […]

Fitbit has a new fitness tracker, but it’s one that you can’t buy in stores.

The company quietly uncorked the Inspire on Friday, releasing its first product that is available only to corporate employees and health insurance members. The idea is to offer a fully subsidized wearable that helps the company dig deeper into the corporate and business worlds.

The new devices are available as a wristband with the option of a clip. The basic tracker’s features are pretty standard and include activity and sleep tracking, calory burn and alerts from a connected phone. A higher specced model includes heart rate tracking, GPS for fitness tracking and deeper analytics on sleep. No prices are displayed on the website, but eligible customers won’t need to pay.

In an interview with CNBC, CEO James Park said the company has 6.8 million users on wellness programs include Fitbit devices via employers, health plans or hospital programs. In offering the Inspire — which is Fitbit’s cheapest device yet — the goal is to grow that number further still. Indeed, Park said Fitbit is a named covered fitness benefit in 42 Medicare Advantage plans across 27 U.S. states while it is working with insurance firms like UnitedHealth.

It makes sense that Fitbit is moving into that space because the consumer market is a tough one. Wearables are no longer an early novelty and competition is fierce. Apple dominates at the high end with the Apple Watch — which has doubled down on health features — while, at the cheaper end, companies like Xiaomi and its partner Huami offer basic trackers from as little as $30.

Fitbit went public in 2015. While its share price rallied to $6.48 on Friday on this news, it is still down massively from its list price of $20 and first-day trading close of $29.68. Today the company’s market cap stands at around $1.6 billion.

Casio unveils an all metal G-Shock for those who need real steel

The G-Shock is so nerdy that it’s become cool and this latest model, the GMWB5000GD-9, is no exception. Based on the original G-Shock models, this decidedly unsmart (but not dumb) watch features solar charging, atomic timekeeping, and a simple Bluetooth connection to your phone. Plus now it comes in gold or silver toned metal, a […]

The G-Shock is so nerdy that it’s become cool and this latest model, the GMWB5000GD-9, is no exception. Based on the original G-Shock models, this decidedly unsmart (but not dumb) watch features solar charging, atomic timekeeping, and a simple Bluetooth connection to your phone. Plus now it comes in gold or silver toned metal, a decided departure for the decades-old brand.

This wild redesign takes cues from a solid-gold prototype designed by Casio’s Ibe Kikuo. That blinged out watch, which could hit the market but will be as expensive as an entire Casio display case, is a bit much. However, these two steel models are quite exciting and very luxe.

“Inspired by the first G-SHOCK model, DW5000C, this upgraded original boasts a modern, lustrous, color way while maintaining a vintage aesthetic,” writes Casio. “The watch also incorporates one of the first and most iconic G-SHOCK case designs, featuring a vintage, square shape case, and bezel with a brick pattern on the face and gorgeous gold color accent.”

At $550 this is a bit pricey for an entry-level quartz watch but rest assured it will find a foothold in the fashion world as “dorky” becomes even more synonymous with “cat-walk ready.”

Sustainable clothing startup For Days raises $2.8M for its closed-loop manufacturing process

For Days, a clothing startup that wants to reduce the enormous amount of textile waste created annually, announced today that it has raised $2.8 million in  seed funding. The round led by Rosecliff Ventures joined by Collaborative Fund, with participation from Congruent Ventures, Third Prime Capital, Closed Loop Ventures, Bleu Capital, Gramercy Fund, and Ride […]

For Days, a clothing startup that wants to reduce the enormous amount of textile waste created annually, announced today that it has raised $2.8 million in  seed funding. The round led by Rosecliff Ventures joined by Collaborative Fund, with participation from Congruent Ventures, Third Prime Capital, Closed Loop Ventures, Bleu Capital, Gramercy Fund, and Ride Ventures. For Days’ makes its clothing with a closed-loop manufacturing and recycling process enabled by a T-shirt membership programs that lets customers mail back worn shirts for recycling in exchange for new ones.

While there is a growing roster of brands focused on quality sustainable clothing, including Everlane and Alternative Apparel (and a growing community of DIYers who want to reduce their environmental and social impact by making their own clothes), a lot of wardrobe basics, like T-shirts, socks, and underwear, need to be replaced more frequently than jackets, sweaters, or jeans.

