Tech investor Brad Feld remembers his first call with Fitbit CEO James Park. It was in 2010, during a major snowstorm at his home in the Colorado mountains, and he was too distracted by intermittent power outages to give serious attention to an investment pitch from a fitness tracking startup.
“Pretty much my entire goal during that call was to get off the phone,” Feld recalls. “I wasn’t in any sort of headset or mindset about investing. I was interested in the idea of human-computer interaction, but I hadn’t really processed this notion of what a Fitbit was, or why I would want to instrument myself yet. We were just at the very beginning of that thought process.”
So he passed. But nine months later, Feld heard from his fellow investors Jeff Clavier of SoftTech and Jon Callaghan of True Ventures, urging him to take a serious look at Fitbit again.
Clavier sent Feld an email that basically read, “Brad, don’t be f—ing stupid, you need to pay attention to this,” as Feld recalled. When Feld continued to express ambivalence about the investment, Clavier forwarded the same email again and told him to save it.
Feld, who had been using a Fitbit in the meantime, relented.
His firm, Foundry Group, ended up leading a $9 million Series B investment in Fitbit with SoftTech and True Ventures in 2010, and continued to invest more after that. When Fitbit went public in 2015, Foundry Group’s 28.9 percent stake was reportedly worth nearly $1.6 billion.
Just recently, Feld said, Clavier forwarded him the same email again about another company that Feld is now going to invest in. He refers to it now as the “Fitbit f—cking stupid email,” Feld said.
Feld called it a testament to Fitbit having “great early stage investors who were patient and supportive,” and willing to assert themselves selectively to drum up support from other investors.
Feld, the Techstars and Foundry Group co-founder, told the story last week during a conversation with Park at CES in Las Vegas. They talked about Fitbit as part of the program on the Techstars-sponsored Startup Stage in the Eureka Park startup section of the annual technology show.
Watch GeekWire’s full video of the session above, including Fitbit CEO Park’s lessons from the hardware business, the wearable market, pitching investors and going public.