In this episode we catch up with Ian and gain insight into the changing mobile and startup landscape, the lessons he’s learned going from Zappos to Apple to Audax Health and we get a great glimpse into the inner workings of a fringe mobile health startup as it moves closer and closer to product. This episode is really a close look at the mobile entrepreneur mindset – if you’ve ever struggled with where you fit in this ecosystem, pay close attention to Ian’s perspective of the startup culture in California and how he understands implicitly where and when he fits – and, more importantly, when he’s finished and it is time to move on.
Inspiring stuff on many levels – plus, it’s great to catch up with a guy like Ian who is out there on the front line leading the charge.
Key takeaways from this episode. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip
Rob: Hello everybody, and welcome to UNTETHER.tv, I’m your host and founder, Rob Woodridge. Back in November 2011, I had the great privilege of sitting down with Ian Klassen, who was, back then, with this little known company called Zappos. I like to think that maybe his episode of UNTETHER.tv kind of propelled that company into the limelight, but I know that you and I would be thinking I’m kidding myself, and I was.
But Ian, we spent a great hour talking about the mobile strategy that Zappos was implying, and I loved that conversation. It was one of the most popular conversations on UNTETHER.tv, it still to this day gets many, many, many, many views, as you can imagine, just simply because of the guy and the company.
Well, he’s back, two years later. So many things to cover. So Ian left Zappos, went to Apple, then was on the board of advisors for a company called Wantful, and now works for a company called Audax Health. He’s gone from San Francisco, or as he’s just described to me, he went from Vancouver, to Las Vegas, to San Francisco, and that’s where he’s joining us right now, at this very moment. Ian, welcome back, thank you for doing this again.
Ian: Yeah, thank you very much.
Rob: I said before we started rolling, that he will realize in about two minutes very quickly, he’s scratching his head, wondering why he came back on the show, because I’m just the same guy that asks the silly questions. But I really appreciate it, I love the fact that you didn’t sit still over the last two years. Like you left Zappos, and went to Apple.
Talk about the experience of leaving such a great company. Because what I left by after doing that episode with you a couple of years ago was this incredible love of that company, and it seems to be when I talk to somebody, talk to people from Zappos, they feel it. Like it’s like you bleed Zappos blood. So what was that like to leave Zappos?
Ian: It was really tough. It was very tough. The thing is, when you interviewed me, it was like me and Alex Kirmse, and Alex left as well. He went to [inaudible 02:19]…
Rob: Very Canadian for those of you who can’t see. Nice…
Ian: [inaudible 02:25]. So yeah. So Alex left and started his own company, with his wife, who he met at Zappos as well. And it’s called Fairejour, I’m probably [fudging] that name. But yeah, he started his own company, and then I went to Apple.
It was a really tough thing, because if you look at Zappos itself, it’s a company that everybody from top to bottom really believes in what they’re doing. They just moved down to the downtown project, which is like downtown Las Vegas, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to downtown Las Vegas, but it wasn’t exactly the best area. It’s sort of like if your luck runs out, you just keep on heading north, and you end up in the pawn shops and the jail cells of North Las Vegas.
Rob: This is Tony Hsieh’s revitalization of downtown Las Vegas, right?
Ian: Yeah, that’s right. So he chose an area that was really wasn’t the greatest area, let’s leave it at that. And he took this area, and he just sort of started buying buildings, and putting up whole structures around Starbucks and what have you. And actually not only just startups, but just building a theater, and building a park, and dropping Zappos into downtown Las Vegas. And the old law courts, and city hall, and jail cells all wrapped into one. So he just dropped everyone, like Boom, like here you go, here’s a couple of thousand people, and then people started living there.
People started buying apartments down there, and what have you, and houses, and it’s just revitalized the whole area. There is definitely a belief of the company, a belief in Tony Hsieh as the leader that’s undeniable. Even to this day, I don’t really know a CEO that I can call up on a cell phone right now, and he’ll pick up. It’s just unheard of, but he’ll do it. He’s a very down to earth kind of guy.
Rob: Why Vegas? Like of all places on the planet… Here’s a guy, this is presumably a good chunk of his cash, his effort. He’s putting a lot of time behind this, but why Vegas?
Ian: Well why Vegas for Zappos just simply was customer service. Because Vegas, if you’ve ever been there, is a customer service kind of place.
Ian: Zappos is a 24/7 operation, Vegas is a 24/7 town. If you live in Vegas, you’re using to having the supermarket open at 2:00 a.m. and it’s busy. People just live, work really weird hours in there. It was really weird when I came to down in Cupertino and things closed at like 6:00. So it’s like, what the hell?
Rob: They call this a startup community or what? This is nothing right?
Ian: I know that’s funny. So like in Vegas it was definitely a customer service driven kind of place. And that was a really close match to where Zappos wanted to go. And I think for Tony’ and the downtown project they really wanted to affect Las Vegas in a way it hasn’t been affected before. Vegas had a horrible, horrible time in the downturn economy. The foreclosure rate was the highest if not the highest in the country. Unemployment in Vegas was around 16%. I think within Las Vegas itself in the construction industry was 25%. It was just crazy. So by doing this you affect a community, but you cannot affect another community.
