Mark Finch is a founder and CEO of I Measure U, an Auckland-based firm that produces measurement and analysis systems for human body movement.

I learnt a bit about I Measure U when we talked about how you'd commercialised your innovations in an interview last year. At that time you were working on a contract with Athletics Australia. Can you tell me a bit more about what was involved in that project and the work you did with them?

That contract is going very well. The whole contract was around developing bespoke solutions that allow their biomechanists and coaches to better monitor and quantify the workload of their elite athletes, delivering solutions that consist of a wearable sensor with an accompanying app. There are about six different solutions that range from measuring impact loads during running, to measuring the speed of sprinters throughout a set distance.

So, for example, we've been working pretty closely with Melissa Breen, Australia's fastest-ever woman over 100 metres, developing the speed measuring solution. The resolution in our tech is so good that you can get the individual stride velocities, so you can see exactly how fast they're going after each leg pushes off the ground. It's resolution that they've never been able to see before, so we're all pretty excited about this.

Of course there's still a lot of work going into these solutions to make them better, but the first run was pretty successful and is being used by a bunch of people around Australia now.


What other commercial opportunities for your innovations have you been pursuing since?

We have this suite I've just described of training and performance-driven applications that are commercially available now, targeted at elite training institutions and athletes.

But we're also developing a consumer-oriented solution that will give real-time technique feedback to runners based around reducing their chance of injury. You put our sensor on the ankle and it communicates with an app we're developing. The unique aspect of our IMU-Run solution is we can provide real-time feedback about the impacts that your knees experience during a run.

We've developed physiologically based mathematical models that interpret the measured data converting it to information directly related to injury - and more specifically injury prevention. Our solution will not only tell you when you should be running, but how you are running while you are running, giving us a point of difference in the competitive wearable sensor market.

We're in the process of finalising the logistics around the release but are going to do a Kickstarter campaign to help us get the funds to finish off the development. That also acts as a really good market validation tool; ultimately it comes down to people pulling out their wallets and paying for the product.

So can you tell me a bit more about your Kickstarter campaign?

We've done a lot of work around developing the story behind our campaign, but ultimately it needs to resonate with the customer. I've just come back from a business development trip through the US where I met with Kickstarter's design and technology outreach lead in New York, as well as a Kickstarter consultant group that we're using to help us put the finishing touches on our campaign and help manage it.

I was also up in Boston putting on the finishing touches for a pilot study project that we've put together in conjunction with RunKeeper - a Boston-based running app group - and Harvard University's Spalding National Running Clinic. The project is a wearable tool that identifies whether a runner is 'heel striking' or 'forefoot' running. Using the RunKeeper app, we successfully integrated our sensor solution into their platform to develop a real-time feedback solution to help runners become forefoot runners.


So, what we'll deliver through our Kickstarter campaign will be built on what we've done with the pilot study, although it will be based on an independent app that will run alongside any current running tracking apps that are available, essentially being app agnostic.

Has finding funding to commercialise your innovations been the biggest hurdle you've faced as a wearable tech company?

Funding is always an issue with startups, but we've been lucky enough to be self-funded so far through high value contracts and sensor sales. But we're at a point now where we really need to accelerate company growth to own this consumer product. This is partly what the Kickstarter campaign is for - getting enough cash and market validation to do a proper capital raise through traditional channels.

I'm going across to Singapore next week with NZTE for a venture capital event where we'll be starting the pitch for funds. I've got some really ambitious goals and plans for this year, and if it all comes off we'll be in a pretty strong position at the end of this year.

You must get exposed to lots of other interesting people and companies working in this space. What in particular do you love about working in the field of wearable tech?

Gosh, yes. I can't emphasise enough how incredible the last couple of years have been. Meeting everyone we've met, doing everything we've done, winning the awards we've won - but most importantly being at the forefront of this wearable industry in sports has been amazing. We're literally paving the way in this running sector and doing things that no one has ever been able to do before, and that's truly exciting.