Team PA-supported start-up sold, will remain in Pittsburgh

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Pittsburgh-based BodyMedia manufactures wearable technology that helps people live a healthier lifestyle.

Pittsburgh-based BodyMedia manufactures wearable technology that helps people live a healthier lifestyle. Photo courtesy of BodyMedia

The decision to keep BodyMedia in Pittsburgh following the recent sale of the start-up is a testament to the Steel City.

The announcement speaks volumes about the work ethic of its residents, the city’s meteoric rise as a major technology hub and the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that permeates throughout the region.

It is also a win-win for the city, the commonwealth and the company. (Read more about Team Pennsylvania Foundation’s connection to BodyMedia.)

“The sale of a company that was created in Pennsylvania is often met with concern that they will move out of our state,” said Ann Dugan, Executive Director/Founder, Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. “The reality is that the robust availability of PA talent and resources to continue to build innovation and growth is truly highly sought after and leads many buyers to not only continue the company here but also build it to even higher levels. The company, our region and our state win.”

The company was recently sold to California-based Jawbone for over $100 million, according to published reports. BodyMedia produces wearable body monitoring technologies that provide accurate and actionable information about the health and behaviors of people outside of the traditional clinical setting.

Chris Robins, CEO, BodyMedia, said she is optimistic that the acquisition will lead to new jobs for the company, which currently has 60 employees. She noted all employees were asked to stay within two hours after the sale had been announced.

“Jawbone is very intrigued and excited about the technologies, capabilities and skills in Pittsburgh,” Robins said. “There is a lot of talent that comes out of CMU (Carnegie Mellon University) in the software and hardware fields, and as we continue to integrate and build the two businesses, I expect there will be additional positions created here.”

Robins said the Pittsburgh region offers advantages over other technology hubs in the United States, including access to talent and lower costs than other cities.

“To have someone like Jawbone, that is a cool, sexy tech company, acquire another company and then want to leave it in Pittsburgh, says a lot about what the city has developed and the presence it has in technology,” Robins added.

Jay Katarincis, Managing Director, Draper Triangle, said the sale of BodyMedia to Jawbone was very appealing because of the talent being cultivated at institutions like CMU, noting Jawbone is interested in growing its analytical and software teams. Katarincis also praised the talent coming out of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and University of Pittsburgh.

“The first time he (Hosain Rahman, Jawbone’s owner) came here, we knew that he was not only interested in leaving the current jobs here, but that they might also need to look at moving people from California or creating new jobs in Pittsburgh,” Katarincis said. “When your business is growing at a 100 percent a year, you are always hiring people. He looks at this as his growth office.”

Mike Stubler, Managing Director and Co-Founder, Draper Triangle, said the sale impacts other entrepreneurs who are looking to launch their own products and the redistribution of wealth as investments are made into other start-ups.

“These successes do have a domino effect as others look to go off and start their own companies,” Stubler said. “I think it also encourages other entrepreneurs to the possibilities that are out there.”

BodyMedia began as a start-up company in 1999 by four Carnegie Mellon graduate students who received financial backing from Draper Triangle Venture Capital, one of three such organizations to receive venture capital seed funding from Team Pennsylvania Foundation. (Learn more about Team PA’s involvement with venture capital companies.)

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