Striiv raises $6M to make fitness fun

Striiv, a startup focused on making walking more fun, has raised $6 million in a first round of funding.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based company makes a gadget that hangs on your keychain and keeps track of every step you take. The more you walk or run, the more you are rewarded with points on the device’s small display. It’s another example of gamification, or taking an activity that is not so fun, like exercise, and making it more fun via game mechanics, such as rewarding someone for walking 1,000 steps.

Ronald Chwang of iD Ventures led the round. Also participating were Colin Angle, founder of iRobot; Dado Banatao of Tallwood Ventures (a private investment); along with other angel investors.

The money will be used to support the mid-October launch of the new Striiv device and to further the company’s mission of taking active gaming outside the living room. The idea is to turn everyday activities into fitness opportunities, David Wang, chief executive of the firm, told me last week in an interview.

Chwang and Angle have joined Striiv’s board.The Striiv device will be available for $99. The company was founded in 2010 and has 22 employees.

Here’s how we described Striiv last week, when the company came out of stealth mode:

In the first game, MyLand, your enchanted island fills with more exotic wildlife and plants the more you move. It’s kind of like a fantasy version of FarmVille, with centaurs and crops. You can grow things by using energy, and you can get more energy by moving around. No setup is required and the device has its own tutorial.

You can also undertake daily challenges, such as bonuses for taking a lot of steps in a short time, like taking 2,315 steps in 10 minutes. The device prompts you to walk as many stairs as are in the Eiffel Tower, or you can walk a distance equal to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The features include the ability to have a “walkathon in your pocket,” where you can raise money toward charities by walking. Striiv has partnered with Global Giving to make donations toward charities.

Formed in 2010, Striiv’s team includes social game and tech industry veterans. Wang’s background is in location-based technology. Both Wang and design head Lexy Franklin were members of Booyah’s team that made the location-based game MyTown, which is like Monopoly in the real world. Booyah’s original app gave people rewards for all sorts of achievements, but Wang said Striiv wanted to be laser-focused on just one goal: better fitness.

Rival technologies include Basis, which makes a wrist band that measures your movement, heart rate and perspiration.

Wang said his designers considered that but figured it wasn’t quite as convenient as carrying something on your key chain. He acknowledges that Striiv loses “some signals” like heart rate metrics and other physical data. But it’s quite portable. If you want to detach it from the key chain, you can do so easily. It’s a “frictionless” device, or one that doesn’t put many barriers in the user’s way.

The Striiv device has enough battery life for four or five days of use. And it has a high-resolution screen powered by a dual-core ARM-based processor, which was designed by experts (Mark Ross, vice president of engineering) in operating devices on a small amount of battery power.

You can upload new games onto the device via a universal serial bus port, which can be connected to a computer to upgrade the apps, charities and games and to make Facebook updates. More games and apps will be revealed later.