Rob: It’s pretty amazing. You talk about Legacy. Like the last guy to do something was Bugsy Malone, right? To make an impact, maybe not a fictitious gangster. Really those were the last guys that really changed the face of Vegas, and here’s Tony Hsieh doing the same thing.
Ian: Sure. You could even argue that a lot of the corporations like MGM, Harrah’s, what have you really changed Vegas and brought it into, especially the ’80’s when they built the Mirage and what have you.
Ian: Of multi-billion dollar hotels. Provided a lot of opportunity for Las Vegas. My daughter was born in Las Vegas. I actually love Las Vegas. I would go back there in a heartbeat.
Rob: That’s funny. I mean one guy and I love his determination. And I have a friend here in Ottawa that was part of or incubated there for a little while. And it’s the same kind of stories about this man who is becoming a legend and a kind of a myth. In Vegas. Do you want to go to Vegas? I always thought that Bruce Springsteen would end up in either Vegas or Atlantic City. And I would just end up living in Vegas anyway. Just sitting, going to his shows every night. But he’s still touring. So you leave and you head down to Cupertino, right?
Rob: So you go down and work for Apple. I know you can’t a lot about working for Apple. Tomorrow. We’re filming this the day before the iPad event. Talk about that transition. You just give a little bit of it. Because you go from this guy like Tony Hsieh, dynamic, you’re in the post Steve Jobs type era when you jump to Apple. What was the transition like? What was the change? And why leave Apple? God, this is the company that people clamor to get to be a part of.
Ian: Zappos for example. We had built all the apps. We had done what we had come there to do and now it was time for new challenges and what have you. Actually, the whole team. The whole original Zappos mobile team went on to do some really amazing things. Like I went to Apple. I think two or three of the other guys opened their own companies. Some other people went on to some just absolutely fantastic design careers. They opened up their own company as well. It was a very, very dynamic group that I felt really lucky to work with.
It was almost a happenstance that we all kind of came together in this one time and was able to build such amazing products within a short period of time. Going to Apple was probably the biggest culture shock of my life. You’re going from a company that you would be looked down upon if you didn’t hold the door open for somebody. You’re doing parades around the office. It’s part of the culture to be friendly and outgoing and transparent.
Then you go to Apple where everything is extremely closed down. I remember my first day on the job and my boss took two whiteboards and wrote an entire order chart that I had to know, but I couldn’t write it down.
Ian: Just try to remember that one.
Rob: Commit it to memory.
Ian: Yeah. Yeah, literally. Like talk to that guy. Talk to that guy. Like then if you go to different Apple buildings. There’s a guy that worked four desks away from me. I don’t know what he did. I wasn’t my place to ask him either.
Rob: What if you did though? Did he like give you the death stare?
Ian: No. I mean it was on a need to know basis. The whole place was on a need to know basis. And that’s the way it is. That’s the way they roll. The funny part was the law of the offices, like if you’re ever in Cupertino, it’s all like rancher even the homes are rancher homes, the single-story, like on occasion, people get crazy and build a two-story place there.
But like it’s like all glass because the weather’s fantastic. Like the weather’s just like absolutely amazing. And it’s like ranchers. So people would actually come to the windows and like start peering in like these fan boys to see if we’ve written on our white boards.
It’s kind of a crazy environment like that because like there’s so much hype around what you’re trying to do and people want to have like their pictures taken by the Apple sign and blah, blah, blah. And, you know, like that was totally different because like at Zappos you’d go on a tour. “Hey, I’m Ian in from Iowa,” and they’d go, “Oh, yeah. Here, let’s go on a tour and I’ll show you every bit of Zappos you want to see.”
Whereas there’s like no way you’re going to do that in Apple. Like you’d go to the corporate store and buy a shirt, but get the hell out after that, you know. Don’t- go buy our products. It wasn’t, yeah, it was just that like night and day type of environment and I don’t think I’ll ever have worked in two more disparate type of cultures in my life for awhile to come.
Rob: It just sounds like you know I think that there is that secrecy and now, I mean, I understand a little bit more about how that secrecy. And I read Jobs’ biography but you understand why that secrecy is there, right? That’s how come really everything is kind of kept under wraps as much as it is.
Because I think the difference at Zappos like I read Tony Hsieh’s book and you see that permeate through the organization and Apple is just, maybe it’s the competitive nature of that world. But I saw the same thing at BlackBerry, when I did a lot of work for RIM, right? It’s that these guys are secretive and they won’t show you a damn thing, right? And even though by opening it up maybe it would actually foster a little bit better of relationship with your employees. Man.
Ian: Actually, our relationship was really good. I really enjoyed working there. It was extremely challenging and fun. You know, I never had an issue while working at Apple at all. Like I think, I hope everybody gets the opportunity to work there, because like you’re working with just some of the best…
Rob: Some of the best minds.
Ian: …resources and they don’t hire people just for the sake of hiring people. It’s like, “Okay, you’re the best doing this, so bleh. Here, you get this job.” And to that end too, you know, you go to Google or LinkedIn or Microsoft and they’re just as secretive as Apple. It’s just that they just don’t have the same cache as Apple has around the secrecy at all.
