“If we could tell you one thing about your body right now that you don’t know today, what would you want to know?”
A startup company called Humon uses this question as its premise to get people their answers. It was created by MIT PhD candidate Daniel Wiese ‘17 and former classmate and Master’s student at Sloan, Alessandro Babini ’15
Wiese has been interested in physical fitness, exercise, and nutrition for years, but felt increasingly frustrated by the lack of information he had about his body. He wanted more feedback as to whether he was eating the right things and working out in the right way to achieve optimal progress in his daily fitness regime. He hopes his startup is a step in that direction.
Humon, derived from the term “Human Monitor”, builds sensors in the form of a slim strap worn around the thigh. The device measures oxygen levels in the quadriceps via optical sensors, which represents the degree of effort being exerted by the athlete. The product then relays this data in real time to a user’s iOS device through its Bluetooth system. With this information, athletes will be able to know how to adjust their workouts accordingly. Additional components of this data reveal indicators of further tools such as under or overtraining, overall training progress, and how to optimize a warmup or cool down.
Unlike Humon’s device, current prototypes on the market have typically targeted endurance athletes because they expressed the desire to know their lactic acid threshold. Lactic acid is a biological indicator of the ability to train long distances; an increased threshold tends to be the mark of more successful athletes.
“Our goals at Humon extend beyond just endurance athletes,” said Wiese. “Our vision is to empower people with the information and insights they need to improve their health and fitness level.”
Wiese and Babini took New Enterprises (course 15.390) with Bill Aulet and began to build their tools to launch their startup. This course directs students to identify a worthy problem and assess the feasibility of creating a prosperous company geared to solve this problem. Combined with Wiese’s coursework and research as a Course 2 PhD student and the use of engineering tools like MakerWorks and ProtoWorks, Wiese has been able to apply these skills into developing and building Humon’s prototypes.
Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Wiese says that identifying that there is a problem first is the key to finding a solution. Not the other way around.
“Instead of diving into prototyping and development, consider going out and talking to customers, really figuring out where the big problems are, and solving those. Even if you think you have a brilliant idea for a startup, be open to the possibility that maybe your idea isn’t what the customers want, and even if it is, that this doesn’t mean you will necessarily be able to build a successful business.”
Humon hopes to release its Alpha product to pilot in the Boston area in the near future. The testers’ feedback will be reincorporated into further product development.
Additional contributions by Stephanie Tran.