Smart-Shirt Inventor Seeks $120 Million, Sports Deals in VegasMarie Mawad and Andrew Roberts
Most people go to Las Vegas to win big. At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in the casino city, French entrepreneur Jean-Luc Errant has his eyes on more than $100 million -- and coffee with basketball star Tony Parker.
Errant, the 56-year-old inventor of a smart T-shirt for joggers that measures heartbeat and body temperature, has better odds than most. His startup Cityzen bagged an innovation award for the second straight year at the Vegas fair after landing a contract to develop smart textiles with running-shoe maker Asics Corp. He’s now seeking 100 million euros ($120 million) in funding as he reaches for deals in cycling and other sports as well as in health care.
“I often forget my keys or my mobile phone, but I never forget to get dressed,” said Errant, whose smart T-shirts and shorts will go on sale this year. “Why force people to wear another object if we can fit sensors into the clothes on their backs?”
Cityzen is putting its technology directly into fabric, differentiating itself from companies such as Apple Inc., LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA or Swarovski as they turn watches and jewelry into connected objects. Errant is also reaching out to doctors and athletes to help proof-test his prototypes. While in Vegas, he’s planning to meet former NBA superstar Parker for coffee. He wouldn’t say what about.
“We’re seeing the beginning of a convergence between the world of fashion and tech,” said Stephane Marceau, whose startup OMsignal also makes connected clothing and has signed a deal with Ralph Lauren Corp. “People will just keep buying clothing as usual, and eventually all of it will be connected.”
Cityzen, which got a 7.2 million-euro loan from a fund backed by France in 2012, showed its first functional prototype at CES last year. The connected T-shirt, dubbed “D-shirt,” for its digital technology, reads heart rate, temperature, speed and distance. The company unveiled smart shorts for cyclists this week.
Errant, a telecommunications engineer, has in the past crunched numbers and written complex algorithms to help secure data for the likes of health-care company Bayer AG, the French government and phone operator Orange SA. He got the idea for connected clothing when he witnessed a fellow mountain hiker suffer a cardiac arrest.
“It’s great knowing how many steps you’ve walked today and how fast your heart is beating, but really -- who cares?” said Errant, a sports enthusiast, who spends two months a year sailing the Atlantic. “The key is having products that will analyze what it all means and warn you that you may be at risk of having a heart-attack or getting dehydrated.”
Cityzen signed a contract with Asics in November to commercialize the D-shirt for jogging. Errant has also spoken with other companies about developing similar products for sports ranging from basketball to rugby.
Though the startup has so far focused on athletes, Errant said he’s looking to expand into other areas such as health care. Cityzen also makes money from selling data analysis software and connectivity technology.
“The next frontier for us may be home furnishing, with curtains that measure air quality for example,” Errant said. “It’s about better living.”