Rob: So did you ever consider… I mean, leaving Apple was it the same kind of thing, you did the job that you wanted to do and then it was time to move on, or was it like a culture clash or can you talk about that or you were just happy to leave and happy for your time there?
Ian: No, I was really, really happy at Apple. I think that it was a fantastic place but it was just time for me to move on and go to other opportunities. I think you kind of get to this realization that what kind of a person you are when you work somewhere. And I would definitely go back to Apple. I would definitely go back to work there if they would ever have me, but I would definitely go back there. But I also really wanted to work at a startup. That was just one thing that- I’m in San Francisco. It’s like the startup capital of the world.
Ian: And I really, really wanted that opportunity. Apple was just like a fantastic opportunity because like, just working in Vancouver like I never thought I’d ever have the opportunity like as a Canadian kid growing up in New Westminster that I would ever have the opportunity to go down to Apple and like, and work there. I mean it was like a dream come true. But at the same time, like, there’s a lot of opportunity here.
Ian: You know it’s kind of funny like when I was up in Canada like a lot of my friends up in Canada, they keep their jobs for like quite awhile, like five years or something like that. It’s not uncommon. And like down here, especially in the Valley people change their jobs like all the time because like there’s always… kind of like a washing machine that… like there’s always this swirling between Netflix. And you’ve got to remember like Netflix, eBay, PayPal, Apple, Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, they’re all within like a 50-minute drive of each other. I mean it’s just this crazy clump and that’s just, like, the southern part.
Rob: The big guys.
Ian: Yeah, yeah. That’s just the southern part of the Valley. Then you get into like Palo Alto.
Ian: And Menlo Park and you get into San Francisco. I mean it’s just like this incredible number of companies that operate down here. I remember in Vancouver, you just don’t have that kind of opportunity. Even in Vegas, there’s casinos, or military, or Zappos but here there’s constant, constant, constant opportunity happening, and Audax came up, and I definitely went for it.
Rob: When I go down there, I see that. I often say, when you go to San Francisco, if you’re in the mobile space, you’re going to bump into, like I do, dozens of companies that are big in San Francisco, or in the Valley, that you’ve never heard of outside the Valley. There’s definitely this kind of “containment field” around San Francisco and the outskirts where there are applications and companies that nobody’s heard of except for in that space, but they’re common in San Francisco.
And you’re right, there is jumping, and I think that’s exactly why LinkedIn was invented. If you go east from San Francisco, I’m not updating my LinkedIn every month, but when you get into San Francisco, I see that all the time. I get the email saying, this person changed jobs, and this person, and it’s the same person every six months changing jobs. And I see that quite often.
Ian: Even companies like Lyft or Uber. You don’t take a taxi any more in San Francisco, you take a Lyft, or an Uber. So, I go back to Vancouver and it doesn’t exist there, which is odd to me. It’s just a part of your life now.
Rob: It was Lyft, right? The last time I was there, I was thinking that this is something that most of San Francisco has used, and nobody outside of San Francisco’s ever heard of, right? If you’re not in the mobile space, if you’ve never heard of Lyft, you’ve often probably not heard of Uber as well, unless you’re in a major city.
What did you learn? You learned a little bit about yourself from Apple? The combination of Zappos and Apple, and realized that you didn’t want to work for Google, because that would have been the triumvirate, right? You’ve got Amazon, Zappos, you’ve the Apple, and then you’ve got Google, and you decided to go the other way, back to the start-up world.
Ian: Yeah, I think that it wouldn’t have made a whole lot of sense for me to go to Google. I’m not saying they would hire me, or whatever. But it wouldn’t make a whole ton of sense to go from one multi- national to another multi-national. I love startups. San Francisco has this plethora of new startups coming and going every day. It’s almost like throwing seeds out in the garden and you see what sprouts. It’s just absolutely amazing.
Rob: Was Wantful kind of your first foray back into this? Was the sequence that you working at Apple, and you were an advisor to Wantful, or did Wantful come after Apple?
Ian: As an Apple employee, you’re not allowed to…
Rob: Do anything except work for Apple?
Ian: That’s right. As an Apple employee, you can, with certain permissions, go out and be an advisor for a company, so they don’t restrict you on that part. Obviously, you’re not allowed to do media events. I would not be able to talk to you right now if I was an Apple employee.
Rob: I’m not. I’m the furthest thing from media. You’ve got to realize this by now.
Ian: So Wantful definitely came after Apple. John, the CEO, is such a great guy. We like to go out. He just knows every bar and restaurant in San Francisco, and we would just sit there and go out for drinks, and I absolutely just loved his company. So I knew his company just on a friendship basis when he was working out of his apartment, and then it grew, and grew into an incredible size.
Rob: What was the biggest lesson that happened? Wantful shut down, right?
Ian: That’s right. So Wantful grew to around 30 people, but I think the aura or popularity of Wantful, especially in the US, it never came to Canada, but especially in the US, Wantful definitely got to a very, very popular design-centric gifting site. And then also, e-commerce and mobile. So it definitely made a lot of headlines around the US, and very popular.
