Eight years of Fitbit news leading up to its planned IPO

By Jonah Comstock
09:17 am

As news broke last week of Fitbit's IPO plans, MobiHealthNews took some time to look back at moves made by the company over its eight year journey to going public. The company started up in 2007 with a less-than-catchy name: "Healthy Metrics Research, Inc." As we learned last week, in time since its founding the company has sold more than 20.8 million devices as of the end of March 2015, has 9.5 million paid active users, and posted $754 million in revenues last year. Rock Health is forecasting device sales upwards of 20 million in 2015 and annual revenue between $1.6 billion and $2 billion this year.

MobiHealthNews has been following the company almost since the beginning. Here's a timeline history of some of the company's product launches, milestones, and other major highlights:

October 2008: Fitbit raises its first round of funding. Fitbit raises $2 million from True Ventures, SoftTech VC, and angel investors before it launches its first device, when the wearable activity space is in its infancy.

FitbitSeptember 2009: Fitbit launches its first device. Fitbit launches its first device, simply called Fitbit. The wireless-enabled device, which clips on to the user’s clothing, uses an internal motion detector to track the wearer’s movement, sleep and calorie burn during both the day and night. The device costs $99. The first Fitbit isn't smartphone-connected; it comes with a wireless base station, or docking unit, that can synch to the device when it comes within 10 feet. The device comes with synching software that the user needs to install on their Mac or PC to get the wireless updating to work. Once set-up, the device ports the data to Fitbit’s online portal, which includes a dashboard to help users better understand their activity levels and calories burned.

September 2010: Fitbit raises $8 million. Fitbit quietly picks up $8 million from undisclosed investors as the company work on its second device. The Foundry's Brad Feld joins the company's board around the same time. 

fitbit ultraOctober 2011: Fitbit Ultra launches, with iPhone app. Some of Ultra’s new features include: a Stair Tracker that measures vertical steps via a new built-in altimeter, a Chatter motivational message system, and a Stopwatch Challenge for beating previous running times. New online tools and apps include badges for completing fitness challenges and a weight management tool that adjusts itself based on completed activities. Fitbit’s first iPhone App also includes food tracking and activity-planning features. The device still maintains its $99 price point.

January 2012: Fitbit previews its Aria weight scale. Fitbit unveils its first product outside of wearable activity monitors at CES: the Aria WiFi Smart Scale, a connected weight scale similar to Withings’ WiFi scale offering. The Aria scale measures weight, body fat percentage, as well as BMI and uploads the data via the user’s home WiFi network to Fitbit’s online portal. The device would launch on schedule in April.

The Fitbit Aria connected weight scale.

January 2012: Fitbit raises $12 million. Fitbit announces its third round of funding: $12 million from existing investors. Foundry Group, True Ventures, SoftTech VC and Felicis Ventures all participate in the round.

September 2012: Fitbit launches Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip. Both new trackers connect directly to smartphones via Bluetooth Smart. Fitbit Zip offers a new smaller form factor that comes in five different colors, a tiny “tap interface” display, and a replaceable watch battery that will last between four to six months before it needs to be replaced. Fitbit Zip is less expensive than other Fitbit devices and retails for $59.95 on the company’s website. Fitbit One, still a clip-on, replaces the company’s flagship Ultra device and retails for $99.95.

January 2013Fitbit heads to the wrist with Fitbit Flex. At CES, Fitbit unveils a new Bluetooth Smart-enabled, wrist-worn activity tracker, called Fitbit Flex. Like most of Fitbit’s other trackers, the Flex also promises to help users track their sleep health if worn at night. The Flex launches in March, and also sells for $99.95.

Fitbit Flex__ColorsMarch 2013: Fitbug sues Fitbit. London-based Fitbug files a lawsuit against Fitbit that alleges trademark infringement and unfair business practices, which Fitbug claims has caused it irreparable harm and damage. While the company has stated that it sent Fitbit a cease-and-desist letter last year, the official lawsuit was filed on March 29, 2013, around the time of a rumored $30 million funding raise for the company. The lawsuit would drag on nearly two years, but Fitbit finally won.