CEO Kristy Caylor, who co-founded For Days with Mary Saunders, worked at Gap and Band of Outsiders before helping launch sustainable clothing brand Maiyet. One of the reasons For Days decided to start with T-shirts (it plans to launch more product categories early next year) is “because they are one of the most historically iconic items of clothing and span generation, gender, and culture,” Caylor told TechCrunch in an email. “But ultimately, For Days is a platform for circular consumption. We will expand as far as we can innovate on materials, manufacturing and up-cycling and welcome partnerships and collaboration as we grow.”

Sustainable clothing brands like For Days are trying to solve a serious problem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 15 million tons of textile waste is generated annually in the United States and each year Americans on average throw away about 80 pounds of used clothing per person.

Even if they are diligent about donating their clothes, most of it ends up in the landfill anyway. In 2015, the EPA reported that of the 16 million tons of textile waste generated that year, only 2.45 million tons were recycled, while 10.53 million tons were thrown away. One reason recycling is not more widespread may be because the process of turning old material into new, usable textiles is still complicated, especially for blended fabrics like cotton/polyester.

To keep more items from ending up in landfills, For Days created a manufacturing and recycling program that gives it control over almost every part of an item’s lifespan. Its T-shirts are made in its Los Angeles factory from USA-grown organic cotton and sold to customers through an annual membership program that costs $38 for one T-shirt, $108 for three, $210 for six, and $340 for 10.

All levels include free shipping and unlimited “refreshes” for $8 per T-shirt, which means customers can send back their used For Days clothing in a prepaid mailer in exchange for any item on its site. The company says the average lifespan of one of its T-shirts depends on the style, but its members have been exchanging items every three to six months.

For Days recycles the used shirts by breaking them down into pulp, which is then blended with fresh organic fiber, and spun into yarn that the company says has a 70/30 blend of new and recycled fibers. That yarn is then used to make new For Days clothing.

The company launched its membership program in May 2018 to a waitlist before opening to the public in September. While For Days isn’t disclosing specific user numbers yet, Caylor says its been growing by double digits monthly. For Days claims it has moved 1,500 pounds of clothing through its closed-loop system, keeping them away from landfills, and saved more than 235,000 gallons of water and 2,400 pounds of CO2 by making their shirts out of 100 percent GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)-certified organic cotton.

In a press statement, Collaborative Fund managing director Taylor Greene said “Collaborative Fund began with a thesis that a sharing economy would emerge to monetize underutilized assets and ensure more efficient and sustainable consumption of resources. So far, most companies have sought to either innovate on the materials or the business model, but few have successfully combined the two. Now, more than ever, we need businesses like For Days to exist and we couldn’t be more excited to join Kristy, Mary and their team on this journey.”

In 2019, For Days has plans to design its own factory in Hawthorne, Ca and launch a zero-waste manufacturing initiative that will be built around renewable energy and water reclamation programs and biomimicry, a process that uses technology to imitate systems and materials found in nature and is being used by researchers to create more sustainable textiles and dyes.

The Tissot Seastar 1000 is a low-cost and high-quality Swiss diver

In the pantheon of watches there are a few that stand out. Looking for your first automatic watch? Pick up a Seiko Orange Monster. Looking for a piece with a little history? The Omega Speedmaster is your man. Looking for an entry-level Swiss diver that won’t break the bank? Tissot’s Seastar has always had you […]

In the pantheon of watches there are a few that stand out. Looking for your first automatic watch? Pick up a Seiko Orange Monster. Looking for a piece with a little history? The Omega Speedmaster is your man. Looking for an entry-level Swiss diver that won’t break the bank? Tissot’s Seastar has always had you covered.

The latest version of the Seastar is an interesting catch. A few years ago – circa 2010 – the pieces were all black with bold hands and a more staid case style. Now Tissot, a Swatch Group brand, has turned the Seastar into a chunkier diver with massive bar hands and case that looks like a steel sandwich.

The $695 Seastar 1000 contains a Powermatic 80/ETA C07.111 movement with an eighty hour power reserve which means the watch contains a massive mainspring that keeps things going for most of three days without winding. The Seastar is also water resistant to 1000 feet thanks to a huge screw down crown and thick casing. The new model has an exhibition back where you can see the rotor spinning over and balance wheel. The watch also has a ceramic bezel, a fairly top-of-the-line feature in an entry level watch.