Rob: So what happened? Wrong guy to ask?
Ian: John made a blog post about it. You see a lot of companies, startups around here, where you think, “This is the greatest thing ever,” but it’s a tough market. Going through a C round, going through an A round, that’s all fine and well, but you definitely have to have that uptick on user acquisition, and user acquisition and conversion and what have you. And if you don’t, then your company- and I think this is John’s philosophy. He didn’t want to slow down.
Ian: He just wanted to rip the band-aid off and say, “Okay this isn’t working, you know, back to the drawing board.”
Rob: Wow. I think that it’s courageous to do that. When you raise money and you kind of come to the conclusion, right? And it’s not come- the conclusion is not made on your behalf, I think that’s a very heroic thing to do, right? This isn’t- we’re not gaining traction. We’re not doing the things that we need to or the things that are happening aren’t happening fast enough that we need to happen fast enough. It’s time to pull that out.
I mean, I’m definitely not going to put you on the spot about Wantful. It’s just that it’s an interesting thing. Did you learn something from that in this, as you’re kind of moving into your own startup world?
Ian: Yeah, I mean-
Rob: Every piece of this obviously.
Ian: As you’re sitting there crying in your [bureau], yeah, you do learn quite a bit. It’s like, “Holy shit, this really is-” I mean it’s almost like a relationship ending, you know?
Ian: Like, “oh wow, this is it.” And you do learn a lot. I mean, I think this is definitely a discussion that John should really have.
Ian: But for me personally, it’s like take nothing for granted because you could have like the best team in the world, you could have like the best product in the world. Because I honestly thought the Wantful product was far superior than many, many sites, but it’s just one of those things that you kind of make go left instead of right and it can really affect your business.
And it’s just like a lot of these businesses do- I think even, was it FedEx was down to like their last pay check or something like that? And the guy went to Vegas and gambled the money to make payroll? I mean you just hear these stories and it’s like, yeah, it’s totally true where you really ride on a pretty thin wire of being successful and being under business.
Rob: I kind of liken it always to riding a thousand miles an hour an inch off the ground, right?
Rob: And that’s a successful company. And one little wobble and you’re done, right? And that’s the balance that it takes to be in this world. And you see so many people just wobble and a lot of people don’t get up to a thousand miles an hour. They’re doing ten and they fall over, right? So yeah, you’re right. It is the biggest challenge and I mean I’m just interested because you go from Zappos into Apple and then you start to work with Wantful and then you see that kind of with all the promise and hope and traction and buzz and funding and then it goes away. And then you decide, “Well, hey I’m still going to do this. I’m going to jump back into startup.” There’s something poetic about that I suppose.
Then you jump into Audax and it’s a health company that is leveraging mobile and healthcare. So you’re kind of on the cusp again of the most interesting aspects of where mobile, I think, is going to be. But it’s an unproven world at this point as well, isn’t it? So it’s like you kind of like a little bit of fear in you.
Ian: Well, I don’t really think so. I actually left Apple to join Audax.
Ian: Wantful was just a side [benefit]-
Rob: A side thing. Okay.
Ian: -that I can now go and have a relationship with this other company as well and be an advisor. I was an advisor for another company called Go Try It On and they sold to Rent The Runway. I mean that was a nice, successful exit. It wasn’t as popular as Wantful but still, I learned a lot from that as well. So joining Audax, if you . . . the healthcare companies in the US are a little different than from Canada. I remember being in Canada and you can like walk into a hospital with no arms and you’re not going to get a bill. You know-
Rob: And they’ll reattach them. And they won’t charge you.
Ian: Yeah, they won’t. I mean, it’s really weird for Americans to go, “What? Really? You don’t have to ask like, ‘Here’s your insurance card. Is your doctor within the group of doctors within this dah, dah, dah?'” You know, what have you. It’s a serious business down here. Big business.
Ian: Like a lot of healthcare companies have this problem. The problem is, people are getting bigger. So if you just look at the overall belt shape of the American population, we’re all sort of like in the middle here. We’re in okay shape, not dropping dead but we’re not in fantastic shape. And so you see people slide down the scale a little bit into like chronic conditions. And that’s where we want to prevent people from going down.
The whole purpose of this company is to really get people into better shape and healthy shape and enjoy their lives more. It’s just amazing just being able to just run a little bit and what that effect has on your life. Audax is one of those places that really wants to wrap a fun user experience around health. And it’s tough but there’s also a lot of benefits around that. The audience that you get is an audience that is really geared towards what you want to do. It’s an audience, it’s an active, active audience that you get.
Rob: So what, I mean, you do this through games, right? And through challenges. And you do it on the web, you do it on mobile.
Rob: Maybe go into a little deeper into that, how this actually works. So from a typical user standpoint.
Ian: Right. From our point of view we want to go out to different healthcare companies. So in the US, you know, I join a company and it’s, “Okay, your healthcare provider’s sick now.” Or it’s [Mercer], or it’s AffordaBlue, or it’s California Blue. So we want to go out to the healthcare providers and then through that go to different companies. So, companies [sit] on top of a healthcare plan, a healthcare plan attracts different users to it through the companies. And so from that we can actually get like a nice wide audience to use our products. Then down the road I know we want to go to a more [inaudible 26:48] which I’m very comfortable in.
