Startups and Second Chances: The Jawbone Story

Stephen Wildstrom

Products from startups that aren't hits out of the box don;t often get second chances. But every once in a while, there's a happy exception.

The Jawbone headset from Aliph launched at the DEMO 2004 conference with one of the best demonstrations I've ever seen: One of the founders showed off the Jawbone's noise-cancellation capabilities by reading his script while running a weed-whacker. Jawbone was also featured in BusinessWeek as a winner of an Industrial Desgin Excellence Award.

But the original Jawbone had two serious flaws. First, it was ugly as sin. The signal processing circuitry that made it special was so bulky that it consisted of two pieces, the actual headset and a processing unit on a belt clip, linked by a bulky cable. And because the headset needed both power and access to a phone's internal circuitry, it was only available for a very limited range of headsets.

More than two years, a lot of work, and some very patient capital from private investors and the Mayfield Fund later, Jawbone is back with a very slick Bluetooth version--the same ability to make yourself heard over even the noisiest backgrounds but no belt clips, no cables.

The silver Jawbone went on sale today at Cingular stores for $120. Silver, black, and red (pictured above)models will also be sold online.