Tissot has a long and interesting history. Best known for their high-tech T-Touch watches which had touchable crystals, allowing you to activate a compass, barometer, or altimeter with a single tap, the mechanical pieces have always seemed like an afterthought. The company also produces the classic Tissot Le Locle as well as a chronograph that I absolutely loved, the T-Navigator, but that has been discontinued. The Seastar, then, is one of the few mechanical pieces they sell and at sub-$1,000 prices you’re basically getting a Swiss watch with solid power reserve and great looks.

Watch folks I’ve talked to over the past few months see a distinct upturn in the Swiss watch market. Their belief that the Apple Watch is driving sales of mechanical watches seems to be coming true, even if it means cheaper fashion watches are being decimated. Tissot sits in that sweet spot between luxury and fashion, a spot that also contains Tag Heuer and Longines. Ultimately this is an entry level watch for the beginning collector but it’s a beautiful and beefy piece and worth a look.

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Investors see an opportunity framed in Lensabl’s prescription lens fulfillment business

Lensabl, the company that has built a business putting prescription lenses into any style of glasses frame, has raised $3.7 million in a new round of funding.  Lensabl makes it easy to put new lenses in a favorite pair of shades or glasses Based in Los Angeles, Lensabl already has an agreement inked with the […]

Lensabl, the company that has built a business putting prescription lenses into any style of glasses frame, has raised $3.7 million in a new round of funding. 

Based in Los Angeles, Lensabl already has an agreement inked with the city’s latest tech wunderkind, partnering with the spectacles producing augmented reality luminaries at Snap.

“We are the preferred prescription provider of Snapchat Spectacles,” says Lensabl chief executive Andrew Bilinsky. “[And] we are already talking to and partnering with a variety of brands to start and scale their prescription operations [and] really scale our direct to consumer lens business.”

Powering that effort is the new $3.7 million in funding which came from a clutch of big name strategic partners, venture firms and individual angel investors. Rogue Venture Partners, the same lead investor behind SightBox, a contact lens subscription business acquired by Johnson & Johnson, led the round. And additional investors including Birchmere Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Cherry Tree Investments, Amplify, Luma Launch, Watertower Ventures, and Crowdsmart (a crowdfunding platform) also participated in the financing.

For Bilinsky, the opportunity in setting up a business exclusively focused on filling prescriptions means reduced prices and better options for the estimated 188.7 million people who wear corrective eyewear or contact lenses in the U.S.

“We’re offering every different type of prescription lens for every different frame brand,” says Biinsky. “[We’re] mimicking what a customer can do going into a Lens Crafters at up to 70% cheaper than a traditional provider.”

And given the changing ways in which glasses buyers are shopping for frames, launching a business that caters to providing the right lenses at a lower price makes sense, Bilinsky says.

“With Amazon becoming the largest individual reseller of eyewear in the U.S., every frame that people buy that needs to be re-lensed. It’s a secondary market in the same way that you would put new rims on the car,” says Billinsky.

Lensabl offers about 400 different permutations of lenses and 20 different tint colors. “It’s a customization platform for your frames,” says Bilinsky.

Casio adds modern tech to the classic G-Shock watch

Casio released the first G-Shock watch in 1983. The original set the bar for tough watches with incredible shock resistance to protect the quartz module. It’s a classic and still available for purchase in several forms in 2018. Recently, Casio released an all-metal version of the watch that features the iconic design but with modern […]

Casio released the first G-Shock watch in 1983. The original set the bar for tough watches with incredible shock resistance to protect the quartz module. It’s a classic and still available for purchase in several forms in 2018.

Recently, Casio released an all-metal version of the watch that features the iconic design but with modern technology like Bluetooth connectivity. This isn’t a smartwatch, but simply a watch that’s a bit smarter than most.

The Bluetooth function is simple and worth a look. It gives owners an easy way to access settings. Instead of navigating through the menus on the watch, owners can use a smartphone app to sync the watch to the phone’s time, adjust settings and set alarms and reminders. It takes just one button press on the watch and for the owner to launch the app. The watch does not have to be connected through the phone’s Bluetooth menu; the app takes care of it all.

I found the experience a refreshing update. I don’t need a smartwatch all the time but there are advantages to connecting a watch to a phone. If this is a glimpse at the future of timekeeping, I’m all in. I enjoy a complicated complication as much as the next guy, but sometimes it’s overwhelming to set the primary timezone let alone the alarm. I don’t mind when an app can do it for me.

Walmart continues M&A spree with acquisition of lingerie retailer Bare Necessities

Walmart has acquired online lingerie retailer Bare Necessities one week after its purchase of ELOQUII.