So, yes, so we want to develop products and products that will help you, will tell you what to do. So our whole premise is that we want to create healthy habits. And creating healthy habits means that we want you to focus on one thing over a period of time.
So, for example, if you’re rather sedentary, perhaps walking ten minutes a day, three times a week or four times a week would be a challenge for you. And so we have this little coach, we have a series of coaches, and you’ll see this in the web product and you’ll see this in the mobile product, where you can get this coach and they’ll encourage you through a really humorous way or sassy way to do your different goals.
And you keep these goals and as you do your goals we’ll actually give you points and then these points you can actually redeem it for different products that we’ll have on the site.
Rob: So it’s like a loyalty program for health and for exercise but I love the fact that you’re doing that which is like focusing on a single thing, right?
Rob: That you can do and you can change, because I think that that’s the problem with most physical activities is that the first step is to join a gym and maybe that’s a little bit overwhelming for a lot of people, right? It’s like, “Okay, go join the gym because we have 370 machines and there’s 100 treadmills all sitting in front of you and there’s a bike and just go! You’ll get fit!” right? And it’s too much of a commitment. So do you think that that plays into this? That it’s just small, bite-sized commitments anywhere you go whether it’s on the desktop or a mobile device?
Ian: Oh, for sure. I mean I think that I think gyms are great but it can be intimidating for a lot of people. And so what we want to do is encourage you to make small little changes in your life because these small changes in your life will actually reap big changes down the road.
For example, if you eat salads for lunch, maybe start with twice a week. That can actually have a very, very positive effect in your life. Or if you replace fruit or even for your snack instead of potato chips. Or if you have like a low-fat, like a skinny or a non-fat latte instead of having the regular latte. Like I just recently did that myself and it just feels absolutely great after doing that for like three weeks.
Rob: It does, it does. I’m an ex-smoker, right? I smoked for a long time. And I quit in 1999. In fact, I quit March 3rd, 1999. If you’ll ask anybody, they’ll remember that date. It’s like you remember Kennedy – if you’re old enough, even if you’re not. I remember my first Bruce Springsteen concert and I remember the first time I had sex and I remember when I quit smoking.
Rob: And they aren’t in that order, by the way.
Rob: [inaudible 29:42] make that clear. But I remember that. And I just transformed that addiction into another addiction which is physical activity and I remember my mother saying to me when I turned down dessert or I’d ask her, “Is this whole butter or is this margarine or can you make it without cream?” And she just looked at me and said, “Robert Woodbridge, I did not raise you like this!” right?
Rob: Old school, big full-on 100% whole foods is what we ate growing up and I became a conscientious eater and it just happened. It triggered, right?
But so how does mobile help with this? Now, I quit smoking using something called LifeSign so this was a computer back in the day. It was a little bit smaller than an iPhone and all it had was a small screen in the middle – and I love this – and a button. The interface was just amazing, right? Every time you programmed it, so you’d turn it on and every time you had a cigarette you hit the button. And it calculated. You did it for a week. And then on the eighth day it would tell you when to smoke.
So you told it when you smoked and then on the eighth day it told you when to smoke. And it was a cessation program so gradually the time between cigarettes elongated and then eventually it was like-
I remember on that day. I was driving. I was a bartender at the time and I was driving into work. And it was like 4:00 p.m. I hadn’t had a cigarette all day and it went off. So I’m driving my car. I’m smoking and I finished my cigarette, put it out and it said, boom! I hit the button and it said, “Ber per der ler per der ler! Congratulations! You’ve quit!” No, no, no, no, no! No, no I didn’t. I would have enjoyed it more, right?
Ian: Right. [inaudible 31:17] the last one.
Rob: So I was just like, “Come on. Got to get through.” I chucked out half a cigarette. I’m like, “No! Go back and get it!” right? But so I understand intrinsically how mobile can help in the healthcare business. But maybe we can dive a little bit deeper into this. How can really we leverage this technology that’s in our pocket all the time to lead a better, healthier life. And then how are you guys doing that?
Ian: Sure. I mean the thing is with the mobile phone – I mean just in general, not just with Audax, but just in general – your phone’s with you all the time. It’s a very personal device. You could just think about boy, if somebody ever hacked into my phone or knew my little password just think about all the information you get from your email, Facebook, and even music you write or listen to and what have you, your schedule and what not. So it’s a very, very personal device.
We have it all the time. Like I personally go running with my phone all the time. And I have it from the time I go to bed to the time I get up. Just because we’re so dependent on the mobile phone now. Which if you think about it, gee, when I first started Zappos I was using the iPhone 3Gs and that thing was such a piece of crap now compared with-
Rob: It’s terrible. Yes.
Ian: Yeah, to the 5s. And I’m sure if we talked a couple of years from now, we’re using the iPhone whatever xyz, we’ll be saying, “Oh, that iPhone 5s is just so crappy.”
Rob: Right, how did we live with 64-bit processor? And yeah, it was terrible.
