Taking off your gloves on a ski lift to deal with a smartphone or some other device in your pocket is a recipe for spending the rest of the day skiing or snowboarding with bare hands. Leaving the gloves on is a big part of the impetus behind Outsider, a wearable Bluetooth remote for action sports enthusiasts.
Outsider lets users walkie-talkie with a group, easily control music and calls, and send an SoS in the event of an emergency. A crowdfunding effort just launched on Kickstarter with a goal of identifying market interest and potentially raising $150,000.
The device is the brainchild of Gabe Frost and Mark Muehlbauer, lifelong friends who grew up in Washington’s Cascade Foothills and who have a combined 35 years of experience in tech. Frost is a principal lead program manager at Microsoft where he’s shipped over 20 products and currently leads the engineering team that builds all the multimedia capabilities for devices including Xbox, Windows PCs and Holographic+VR. Muehlbauer is a longtime engineering leader and business owner.
Frost told GeekWire that Outsider was initially inspired by a day of skiing.
“My co-founder and I were frequently taking our earbuds out just to talk between runs, and had to practically disrobe just to switch songs because gloves don’t work with phones.,” Frost said. “We had the same problem riding mountain bikes, riding motorcycles and even raking leaves in the yard. Over a beer in the Snorting Elk at Crystal Mountain we jotted down focus points on the back of a receipt.”
Those points included:
- Weatherproof — use it in the shower if you want.
- Great with gloves — keep expensive phone tucked away.
- Music and calls.
- Teens don’t think about safety, but their parents do.
- Walkie-talkie without stopping the action.
Frost keeps pointing to the gloves as a key factor in what differentiates Outsider from what is already on the market in Bluetooth remotes. The five big, weatherproof buttons on its control panel make the case for ease of use.
“You can collect several devices that when combined with several apps do most of these above things, but few work great in the weather or with gloves, and nobody will carry them all at the same time,” Frost said. “There is no product available that does all well for action sports, with a deliberate focus on safety.”
Frost said he learned to create products at Microsoft that people love, and to be stubborn on the vision but flexible on the details.
“Great products are themselves a product of great learning systems,” Frost said. “It’s been a priority from the outset in the creation of Outsider to have clarity of vision, and to invest early in the learning systems for our software and services.”
Early Kickstarter backers who want to get their (gloved) hands on an Outsider can pledge $99 to get the device, an armband, a wireless charging base and a company T-shirt. The price jumps to $149 once those early packages are sold out.
Outsider’s timeline for production forecasts a busy summer and eventual delivery starting toward the end of the year.
“The priority for our crowdfunding effort is learning,” Frost said. “Which target market has the best reaction? What feature resonates best? How do we best tell the story? We’re active in testing different questions through social media and targeted ads, and most importantly, we’re building a tribe. Meeting our pledge goal would be fantastic. If we don’t, we’ll pursue equity or debt capital armed with a great deal of insights about what our customers care about most.”