Walmart continues to beef up its portfolio of digital brands, announcing on Friday that it had acquired Bare Necessities, an online retailer of lingerie, swimwear, hosiery and other intimates.

Walmart declined to disclose the terms of the deal.

The lingerie company, founded in 1998, will operate independently of Walmart. Over time, the e-commerce giant says it will make Bare Necessities’ products available on Walmart.com, as well as on Jet.com, which Walmart acquired for more than $3 billion in 2016 to bolster its e-commerce business.

Walmart has long been one of the most active acquirers of startups and hasn’t slowed down in 2018. Just last week, the company announced it would purchase women’s plus-sized clothing brand ELOQUII. Before that, it paid $225 million for a grocery delivery service called Cornershop and earlier this year, it completed its $16 billion acquisition of Flipkart — its largest M&A play yet.

ModCloth, Bonobos and Moosejaw are other Walmart-owned brands, all of which were acquired in 2017.

In a statement, Walmart said Bare Necessities fit into its broader acquisition strategy of buying up “category leaders with specialized expertise and assortment that can help enhance the customer experience.”

As part of the deal, Bare Necessities co-founder and chief executive officer Noah Wrubel will continue to run the company alongside chief operating officer Bill Richardson. Wrubel will also take charge of the intimates category for both Walmart.com and Jet.com. Bare Necessities’ 170 employees will continue to run the business out of Edison, N.J., where the company is headquartered.

The global lingerie market is expected to bring in upwards of $60 billion in revenue by 2024, driven in large part by tech-enabled direct-to-consumer businesses’ e-commerce sales.

With $50M in fresh funding, Allbirds will open new stores in the US, UK and Asia

Allbirds’ wool runners have been a VC favorite since the beginning. Now, the company is worth $1.4 billion.

The quintessential venture capitalist’s uniform consists of a pair of designer jeans, a Patagonia fleece vest and $95 wool sneakers.

The company behind the shoes, Allbirds, entered the unicorn club this morning with the announcement of a $50 million Series C from late-stage players T. Rowe Price, which led the round, Tiger Global and Fidelity Investments. The 3-year-old startup founded by Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown has raised $75 million to date, including a $17.5 million Series B last year. Its backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Scooter Braun, Maveron, Lerer Hippeau and Elephant, the venture capital firm led by Warby Parker founder Andrew Hunt.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the round values Allbirds at $1.4 billion. The company would not confirm that figure to TechCrunch.

Like Warby Parker, San Francisco-based Allbirds began as a direct-to-consumer online retailer but has since expanded to brick-and-mortar, opening stores in San Francisco and New York. It currently ships to locations across the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Next week, the company plans to open its first storefront in the U.K. in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood. It will begin shipping throughout the U.K. In 2019.

Using its latest investment, Allbirds will double down on its brick-and-mortar business. In addition to the U.K., the company says it will open even more locations in the U.S., as well as open doors in Asia in the coming months. Tiger Global, which has backed Allbirds since its Series B, may be of help. The firm has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as partners across Asia.

Allbirds makes eco-friendly wool shoes for men, women and kids via its kid’s line, aptly named Smallbirds. The shoes are made out of sustainable materials, including merino wool, a fabric made from eucalyptus fiber that the company has dubbed “Tree” and “SweetFoam,” a shoe sole made from sugarcane-based, carbon-negative foam rubber.

“Climate change is the problem of our generation and the private sector has a responsibility to combat it,” Zwillinger, Allbirds’ chief executive officer, said in a statement. “This injection of capital will help us bring our sustainable products to more people around the globe, demonstrating that comfort, design and sustainability don’t have to live exclusive of each other.”

It’s been quite the year for venture investment in … shoes. Rothy’s, which makes sustainable ballet flats for women, has raised $7 million and launched a sneaker. Atoms, a maker of minimalist shoes, brought in $560,000 in seed funding from LinkedIn’s ex-head of growth Aatif Awan and Shrug Capital. And GOAT, the operator of an online sneaker marketplace, nabbed a $60 million Series C in February.

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is a big watch for big adventures

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is comically large. That’s the first thing you notice about it. Based on the G-Shock design, this massive watch is 20.2mm thick and about 60mm in diameter, a true dinner plate of a watch. Inside the heavy case is a dense collection of features that will make your next outdoor adventure […]

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is comically large. That’s the first thing you notice about it. Based on the G-Shock design, this massive watch is 20.2mm thick and about 60mm in diameter, a true dinner plate of a watch. Inside the heavy case is a dense collection of features that will make your next outdoor adventure great.