Ian: Yeah [inaudible 32:49]. Like those brick phones you get back in the 80s or whatever. And you think, “Wow.”
Rob: What were you thinking?
Ian: So the cool thing about these new phones is that they have a lot of sensors [inaudible 33:01] are on them. And then also Apple recently now, it’s Core Motion. Core Motion technology M7. And what really the M7 chip does is it took some of the sensor technology out of the CPU and put it into a new chip. So now it doesn’t have to fire up the CPU to get like accelerometer data or what have you. And it’s just like a constant stream of data. And then it stores seven days’ worth of data at all times on the phone. So you can just have access to this data when you want it.
And it’s very interesting because like from the accelerometer data you can tell a lot about a person. Like for example, like the [boon] patterns. And based upon the boon patterns you can put contacts to it. So you can say like, you’re walking, you’re stationary, you’re running. A really good example of this with an app is Moves.
Rob: Yes. [inaudible 33:49] it.
Ian: Yeah, a Finnish company and it just like [inaudible 33:53]. It uses GPS.
Ian: But yeah, it’s a very interesting concept of tracking what you’re doing and it’s in the background. You don’t even know that you’re using it.
Rob: So I interviewed Sampo Karjalainen who runs Moves for an episode.
Rob: I mean, I have carried this, I don’t even know. I wish I could know how many days I’ve carried this. But since the app came out I’ve been using it and I freaking love it.
Ian: Yeah. Yeah, I mean it’s a great app. Sampo’s a great guy. We actually every time he’s in town we have drinks.
Rob: I’m envious, man, I’m envious. I love that guy.
Ian: He’s a great guy. Yeah. So just I mean what Sampo did and what Moves did really proved that you can efficiently take the data even without- if you had no access to Core Motion, but yeah they successfully track the data and you can actually see what your life is doing. Transportation, running, walking, what have you.
Rob: I think it’s pretty impressive and like the fact that he spent- he was telling me that he spent a year building the algorithms to determine, differentiate between walk, run, and bicycle, right?
Rob: And automobile and different transportation mechanisms. And I found it just fascinating. And algorithms around controlling battery depletion and I mean it is a sophisticated application. I wonder what he feels, like what Apple has done with this is kind of accelerate his work obviously and make it a little bit more but it’s also kind of democratized that work, hasn’t it?
Ian: Right. Sure. I mean, Apple does some pretty funny stuff. They don’t really announce their road map for good reason.
Ian: I know there was a company called Sincerely that did some of those cards where you put a picture on a card and you can send it to somebody. Then Apple comes out with their own card making program. And it’s like hello. I just remember texting with some friends that were working out there at the time. So…how do you like the new Apple program?
Rob: What are you doing now? Yeah. Well, I had those guys on as well but very early on in their lifespan so it was a happier time.
Ian: Well, even now, Sincerely still exists.
Ian: Sincerely is running just fine. I mean, people thought that, okay, [inaudible 36:06] Sincerely but no. They’ve lived through it and people like using their products. So like even now with Core Motion I mean, sure you can say, “Well, hey, [Nellie] [inaudible 36:17] some of the magic out of what Sampo is doing,” but quite the contrary, you know. It is focus for the iPhone 5S. And I still think there’s a place for somewhere like Sampo who’s going to continue to innovate on his product and the same with us. So what we want to do is take a look at your life and make roles based upon what you’re doing in your life and make goals that are applicable to your life.
Rob: Well, I mean why – I want to explore that in a second, but I just want to finish on the Core Motion and the M7. Why do you think Apple, any clue why Apple would put something like that in there? It’s obviously like part of a master plan here because, I mean, pieces start to fall, the fingerprint scanning on here for me is the greatest invention for commerce and closed-loop payment systems and all those kind of things and speed and it’s a UI that we’re not quite used to yet for making payments.
But the Core Motion and the M7 chip, there’s got to be, there’s always a reason. And I don’t know if you can talk about that but, I mean, can you speculate about why they’d want to put something like that in the device?
Ian: No, that’s a great question for Tim Cook.
Rob: Okay. When he comes on, I’ll make sure to ask him that.
Ian: [inaudible 37:28] ask him what- I don’t know. I mean like only he would know.
Ian: And probably some other pretty, some other folks, you know, in Apple. I have no idea.
Rob: Well, you know it’s funny because they’ve got this, they’ve got these little pieces, right? So they’ve got the iBeacon which I think is a huge deal and they don’t emphasize that and then they’ve got this the Core Motion in the M7 chip which they talk about the chip, but they don’t really explain it all. And so they’ve got all these things swirling around. They’ve got the rumors of the watch coming out next year. And like I’m just waiting for that moment. I’m going to wake up in the middle of the night and it’s going to be like clarity. It’s like, “I got it!” I hope I do, but-
Ian: I wouldn’t. I mean, I wouldn’t really spend too much time [inaudible 38:16]
Rob: Come on! It’s all I think about. Yeah.
Ian: You know what I mean. I’d just enjoy it as it comes and just think about how you can innovate on it. Some of the most innovative products weren’t products that were just developed brand new. They were actually innovation on top of innovative products.
