Alessandro Babini would like to ask you a question. It’s a bit of a puzzler, so take a minute and let it sink in. Don’t just blurt something out; gurgle it in your mouth a bit, get a good long taste before answering. Are you ready? Here goes …
“What do you need to know about your body today that would change your life?”
Babini and Dan Wiese, the co-founders of Humon, asked that question to hundreds of people across all walks of life, from military personnel to ICU patients, children and the elderly. What they heard back was a wide array of disparate responses. But it was when they zeroed in on endurance athletes that the basis for their company really began to take its shape.
To that question, nearly every serious athlete they asked responded with the same thing: The thing they wanted to know most about their own bodies was their lactic acid threshold.
“This underlying problem all athletes have is knowing how hard they can push themselves without exceeding the limits of their body,” said Babini.
Their solution is Humon, the first thigh-worn wearable that non-invasively measures oxygen levels in muscles, in turn predicting and preventing the build-up of lactic acid from happening. That level of intel, until now, could only be achieved through invasive, laborious and expensive physical fitness tests.
The device, which will retail around $300 and should be available toward the end of the year, is currently being tested by 50 Boston athletes, including a couple who wore it during the Boston Marathon. (It’s also been vetted clinically and is patent pending.) An app is in development that will pair with the wearable and provide training insights on demand, complete with onboard memory so you can leave your phone at home while you hit the gym, the track or even the pool. It’s also very light, Babini told me, and more comfortable than a chest strap or a watch.
The technology is so potentially game-changing that it’s already won the 2016 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference startup competition and was part of the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in San Francisco last year. It’ll also be at MIT’s Demo-Palooza Wednesday, June 1.
Perhaps even more impressively, Humon is endorsed and advised by Dr. Matthew Provencher, the head doctor of the New England Patriots, and Dr. Maria Angela Franceschini, the woman credited with inventing the gold-standard measurement device for muscle tissue oxygenation.
What’s more, Humon recently raised $750,000 led by Accomplice and the Boston Syndicate. Clypd co-founder Joshua Summers led a BOSS Syndicate deal on AngelList as part of the round and Accomplice, the Boston VC firm that runs BOSS, joined. In an email circulated by BOSS to investors, Summers said he signed the deal after testing the device in a “cycling experiment.” And Clypd VP of Product Jason Burke, Babini told me, was one of the runners who tested Humon during the Boston Marathon.
“We’re brining technology that’s proven and vetted and only available to the elite market to the masses,” Babini told me. “If your goal is to lose 10 pounds and you only go running twice per week, we’ll tell you how to run, how to warm up and cool down.”
Sure, elite athletes and even professional sports teams will gravitate toward a device that can make such a critical piece of training data readily accessible for the first time. But while that segment is an integral part of their rollout plan, Babini and Weiss, who met while at MIT Sloan, are just as focused on reaching the amateur athlete, the weekend warrior training for their next 5K or that hike with friends.
And that makes sense. Professional athletes have all the time in the world to train their bodies to peak performance. For the amateur, maximizing the efficiency of a workout becomes all the more important. If you’ve only got an hour per night to work on your fitness, the rationale goes, wouldn’t you want to make the absolute most out of it?
Humon, said Babini, “optimizes training versus body limits,” in essence doing just that. Or, put another way: “Rather than just going out and running your ass off, this will tell you how to train.”