When we started VIITA Holding with our very first Vitalmonitor – an ECG sensor for measuring stress and regeneration we never thought we would come to this point in 2021. 9 years later we teamed up with the most prestigious hyper car brand that exists to create an awesome product.
But let us start in 2012 with our very first hardware + app product. Developing, designing, and programming the Vitalmonitor was a rocky road, but one that paid off in the long run. When I was young, I was an athlete – very ambitious. So, I trained a lot. At that time, I did not know about overtraining and the increased risk of injury. I was sure that I needed to train more to become better. Until I got injured and my athletic career ended. Some years later I met Mag. Bernhard Schimpl, a well-known performance diagnostician, Olympic coach and former Olympic base director. We talked about my former career and I asked him why I cannot measure my training-readiness like I can measure my body temperature. His surprising answer: “But you can!” and he showed me an enormous machine in his practice that could measure heart rate variability and thus determine training-readiness and prevent injuries from overtraining. From that moment on HRV measurement became my life.
At first, I read everything I could find about heart rate variability. I recruited Mag. Bernhard Schimpl and together we created the first test devices and algorithms for HRV measurement. I knew that people would use it, but only when it is small and easy to handle. After months of R&D we created our first prototype: a relatively big chest strap that contained a whole ECG unit. Luckily at that time more and more people got Smartphones, so we developed apps for Android and iOS. We found our first customers who loved the new information about their training readiness and stress status. So, we kept improving, developed a new chest strap, better apps, invested in Marketing and finally released the Vitalmonitor v2 in 2015. Everything was great, except one thing: in our customer satisfaction survey we always got the same negative point since we started in 2012. With the Vitalmonitor you need to take a 3-minute measurement every morning and every time you want to determine your training readiness. People always wanted this to take less time. So, we searched for something that people did not need to wear, like our chest strap, but loved to wear. At that time, the first Smartwatches appeared, but the sensors were not good enough for HRV measurement. So, I had to save the idea for later.
Later was in 2017 when the first HR-sensors came out that were HRV-capable. I saw the opportunity and founded VIITA Watches together with a partner who was a watch wholesaler. We set up a company, researched potential partners and had to decide about the operating system. At first, we researched our options to create this watch in Austria, but soon realized that it is impossible. It would take forever; we would have needed to buy at least 100,000 pieces of different parts due to the minimum order quantity and most of the parts would come by ship. That means when a part does not fit, and we need a new one it takes at least 6 weeks to get it. In a watch that consists of several hundred single parts this would have led to an estimated development time of 2-4 years, making the watch obsolete when it enters the market.
So we flew to China to research our possibilities. We met with 35 different companies who would have been potential partners. This alone took 3 months, but we finally agreed with a trustworthy partner, who did several Smartwatches before. We also decided on a big company for the development of the watch operating system. All seemed good, until we wanted to see the first presentation of the operating system some months later. Yes, there were screens, and they looked like our designer draw them, but all data were wrong. Surprisingly, the developers thought they were finished. Big shock! At that time, our Kickstarter backers waited eagerly for their watch. So, we had to take a tough decision. Send out the watches with a bad software and then gradually improving or keeping the finished watches and wait until the software is ready. As the first Kickstarter backer told us to at least send the watch, so they know we are real, we did. Of course, they were not very satisfied with the software. Neither were we. I flew to China again to resolve the situation. In our meeting we discussed all open points and our partner agreed to fix them all. One months later some problems were really fixed. I thought the meeting was very successful and we were on a good way, until one month later it was time for another update. This one made things worse again. So again, I flew to China. Same procedure as before. I expressed my unhappiness, mentioned all problems, and even made a timeline on when to fix which problems. Everyone agreed on it. One month later there was an update that was satisfying. Next month all was garbage. So again, I flew to China. The next meeting was again very surprising. My partners in watch development thought that the watch is finished now and if we wanted anything in addition we would need to pay. Of course, we wanted anything in addition: a fully functional watch. I checked my options. I could try a legal dispute, but that might take years, and nobody would work on the watch meanwhile or I could pay the money and hope for the best. As #1 was not an option I had to pay. From that moment on things improved, but not for long. 3 months later I was in the same situation. Again, I had to pay. After that payment and the following updates, we finally got to a working Smartwatch. But here I learned a very important lesson: something as essential as the watch operating system should not be developed by an external company.
The second thing I learned is that you need your own company in China, so that everything happens immediately and on one has other interests. I learned that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it became increasingly hard to get parts and neither me nor someone from my team could go to China. Our partner wasn’t as reliable as he used to be and we couldn’t meet him in person. That really messed up our timetable for the VIITA Carbon watch.
When we finally got the chance to work together with Bugatti I knew exactly how to make the best Smartwatch possible:
- The software is developed in Austria by our CTO and his team. When we started VIITA we did not have him, and our team was much smaller. After seeing the software live on the watch for the first time, I knew this was the right choice.
- I founded a company in China. It took nearly a year with all the paperwork and was expensive, but now we have our very own employees, warehouse, 2 production lines, Test equipment and quality management. For the production we use the ISO 9001 standard for our employees, and all is assembled by hand.
- Regarding the parts we did not do any compromise. We only took the best parts that were available.
- We started a cooperation for electronic components with Bosch, AMS, u-blox, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments to receive world-class components.
- We introduced a one-by-one quality control like Bugatti does, where every watch must go through a 150-points quality check. After that the final tester applies his seal and then the watch is shipped.
I’m incredibly grateful that I could learn so much in the last 9 years and got the opportunities that lead me to today. Today is the launch of our Bugatti Ceramique Edition One Smartwatch on Kickstarter and I know you will enjoy it!