Ian: Like Google.
Rob: Yes. Well, no and I joke about this. I don’t lose a lot of sleep over it. That’s for sure. I’m just, I’m fascinated with it because . . . So how do these things, how do wearables play into this, right? So Misfit comes out with the Shine and then you’ve got Fitbit you’ve got the Nike FuelBand and to me those have been very much associated with the 10,000 Step Movement, the quantified self, the health freaks, the body analytics guys that are interested in this kind of stuff.
Rob: So how does that play into what you guys are doing and do you see that kind of mix between the cell phone, when this is in my pocket and something that you’re wearing?
Ian: Sure. I mean, people enjoy using Misfits and Nike FuelBand and what have you. Fitbit another really popular one as well. What I’m really focused on right now is perfecting using the internal sensors and then start looking at other wearables that we can integrate into it. I’m a big believer in doing whatever like you feel comfortable with. I use the Nike FuelBand. I think it’s a great product.
I know a lot of people around here use Misfits and Fitbits and I think really to me it’s just like I want to accommodate whoever is out there and take that data and present it in a very digestible manner. Like for me whatever feels comfortable, like running programs and what have you have been around since the 50s.
I mean, this isn’t exactly anything new that, oh my God, if you walk 10,000 Steps or I’m counting my steps or whatever. I mean it’s just we make it easier now with the available technology but at the same time it’s not like they’re reinventing something to make me healthier. So it really it’s all a matter of comfort I think.
Rob: Yeah. I agree with you. It’s funny because there’s this great woman Nora Young who up here- I mean, CBC right? I mean, that resonates with you as a Canadian boy. She has a show called Spark and she wrote a book about the quantified self and so we had a great conversation in an episode of UNTETHERed on TV about this and she talks about this. There’s like this health movement and the quantified self and these wearables as it’s pretty much- I interpret is lazy quantified self because back in the day, in the 50s like you would actually count your steps, right? You would have a really, really accurate reading of your steps and you would write down in your journal the things you actually felt from the heart, right? That’s what the journal was.
Ian: Right, right.
Rob: Like, “I’m feeling a little bit low,” and it’s observation. And now we just slap one of these on our wrist and we go and we think, “Hey, I’m quantified. I’ve got my 10,000 steps in. I have logged my life,” right?
Ian: Well, yes and no. I mean, like if you think about it like when I was doing track runs we used to go to the track all the time. I mean track is like, you could argue that’s like quantified self right there.
Rob: Yeah, yeah.
Ian: So my coach would sit there and had a little ledger and then he would see like how fast I’m running around like a 100 or 200 or 400 and then based upon that he would make extrapolations around like how fast I would do a half-marathon, how fast I would do a marathon, like how many calories I’m burning and blah, blah, blah. Like you actually get a lot of data by just going on the track and going around that.
Rob: And math.
Rob: And traditional math, right? Exactly.
Ian: So, I mean, we used to do that all the time which is just plug it into an Excel sheet and blah, there you have it. I was like one of the first guys to do a [Lululemon] and [Run] program. The first Lululemon store in [inaudible 42:09] Vancouver and we had none of these devices and, you know what, we all had a good time. We all did the Sun Run in Vancouver, the 10k run so like really I think the wearables and the quantified self I think it’s interesting. It’s not necessary but it’s just making it a more fun and engaging way to get healthy.
Rob: Yeah and I think that that’s the key, right, is that when you start to talk about how you can use these devices to create a healthier environment for you, for your family, whatever it might be. I think it just kind of keeps it in the back of your head and whether or not you fulfill it is ultimately a little bit of willpower.
I mean, I’ll tell you what. I’m going to ask you this challenge and I’ll give you a second to think about this. Like one of the biggest challenges- what’s the biggest challenge you guys are going to face as you kind of build this out? Because my challenge with all of this is that I log things, I keep track of things, I do my best. Food and intake and you know. And I experiment with a lot of these applications and then I kind of put them aside for a little while.
But they’re too manual of a process, right? Like I have to log my sleep with this app and then I take that number and I put it into my other app that kind of accumulates it and the number of, I don’t know, cups of water I have in a day and cups of coffee I have in a day and my food and I try to like bring it all in. And there’s nothing that really just brings it all in automatically. And that’s my biggest challenge. I know it’s a total first world problem. I understand that. But it’s how I digest the state of me for my health, right?
So when you look at what you’re doing with Audax tell me, like what do you see as the biggest challenges you’re going to face around this, around what you’re building? And then kind of any idea of where this goes from this point forward?
Ian: Yeah, I mean that’s a really good question. Our biggest challenge is to be like as customer-focused as possible and to build something that’s going to really resonate with the customer and the end user.
Rob: So the Zappos and Apple coming together, right?
Ian: Yeah. Yeah, I mean if you just look at any sort of business like that where you want to be as intuitive, and as easy, and as painless as possible to use your product and to get the most out of it. And of course just any startup, that is your biggest challenge. Just like what I said when I first used Uber or Lyft I was just so amazed at how easy it was to use these products and so I just kept on using it even though I could hail a taxi, but I mean this is just a more superior product like in my opinion. So I mean in our world it’s going to be something that’s really going to resonate with people, be fun, and be a product that they want to use continuously.
