Founders of Misfit, acquired last week by Fossil, already cooking up new venture

The Misfit Shine is a wearable activity and sleep tracker designed to be fashionable, not just functional.
The Misfit Shine is a wearable activity and sleep tracker designed to be fashionable, not just functional.

Watchmaker Fossil Group bought their company Friday for $260 million. And already, Misfit founders Sonny Vu and Sridhar Iyengar have their next idea quietly simmering in Somerville and the San Francisco Bay Area.

I first filled you in on Misfit, which made a line of sleek and stylish fitness monitors called the Shine, back in December 2011, after the startup had raised some money from onetime Apple CEO John Sculley. The company had been founded two months earlier. Vu and Iyengar, who met and were roommates at MIT, had earlier started a company in New Hampshire called AgaMatrix, which made glucose monitors for diabetics, including the first one that could plug in to an iPhone.

Iyengar, the more technical of the duo, stepped back from day-to-day involvement in Misfit last summer, but remained a director of the Burlingame, Calif., company. Vu had remained CEO up until this month’s acquisition by Fossil. The publicly traded Texas company said in a press release announcing the deal that Vu will now serve as its president and chief technology officer of connected devices.

The new company is called Elemental Machines, and while it’s still in stealth mode, it has already raised at least $2.25 million in initial funding, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing from August.

Iyengar says the company has two founders in addition to himself and Vu; the SEC filing also mentions Gary Tsai, a Boston-area engineer who previously worked at AgaMatrix but left in mid-2014, and Elicia Wong, who had been chief scientific officer at SensorIn, a Bay Area company working on industrial sensor technology. Iyengar said that he didn’t want to divulge more about the startup, given that Misfit was acquired so recently, but that the company would have announcements in early 2016. “We’ll have more to share once the dust settles from the Misfit activity,” Iyengar wrote in an e-mail. Vu explained that he is a “non-operating founder” of Elemental, adding that he is “willingly and genuinely excited” about his work with Fossil.

Elemental’s website carries the tag line, “Helping scientists accelerate discovery using sensors and machine learning,” and a trademark application suggests that the company may be designing sensor networks intended to monitor and manage conditions in a laboratory. The application says that Elemental Machines plans to use sensors that can track temperature, humidity, pressure, sound, and other environmental conditions, and connect those sensors to software that will be able “to control and report on environmental parameters … in a laboratory from a remote location.”

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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