GPR-B1000, which I took for an extended trip through Utah and Nevada, is an outdoor marvel. It has all of the standard hiking watch features including compass, barometer, altimeter, and solar charging, but the watch also has built-in GPS mapping, logging, and backtracking. This means you can set a destination and the watch will lead you and you can later use your GPS data to recreate your trek or even backtrack out of a sticky situation.

This is not a sports watch. It won’t track your runs or remind you to go to your yoga class. Instead it’s aimed at the backwoods hiker or off piste skier who wants to get from Point A to Point B without getting lost. The watch connects to a specialized app that lets you set the destinations, map your routes, and even change timezones when the phone wakes up after a flight. These odd features make this a traveler’s dream.

The watch design is also unique for Casio. Instead of a replaceable battery the device charges via sunlight or with an included wireless charger. It has a ceramic caseback – a first for Casio – and the charger fits on like a plastic parasite. It charges via micro USB.

It has a crown on the side that controls scrolling through various on-screen menus and the rest of the functions are accessed easily from dedicated buttons around the bezel. The watch is mud- and water-proof to 200 meters and it can survive in minus 20 degrees Celsius temperatures. It is also shock resistant.

The $800 GPR-B1000 is a beefy watch. It’s not for the faint of wrist and definitely requires a bit of dedication to wear. I loved it while hiking up and down canyons and mountains and it was an excellent travel companion. One of the coolest features is quite simply being able to trust that the timezone is correct as soon as you land in Europe from New York.

That said you should remember that this watch is for “Adventure Survival” as Casio puts it. It’s not a running watch and it’s not a fashion piece. At $800 it’s one of Casio’s most expensive G-Shocks and it’s also the most complex. If you’re an avid hiker, however, the endless battery, GPS, and trekking features make it a truly valuable asset.

[gallery ids="1728822,1728820,1728819"]

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is a big watch for big adventures

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is comically large. That’s the first thing you notice about it. Based on the G-Shock design, this massive watch is 20.2mm thick and about 60mm in diameter, a true dinner plate of a watch. Inside the heavy case is a dense collection of features that will make your next outdoor adventure […]

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is comically large. That’s the first thing you notice about it. Based on the G-Shock design, this massive watch is 20.2mm thick and about 60mm in diameter, a true dinner plate of a watch. Inside the heavy case is a dense collection of features that will make your next outdoor adventure great.

GPR-B1000, which I took for an extended trip through Utah and Nevada, is an outdoor marvel. It has all of the standard hiking watch features including compass, barometer, altimeter, and solar charging, but the watch also has built-in GPS mapping, logging, and backtracking. This means you can set a destination and the watch will lead you and you can later use your GPS data to recreate your trek or even backtrack out of a sticky situation.

This is not a sports watch. It won’t track your runs or remind you to go to your yoga class. Instead it’s aimed at the backwoods hiker or off piste skier who wants to get from Point A to Point B without getting lost. The watch connects to a specialized app that lets you set the destinations, map your routes, and even change timezones when the phone wakes up after a flight. These odd features make this a traveler’s dream.

The watch design is also unique for Casio. Instead of a replaceable battery the device charges via sunlight or with an included wireless charger. It has a ceramic caseback – a first for Casio – and the charger fits on like a plastic parasite. It charges via micro USB.

It has a crown on the side that controls scrolling through various on-screen menus and the rest of the functions are accessed easily from dedicated buttons around the bezel. The watch is mud- and water-proof to 200 meters and it can survive in minus 20 degrees Celsius temperatures. It is also shock resistant.

The $800 GPR-B1000 is a beefy watch. It’s not for the faint of wrist and definitely requires a bit of dedication to wear. I loved it while hiking up and down canyons and mountains and it was an excellent travel companion. One of the coolest features is quite simply being able to trust that the timezone is correct as soon as you land in Europe from New York.

That said you should remember that this watch is for “Adventure Survival” as Casio puts it. It’s not a running watch and it’s not a fashion piece. At $800 it’s one of Casio’s most expensive G-Shocks and it’s also the most complex. If you’re an avid hiker, however, the endless battery, GPS, and trekking features make it a truly valuable asset.

[gallery ids="1728822,1728820,1728819"]