Rob: You must get constant inspiration from that. Like there’s got to be bits and pieces of your day that you go through especially interacting with some of the startups, maybe even that you advised for, that you’re looking to think, “Wow. That’s great. That’s the simplicity of Uber and the logic of Uber that I don’t have to pay because my credit card is on file. And Lyft, it just seems right. There’s somebody around the corner from me. I’ll get a ride.” You must get inspired from your surroundings. My guess is that is much different from what it was in Vegas now that you’ve landed in San Francisco.
Ian: Yeah. Yes and no. I mean, you don’t remember. Like in San Francisco we have like some of the most outdated systems. We have Internet outages here.
Rob: It’s crazy.
Ian: Our cell phone reception here is almost like third world. Our transit system is almost laughable. Like we have a BART strike right now, but even if the BART strike wasn’t on I couldn’t go from, at least, I don’t think I can go from BART to my Cal train under a single ticket. You know what I mean?
I remember I was actually taking the Cal train. So there’s a train system that connects the south to the north. I get on and we’re going up and every month you have this Cal train pass. You swipe it. If you don’t swipe it you’re in deep shit and what have you.
And so this guy from Google who actually invented or designed Google Mail. They’ve got a user friendly product that millions of others use. He was sitting there arguing with the Cal train person saying, “How come Cal train is designed so poorly, designed with the user in mind? I have to swipe this. I have to swipe here, and I have to da-da-da.” He was just like, “Hey, that’s just the way it is. It’s been this way for ages and ages, etc., etc.”
And so you really do have a lot of innovation here, but you also have some pretty old ass systems that just make absolutely no sense whatsoever in its use.
Rob: I love it, the balance between the new tech and the old tech. It’s like the most forward state, the most innovative state. It’s where people… Every entrepreneur I talk to, it’s like, “I’m from Boston. I went to Techstars in Chicago, but my ultimate goal is to get to California, to get to San Francisco.” When they get there, sometimes it’s the most incredible and amazing place and the most maddening place. There has to be a balance. It can’t be all perfect.
Ian: No. For sure. For sure. There’s some stuff in Vancouver. I’m like really, you don’t have it here.
Ian: It was like this pay for parking. It was like this new innovation that recently came out. I’ve been using that in Vancouver for years and years, like full paid parking.
Rob: We think about that sometimes. In Canada we accepted the debit system way faster than the Americans. Canadians don’t carry cash any more. It’s all debit. It’s all debit. It’s all smart cards, chip- based cards and in the U. S. not even close at this point. Like as a nation up here, we are so far advanced when it comes to payment systems. That’s what makes me laugh when everybody talks about Square, and my God, it’s the greatest thing. I’m like, no, no, no. Like tap and go, and I don’t have to put in my… Wait, wait, that’s already rolled out in Canada. We got that and in Europe and everywhere except for America. So we have a little bit of an edge there. But you know that.
All right. I don’t want to take any more of your time. I’ve got to tell people where to go and find out what you’re up to right now, so just send people to . . . is it Audax.com that we should send people to?
Ian: Yes. Exactly.
Rob: And you have an app in the app stores?
Ian: No. Not yet.
Rob: Not yet. Okay. Is that a plan that you guys are in the process of doing?
Ian: 2014, that’s the plan so I’ll see what happens in 2014.
Rob: Well, I’m going to have you back on when you actually put that app out there and gauge some response because I think 2014 is going to be a very interesting year when it comes to health. I’ve seen a lot of companies, even Montreal, Canada, up here wearable technology, not just wearable, woven fabric with sensors and that stuff is going to be amazing. I think that obviously it just plays very well into what you guys are doing in getting people off the couch and one step at a time, one salad at a time, if you will.
Ian: Right. Actually, just to get a plug-in here, Techstars is doing a health related, mobile health related Techstars in Kansas City. [In fact] it was Sprint. I don’t have the website.
Rob: But it’s a full cohort of mobile related health companies.
Ian: Yeah. It starts next year, and I think they’re doing applications now.
Rob: I will find that out. I’ll include it in the show notes, and I’ll find that. That’s amazing. I’d love to be able to at least have a conversation with the guys that are going through that, that cohort.
Ian: I’m a mentor for it. Maybe we could do another show, and I’ll tell you who’s in it.
Rob: Ian, why don’t you just come on once a week? Come on, man. [It would be good]. All right. I’ll let you get back to your day job. I really appreciate you coming on and doing this. It’s been great to catch up and I think we’ll do at least two episodes together next year. We’ll talk about what you’re doing with Audax and also I’ll track you down for Techstars as well.
Ian: Sounds good. Take care.
Rob: Ian, thank you so much for doing this checkout Audax Health, A-U-D-A- X health.com. We’ve been speaking with Ian Klassen who is running mobile and R&D teams over there, and I appreciate you doing that. I appreciate you coming on here. And thank you guys for listening or watching wherever you are. It means a ton. We’ll see you next time on UNTETHER.tv. Thanks, Ian.