Startup Of The Week: Ovao
We are very happy to introduce you this week’s startup of the week – Ovao. Meet Aldas Juronis, CEO and Co-Founder of Ovao, Virtual Training Assistant that helps swimmers to track their training results and created personalized training programs. Aldas gladly answered our questions so we would learn more about their product.
Hi Aldas, please introduce us Ovao. How does it works and what problems does it solve?
Aldas: Ovao Virtual Training Assistant is the first most comprehensive and most convenient wearable device for all type of swimmers: from fitness and recreational swimmers to triathletes and professional swimmers.
Almost all currently available sports and activity trackers for swimmers are wristwear. Due to their location real time feedback is not available without interrupting swimming exercise. Also accuracy issues occur while measuring heart rate from a wrist, while chest-strapped heart rate monitors are not convenient to use. Moreover, not every swimmer knows how to use data that is being provided by their sports tracker.
Ovao Virtual Training Assistant is the unique most comprehensive and most convenient virtual coach and sports tracker for swimmers and triathletes. It comes preloaded with the number of training programs designed for different training goals: Maximum Fat Burning, Performance Training, Endurance Training, Cardiovascular Training, etc. After selecting a training program and attaching the device to your own favorite swimming goggles you just simply need to follow training instructions that you will see through your goggles. So you do not need to interrupt your swimming in order to find out if your are properly following training program and in order to know what and when you should do next. Currently training programs are created by professional swimming coaches, but at the next stage machine learning algorithms will be used in order to create personalized training programs based on collected training data.
Ovao Virtual Training Assistant also tracks all most important swimming performance parameters: lap count, lap time, distance swum, average pace, stroke rate, calories burned, etc. All these parameters are available for post-workout analysis either using Ovao app, or using third party applications, such as Strava, Swimm.com, etc.
With Ovao Virtual Training Assistant you can train less and achieve more!
What are your competitors and competitive advantages?
Aldas: Our main competitors are manufacturers of fitness trackers and sport watches: Garmin, Samsung, Fitbit, Polar, etc. But they are not convenient to use while swimming, real-time coaching is not available, moreover accuracy issues occur while measuring heart rate on a wrist.
There’re some attempts to place tracker on a strap of swimming goggles (XMetrics, Instabeat). But none of them are comprehensive (lacking either heart rate measurement, or other performance metrics) neither provides real-time coaching.
While our device is very convenient to use for swimmers, as it tracks all most important performance parameters and provides intuitive real time feedback as well as coaching instructions through lenses of swimming goggles. And heart rate is being measured from the temporal artery on the head, which is proved to be more accurate way comparing to measuring HR on a wrist. Combined with preloaded training programs Ovao Virtual Training Assistant is the unique wearable device for all type of swimmers.
What were the reasons behind coming up with this idea and launching this product?
Aldas: One of our co-founders is a passionate swimmer. He was looking for a wearable device, which could help him to make swimming workouts more efficient while providing real-time feedback.
Then we have interviewed more than 400 swimmers from all over Europe trying to find out different aspects related to their swimming trainings. This extensive survey helped us to define what is important for different type of swimmers and triathletes. Moreover, we’ve got confirmation that such device is highly demanded, as more than 66% of all respondents confirmed their willingness to purchase virtual coaching device. Even better positive response rate (83% of all respondents!) we’ve got from MediaMarkt’s visitors in Belgium and Netherlands, where last summer we showcased Ovao Virtual Training Assistant.
We also have a huge interest and a great support from Lithuanian Swimming Federation as well as InnoSportLab (Netherlands) – one of the leading research facility of swimming performance in Europe.
When exactly did you launch, what were the main challenges before launching?
Aldas: We started in early 2016. Now we already have testing 4th generation prototype with different swimmers in Netherlands and in Lithuania so that the team of skilled engineers and scientists could further improve algorithms as well as user experience. We expect to finish main R&D by the end of 2017 and are planning launch Ovao Virtual Training Assistant to the market in second quarter of 2018.
As we are developing a hardware item, it is expected to face number of challenges while preparing for production. But we are prepared to face and to overcome all challenges as we have highly skilled perfect team and good partners.
What are main challenges while working on this product and how are you overcoming them?
Aldas: It took a while forming a team: finding proper team members with a required knowledge and skills and having very limited financial resources was a true challenge. But know we have a truly dedicated and highly motivated team which I am very proud of.
As for many of startups – lack of funding is one of the main challenges as well. We have accomplished acceleration program HighTechXL in Netherlands. It helped us to prepare properly to approach potential investors and strategic partners, and also we have expanded our network. We also have attended in a number of European conferences and startup events where we met number of potential investors and partners. With some of them we have pending negotiations.
How are you funded? Do you seek extra funding?
Aldas: Nextury Ventures – a venture capital company founded by Ilja Laurs and Mindaugas Glodas – is one of Ovao co-founders. Later we’ve got some funding from HighTechXL accelerator followed by investment from some angel investor.
We are currently seeking for additional seed investment of 400.000 EUR which will be used to finalize product development, preparation for production and production of first batch of Ovao Virtual Training Assistant. Part of this amount we are going to raise using investment raising platform for startups Syndi.fund.
Please introduce your founders, your core team and your broader team?
Aldas: In our team we have two graduated biomedical engineers Justinas Gasparovičius and Marius Gailius, both awarded in a number of international engineering competitions. Mindaugas Tinteris has more than a decade of experience in designing and developing of the firmware for embedded systems. Kamilė Jokubaitė has 5 years experience in marketing and business management, also she has established a marketing agency. And I have more than 20 years of experience in sales and business management. I worked for one of the leading media group’s in Baltic and Nordic countries, as well as for one of the biggest companies in Eastern Europe from aviation segment.
Among Ovao advisors we have Ilja Laurs – serial entrepreneur, influencer and investor, as well as Emilis Vaitkaitis – President of Lithuanian Swimming Federation.
How has business been so far?
Aldas: We already have couple of thousands of newsletter subscribers and followers on social media and this number keeps growing. In February we are planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign for start collecting pre-orders.
What’s next for you? What are your future plans and ambitions?
Aldas: We are planning to launch Ovao Virtual Training Assistant in Q2 of 2018. We will start from biggest European markets (Germany, UK, France, Spain, Italy, etc.) and then will expand to US, Canada, Australia and Japan – markets, were swimming is among top 5 sports activities.
In a product pipeline we have a PRO version, which in addition will be sending real-time statistics for coaches that are working with groups of swimmers, and also a separate version of training assistant for open water training. We also are planning to expand our market to other sports and fitness segments.
Thank you for your answers, good luck!