Like a surprisingly large number of great products, the Stark smartwatch was created because its inventor didn’t want to look like a dork.
Entrepreneur Luke Hallowell loves both analog watches and fitness trackers, but he doesn’t feel comfortable wearing them simultaneously. “I always wore my Fitbit Flex on one hand and a mechanical watch on the other,” he said. “But I always felt like that looked goofy.”
He wanted a hybrid smartwatch that provided both the fashionable look of a sleek analog watch and the modern features of a fitness tracker. “To my surprise, there were not any affordable options available. Everything was anywhere from around $200 to $400. I saw this gap in the market and I thought it was a good opportunity,” he said.
To blend the best of both worlds, Hallowell and his team of developers created the Stark. The device, which is currently crowdfunding via Kickstarter, looks like a modern and minimalist analog watch — but it boasts fitness tracking features, including step tracking, sleep tracking, goal setting, and exercise tracking. It also includes some smartwatch features, like text and call notifications through the Stark’s small speaker. While wearing the device, you can even take pictures with your smartphone by shaking your wrist.
But perhaps the most remarkable part of the Stark is the price tag. Backers who pledge $60 on Kickstarter (or $50 for those who take advantage of the limited early bird pricing) can be among the first people who try out the watch once it ships.
How are they able to do all that in a watch that costs less than big-name fitness trackers? Hallowell says that the secret to driving down the costs is choosing materials very carefully. They have to strike a fine balance: cheap enough to make the whole watch affordable, but tough enough for the average consumer.
“Unlike most watch companies, we don't use 316L surgical grade steel, Swiss movement, an Italian leather band, et cetera,” he said. “This allowed us to cut our costs significantly. We used materials that made this watch affordable, yet still durable enough for everyday use.”
This is Hallowell’s first venture building a wearable device. He said constructing the prototype with his team was actually less frustrating than preparing the product for mass production. “Coming to a working prototype took about four months. After that, it was more of a waiting game,” he explained. “Finding the right manufacturer was probably the biggest obstacle. After hundreds of back-and-forth emails, I finally received a decent quote. Then I had to wait a few more months for my designs to be manufactured.”
Stark’s Kickstarter campaign was successful right out of the gate. “To our surprise, we hit our $20,000 funding goal in just five days,” Hallowell says. As of this writing, they already exceeded $31,000 with 47 days left to go. That pace puts them on track to smash their most ambitious stretch goal of $50,000.
Hallowell says that once the campaign ends, his team plans to finish work on a vibration module for the Stark. “We expect this to be ready for manufacturing by the end of the year,” he says. “Old smart modules will be able to be swapped out with this new module, which will be offered at a discounted price to our Kickstarter backers.”
While nothing can replace entrepreneurial drive and initiative, Hallowell said that crowdfunding has made it easier to make your product idea a reality. “My advice to any entrepreneurs out there is if you have an idea, just go with it. You don’t have to quit your day job to do it, either. Kickstarter is a great platform for new companies to test their product on the market with minimal investment,” he said.
If everything goes according to schedule, backers of the Stark will get the tracker when it first ships in July.