Plus X Brighton
Thrive Wearables is a global wearables design and development consultancy disrupting the health technology industry. Founded by Dr. Jacob Skinner, with an academic background in engineering, the physical sciences, and wearable products, Thrive Wearables provides a platform for organisations united by the desire to improve lives through wearable technology.
Dr Skinner worked in a research lab for several years on body worn sensors used for measuring the heart and other human signals. After starting a couple of product companies and doing the early prototyping of novel technologies, he realised he could have the most impact by grouping the multiple projects under the banner of ‘Thrive Wearables’. As more people saw the value in this, Thrive Wearables not only grew to support projects in varying health and wellness markets, but now they also have a global reach.
A: How is Thrive Wearables changing the industry?
J: At Thrive Wearables we focus on positively disrupting how health technologies are used, to benefit people’s health & wellbeing worldwide. Our niche area of expertise is wearables and human-centred technology, and we have a fantastic team that is capable of delivering on the huge opportunity that is now fully emerging in health tech. We work in a variety of ways from supporting global teams as their CTO or technical support function, to traditional consultancy work, taking start-ups and scale-ups who are innovating in the wearables space from idea to mass production. We are also bringing our own innovations to life with our inhouse team of engineers, designers and creative pragmatists who love to solve problems, both for our clients and for our internal innovation drive to improve life through wearable technology.
Dr Skinner dedicated himself to wearable technologies in 2015 when public opinion was not in favour of wearables and labelled them a ‘fashion fad’. By taking the leap from university labs with no money, he built a world class team of highly motivated and very talented people who share his vision.
A: You work with a lot of growing businesses, from start-ups and scale-ups to corporate teams. Tell us more about how Thrive Wearables works with these companies?
J: Firstly, many members of our team know what it’s like to grow a business! This helps with the early stage and scale up businesses especially. Secondly, we pursue projects offering high impact with mission-aligned businesses that we can provide support to through gaining the trust of their product teams. We believe in delivering massive changes to health and so do they. We offer quite a range of working models, but ultimately, we take all the hassle out of developing a connected wearable product. We work with teams at all scales, from idea to mass production, as well as collaboratively. We also facilitate connections to investors and other third-party support functions.
A: You and your team invent, innovate and deliver wearable technology from idea to global mass production. What is the best advice you give to people looking to get into this field?
J: Problem first. What are you trying to solve and who values it? If we cannot see a clear and compelling value proposition when discussing a potential project, it’s hard to get excited. If the problem is real and large, is the proposed solution feasible and if so, what are the costs? Cash is king in hardware development, and you need a realistic plan. This will likely mean building a stripped down, first generation product and gaining traction by establishing some early users who advocate its virtues before investors will be able to trust in the proposition. Hardware is hard. Thrive make it easier by bringing our vast experience to the table and working with our client’s long term.
“We’re always looking to find synergy through partnerships; that’s when both businesses have a market overlap and do not compete. The amplification you can get if you do this right is amazing.”
A: You’re passionate about wellbeing, health and social impact projects. Do you think impact is important for businesses to consider? If so, why?
J: I have been in the environmental movement (as it was called) forever. I have been championing sustainability and climate change for 15 years and it is abundantly clear that society has finally woken up to it. Unfortunately, it is very late, but companies are doing more than talking about these issues now and the younger generations will continue to act. What our generations have left them is a shameful mess. Society will rapidly transition in the next few years and any business without genuine sustainable credentials, seeking net minus client and environmental impacts will simply not be viable.
A: What do you think of Innovation Hubs like Plus X, that incorporate a workshop and a business programme in their space?
J: What is great with Plus X is the range and depth of that support. It’s been a great evolution across hack and maker spaces, to where we are with spaces like Plus X. It’s very hard to find the right technical skills across many different disciplines and in the small, surgical quantities often needed to get a prototype up and running. This is why Plus X is great for companies needing to do just that.
A: Why do you choose to base Thrive Wearables in Brighton? What do you make of the innovators and businesses growing in this city?
J: It’s an amazing place with a rich history in media and the creative industries. It is the perfect place for Thrive and we are blessed with a working environment and social culture which really enhances our mission-driven business.
A: Where do you see HealthTech heading in the future? What are the unexplored areas that you think show the most potential?
J: We need to help people become empowered with their own health. For too long we have had an unhealthy reliance on both pharmaceutical technologies and also relied too heavily on institutional healthcare. By monitoring our body signals and using data to drive an understanding, the provision of health services will be revolutionised, allowing people to make better decisions and avoid chronic conditions developing unchecked. The prospect is very motivating and exciting!
A: What is the impact Thrive Wearables has had so far? Where do you feel you have added the most value?
J: We are still growing, and the lifecycle of a product development is quite long. However, we are starting to see products we worked on come to market and be distributed at scale. Specifically in the sales of thousands of stress-busting wearables, in a product for reducing the intensity of period pain and endometriosis pain, and in several other high-volume products in stealth mode. We judge our impact on our team, the culture we create, who we work with, our collaborations, and what we actually deliver, the impact. Each of these are addressed in different ways, but as a scaling business it is essential to keep all these dimensions delivering on impact. That is my job and what I am most proud about in terms of a contribution to the ultimate impact we are having.
“If you are thinking of starting your own business, ask yourself – am I ready to do this for 5-10 years? Anyone thinking that scaling a business is possible in 3-5 years is likely unrealistic. It’s a long haul!”
A: Do you have any advice for founders looking to scale their business, especially globally?
J: Find a great team comprising a Product Visionary, Technical Whizz, Operational Behemoth. My view is that this is the essential ingredient list in the early days. Find a community of users for your product idea as early as possible and work with them tirelessly to get the problem/solution nailed. Find friendly investors and seek guidance on exactly what ‘value’ looks like for them, also hitting all their perceived risks from the ground up.
Thrive Wearables are an innovative scale up within the growing tech community in Brighton. If you’re a founder looking to scale your business, you can find out more information about Plus X’s innovation hub in Brighton and their fully funded growing business programme BRITE by visiting briteinnovation.co.uk.
BRITE (Brighton Research Innovation Technology Exchange) is an ERDF funded business support programme in partnership with The University of Brighton. The programme supports ambitious and scaling businesses in the Coast to Capital region (however applications are considered from outside the area). Want to find out more about BRITE and how it can help your business? Watch the film here.