Tangram Factory, the winner of startup finalists that pitched at the Apr. 24 Startup Showcase, is a company that designs and manufactures products focused around the user experience with leading technology and intuitive design. Founded in 2014, Tangram Factory is a subsidiary of Tangram Design Lab, an award-winning multi-disciplinary design agency established in Seoul in 2008.
Tangram Factory’s President Joen Choe pitched its first product “Smart Rope” at the Startup Showcase, which caught many attendees’ attention. Smart Rope is not a typical jump rope. As a user jumps rope, fitness data can be seen in mid-air, thanks to a series of LED lights embedded in the device. The jump rope can be connected with iPhone, Android, Apple Watch and Pebble Watch via Bluetooth for more features, such as interval training. If users enter their height and weight, the device will calculate how many calories they have burned during a workout. Tangram has a patent for the unique design.
Tangram Factory also seeks to expand to gyms and fitness chain channels by bridging home exercise with gym use. Smart Rope gives fitness data back to users so that they can leverage it not only for their workouts, but also for their employers, healthcare providers, and insurance companies. For example, users can aggregate fitness data that they have compiled at Equinox, providing a loyalty incentive to gym members.
One problem with most wearable devices in the market is their low adoption rate. No matter how fancy they are, 50% of users stop using the devices after 12 months, with more than 33% stopping within 6 months. In addition, other than tracking generic movements, the devices give only limited information, so they can’t really tell users about their specific workouts. Smart Rope, on the other hand, saves fitness data that is accessible at anytime and provides a holistic view of each user’s fitness profile.
Tangram Factory has pre-launch traction. It was on Kickstarter and it raised 100% funding in six days. It also received a very positive review from New York Times. Tangram Factory has also received strong responses from retailers like Best Buy, who are launching a sports tech wearable category in 550 stores. Joen also noted that a lot of different channels are interested in these kinds of wearable devices.
A key competitive advantage of Tangram Factory is its premium design and its very rapid development process. Joen emphasized that all of R&D and product development processes are done in Korea, so they are faster and more affordable than doing them at the US. Tangram also has a lot of employees with branding and marketing expertise by background. Some employees worked at well-known companies such as Coca Cola and Nike.
Tangram has raised $3 million to date, mostly from angel investors and a Korean VC called Esang, which are typically investing in engineering and industrial sectors. Tangram is seeking to make a connection with US venture capitalists not only to raise funds but also to gain access to all of capabilities in the US and networks they grant.
“I am confident that the smart jump rope won’t end up stuffed in the back of closets. We really wanted make a gym product that users will continue to use. A lot of companies just concentrate on showing off something new, not something users really need. Hence, many wearable devices in the market are not really useful to users. Tangram focuses on understanding and satisfying user-experience, not just specs of software and hardware,” said Joen.
On June 9th, Daum Kakao acquired Tangram Design Lab, the design agency that spawned Tangram Factory, but Tangram Factory will continue to operate as an independent company.