They weren't comfortable, it took too long for the GPS to acquire their location, and the bands were unattractive. They also didn't have the most important feature for women -- a panic button or the ability to send a safety alert to a friend or loved one if something were to happen when running alone.
"All the options are too big and heavy. They bruise your wrist bone. My Garmin actually causes my arm to go numb, so I have to carry it in my hand. Plus they all required a user's manual to operate," Cheryl Kellond told ABC News.
So, Kellond and her business partner took matters into their own hands. They created the Bia GPS smartwatch aimed at women, and put it on Kickstarter, a website where anyone can buy into the product even before it is made. The two founders put the watch on Kickstarter on June 4 with a goal of hitting $400,000; 40 days later they hit the goal and a bit more. By July 13 they had 2,118 backers, $408,160, and 1,500 watch orders.
The watch, which isn't just smaller and a shade of pink like other gadgets said to be for women, struck a chord. The rectangular, water-resistant device is said to be "as light as it is small" and it has a neoprene band so it won't pinch the skin. According to the Kickstarter page, it is "smaller than an old-school pack of gum." Like other fitness gadgets it can measure your heart rate, calories burned, and distance. It has a touchscreen and you can also track the information online and share it with a community.
But the panic button or "safety alert" might set it apart from the competing smartwatches and fitness gadgets the most.
"We talked to hundreds of women about their workout routines and their passion for sports. No one said 'I want a safety alert system.' But we heard things like: I love to run before work, but it's dark out and it's hard to find anyone to go with me. Or my boyfriend/husband/mom gets worried when I'm out alone for hours at a time on the bike," Kellond said.
"We had an ah-ha moment about enabling freedom and providing peace of mind - not just for the athlete but for their loved ones. Obviously accidents and safety issues aren't gender specific."
Kellond repeated that the watch isn't just for women. While it was designed with females in mind, it was optimized for any athlete, she said. The men's version of the watch will have a longer band to fit over bigger hands and wrist.
Kellond, an MIT grad who has worked for Adobe, Yahoo, and other Silicon Valley start-ups, and Sylvia Marino, who helped grow Edmunds.com, will now spend the next months working to bring the Bia to market by April 2013. While Kickstarter backers will be the first to get the product – and paid $115 per watch – the two plan to sell it to a broader audience for more money. They will open up a new sales channel in the first quarter of 2013; that watch will cost at least $249, says Kellond.
By then the Pebble watch, which has GPS capabilities as well and received over $10 million on Kickstarter, will be out on the market, but the two aren't worried. They've created a product tailored to an untapped market.
"Women are significantly under-purchasing existing competitive devices and we knew the product and our story would resonate with them immediately."