August 2013: Fitbit raises $43 million. Fitbit’s new backers include Softbank Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, and SAP Ventures, with SoftBank leading the round. Foundry Group and True Ventures both participate in the recent round, too. A statement from Fitbit says that the funds will be used to support growth at the company’s San Francisco and Boston offices. It plans to hire more hardware and software engineers, designers, product managers, data analysts and marketers.

August 2013: In Mayo Clinic study, Fitbit predicts surgical recovery time. Mayo Clinic publishes a study on using a Fitbit activity tracker to monitor recovery in cardiac surgery patients. They find that step tracking with the Fitbit is easy and cost-effective to implement, and preliminary data suggests that collecting step data could help hospitals determine the appropriate length of stay for a patient recovering from surgery.

Fitbit ForceOctober 2013: Fitbit launches Fitbit Force. The new device adds an LED display that rotates between time, steps, floors climbed, alarm, distance, calories burned and very active minutes. Very active minutes refers to times spent being active at medium to high intensity. The device still measures sleep quality and can also vibrate, providing the user with the option of using the device as an alarm. The Fitbit Force also has an altimeter, which can more accurately measure floors climbed.

January 2014: Fitbit adds passive tracking to its app. Fitbit releases an update to its app which uses Apple’s M7 motion coprocessor, so that even those without a Fitbit activity tracker can use the app to get data about their fitness trends.

February 2014: Fitbit recalls the Fitbit Force. Fitbit announces a voluntary recall of the Fitbit Force after a number of users complained of somewhat mysterious bouts of skin irritation, usually occurring a number of weeks after they began wearing the tracker. The device is never re-released; Fitbit reverts to the Flex as its flagship product until the release of the Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Surge.

March 2014: HTC preloads Fitbit's app in its phones. Android smartphone maker HTC announces that Fitbit’s app, with its device-free tracking capabilities, will be preloaded on all HTC One smartphones.

September 2014: Fitbit hires a lobbyist. According to the official lobbyist registration form, Heather Podesta + Partners will help Fitbit “educate lawmakers regarding health and fitness devices”. The form also lists two general issues of interest to Fitbit: health care issues and consumer issues around safety and protection. The move seemed like a response to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issuing a release that called Fitbit and its ilk a "privacy nightmare" for consumers, but Fitbit told MobiHealthNews the timing was coincidental.

Fitbit Suge Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge HROctober 2014: Fitbit opts out of HealthKit integration. Fitbit raises some eyebrows when it doesn't integrate its app with Apple's new health data hub. The company remains coy, saying they're evaluating the technology and might integrate in the future. For reasons that may or may not be related (and might also be related to the forthcoming Apple Watch), Apple pulls Fitbits from its brick-and-mortar stores.

October 2014: Fitbit announces three new devices. Charge, Charge HR, and Surge monitor everything the Fitbit Force tracked: steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, and sleep. All three devices will also include caller ID, a feature that was supposed to be added to the Force last February. Charge HR also offers continuous heart rate tracking and will monitor resting heart rate and heart rate trends — no chest strap required. Surge also offers multi-sport identification, which means it will pinpoint when users are running, cross-training or doing another type of workout. From there, users can access summaries that analyze their workout intensity based on heart rate and calories burned. Fitbit Charge launches at the time and costs $129.95. Charge HR, at $149.95, and Surge, at $249.95, launch in January 2015.

March 2015: Fitbit acquires FitStar. Fitbit confirms that it will acquire fitness coaching app developer FitStar, to add more training features to its premium subscription service. An SEC filing later reveals that Fitbit spent at least $17.8 million on the acquisition, but ultimately the IPO gives the final answer, that Fitbit spent nearly $33 million on the acquisition, and could still pay out more.

May 2015: Fitbit files its S-1 disclosing IPO plans. Fitbit's filing with the SEC includes lots of financial data publicly disclosed for the first time. If Fitbit does go public it will be the first fitness wearable-focused company to do so.


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