When asked whether she is more connected to the tech or design worlds, Urška Sršen, CCO and Founder of Bellabeat, redefines the territory. “That’s an interesting question because I think they are very intertwined… There is a connection between tech and art because tech is, at least in the consumer space, useless without design. Tech is a very creative process.” For her team, being artists and developing new technology are one and the same. Both disciplines are about developing something from scratch, and fighting for the creator’s own ideas, values, and creations.
Nothing evokes Bellabeat’s modus operandi better than its newest gadget, Leaf.
Leaf is a smart piece of jewelry that helps women track their activity, sleep, stress levels, and menstrual cycle. It looks like a pendant you can wear as a bracelet, a necklace, or simply pin onto your shirt. Other than being specifically designed for gals, Leaf stands out from other quantified-self devices in that it integrates the health information that other apps track individually into one easy-to-use interface. The device provides the most comprehensive picture a woman can get of her well-being from wearable tech.
“Creating a device that responded to women’s desire to be healthy and conceive would inspire them to track their health from earlier on.” _Urška Sršen, CCO and Founder of Bellabeat
Bellabeat’s goal for Leaf was to create a device women would be able to wear all day, every day, to provide the most accurate data possible. Their objective made the gadget’s design a practicality issue, and just as important as getting the software portion right. The team eliminated all interface from Leaf, designing it instead to transfer data to the user’s smartphone. To make it comfortable, Bellabeat used only natural materials gentle to the skin. Urška recognizes that “it is very important to break the cold and clunky surface of tech and give it a warm appeal to make the device easier to accept in your body proximity.”
With so much thought put into this tiny device, it only makes sense to ask where the initial idea came from. The truth is, Bellabeat’s story is not about one person with a brilliant idea and great investors. Bellabeat is about a family identifying a need and following up with a solution. Their story is the epitome of entrepreneurism.
Urška’s mother, an OB/GYN in their native Slovenia, struggled with the lack of prenatal care technology available to her patients. With an engineering friend, Urška created the company’s first device, Bellabeat, which tracked the kicks and heartbeat of babies still in the womb.
The team understood, however, that prenatal care was equally as much about taking care of the mother. Women are particularly mindful of their health when trying to conceive, are pregnant, or just gave birth, but many issues that affect these processes develop long before a woman starts thinking about becoming a mother. Bellabeat was born in response to a woman’s desire to track her health from early on.
Bellabeat’s devices tackle a billion-dollar market, and yet Urška believes that her company’s success is the result of sudden coincidences. “When we started, we weren’t building a company. We didn’t know we were a startup.” This point seemed irrelevant to the judges of the prestigious Pioneers Startup Challenge, who crowned them their 2013 champion in Vienna, Austria. At Pioneers, they caught the attention of Michael Seibel, partner at Y Combinator, who encouraged them to apply to the well-known program. Bellabeat is now part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2014 batch, and they have offices in Mountain View, Croatia, and China. The first Leaf edition sold over 40,000 units.
These “coincidences” Urška talks about are more likely a result of hard work and the constant pursuit of excellence. For her team, inspiration is the constant hunger for learning. As Urška says, “being an artist requires being a bit of a nerd, because if not you do not survive your art.” Bellabeat wanted to create customizable products that would shape women’s lives. They managed to achieve their goal, exceed everyone’s expectations, and remain a family business.
This article originally appeared in Issue 11.2 “Device”