Startup life can be tough. At any age and at any stage. It’s especially tough to find the time to exercise. The only way that I have found time to keep active and do my 10,000 steps a day is to invest in a treadmill desk.
With the best will in the world though, my legs just can’t take more than three hours of walking, even if it’s only at 1.8 mph. The result has been that for the rest of the day after my morning “work walk,” I would sit at a normal desk, and would get incredibly stiff doing so.
So, when I saw the Cubii get mentioned in my timeline on Twitter, I was immediately interested. An under-desk elliptical that would let me stay active while I worked sounded like just the thing that I needed. As soon as they became available, I took the plunge and bought one.
The Start of Cubii
“Cubii was started by three founders,” I was told by Shivani Jain, one of those very three founders. “All three of us were friends; we were studying at the University of Chicago, doing our undergraduate degrees, and in our last year in college, that’s when this really hit us because we had just done our internships, and really seen what working in a work place looks like.”
At the beginning everyone had a day job in addition to Cubii. Shivani told me, “We took up full time jobs after college – we were doing this on the side, building prototypes, validating the idea, conducting many data tests to really see how people react. After we collected sufficient data, that’s when we decided to go ahead and build a functional unit and launched a Kickstarter campaign.”
That Kickstarter campaign wrapped up with $300,000 in funding – three times the founders’ goal of $80K. All in all, their company FitnessCubed has raised just over $940,000, with a seed injection of $650K coming this past March.
Cubii User Experience
I didn’t put my Cubii together myself as my excited partners did that for me in a couple of minutes. They didn’t need the video that was available online, and I wasn’t asked to help – so it must have been easy and intuitive.
I’m not the world’s most coordinated person, so getting my legs peddling without my top half paying attention did take a couple of minutes of getting used to. Once I got a rhythm going it was OK and I managed to read and answer my mail during my first hour-long peddle session. My major concern was that the elliptical design would cause me the same knee pain as the ellipticals I had tried in the gym. While my muscles were not used to peddling, and so did feel a little tight at the beginning, this soon went away and my knees were just fine.
I didn’t need to use the rubber cups that came with the Cubii to anchor my chair, but on a wooden, concrete or smooth floor, these would be very useful.
The paired app installed painlessly on my phone and connected seamlessly with my Cubii. The one thing that I missed was information to make the data collected more actionable. Shivani mentioned that integration with wearables such as FitBit is planned.
My Cubii was a little noisy to start, but the sound lessened over the first few days. Perhaps my flatfooted peddling was to blame. Shivani mentioned that should I want a replacement, this could easily and quickly be done.
With its distinctive red ring, the Cubii looks fantastic under my black desk! More like a piece of art than a piece of exercise equipment.
Function Follows Form
The first thing one notices about Cubii is that it is very well designed; it looks really good, and that is no accident.
As Shivani described the development of the first Cubii, “We focused a lot of our energy on making sure that the product looks and feels good. The reason behind that is firstly, the three of us are really fond of great design. I think in general we were passionate about selling something that looks good. Secondly, because we didn’t have much experience in the fitness industry or in the manufacturing industry, we weren’t limited by constraints or preconceived notions. So we first designed a good looking product, and then we figured out how to make it functional.”
“In general, one thing we realized with fitness is that a lot of products end up looking bulky or clunky,” said Shivani. “And so they don’t make you feel good. It’s hard to have a relationship with something that is a product in the fitness space. They really need to be more fashionable.”
Shivani continued, “With Cubii we were able to make exercise less intimidating; something that’s very personal to you. It has to be something that feels good – looks good for you to really have that relationship with it, and for you to continue to use it, not just for the first month, but to continue to use it – which is a big challenge in the industry.”
Why An Elliptical Design for Cubii?
I asked Shivani why they had chosen an elliptical design and if there was a functional reason – perhaps because it has to go under a desk, or some strategy surrounding physiology. She replied, “I would say both. Of course it did need to go under a desk because that’s where we visualized it being used most of the time. Standing desks are great, walking desks are great, but it’s not really even good for you to stand for very long periods of time. It really had to go under a desk. It had to be very, very easy to integrate into your current life.”
I had mentioned to Shivani a previous article that I had written for SnapMunk about breakthrough technology that offers an alternative to knee replacement for people with arthritis. With regard to this she said, “Something that we discovered when we spoke to people was that a lot of them do have knee problems.”
“They have issues with bikes and bike desks in general because pedaling puts a lot of pressure on your knees,” said Shivani. “After you go for a long bike ride, you realize that your knees do face a lot of pressure. It’s not really good for you to keep doing that for a very long time continuously. When we did research, we realized that elliptical motion is easier on the knees – it’s more low range. We did a bunch of tests and worked with physiotherapists and kinesiologists to work out the right angle to use it while you’re sitting down.”
Future Products for FitnessCubed
With regard to future products, Shivani said, “Right now, our biggest focus is on the office Cubii. We are working on creating some new features in a newer version for the person who’s sitting and working and using it under their desk.”
She continued, “A lot of people who are purchasing it are using it on the couch while they are watching TV. We have some schools buying it for kids in the classroom. We have parents buying it for kids who have ADD. There are a bunch of use cases, and we want to focus on seeing how it can really help different markets before we release the next product.” And, as mentioned previously in the article, integration with existing wearables such as FitBit is also planned.
The Bottom Line
I would definitely consider another Cubii for my office–perhaps the upcoming version with added features. The version I really want though is the super sleek one that won’t look out of place in my living room. Couch potato Heaven would be “working out” while I watch movies on Amazon or Netflix.
Gail is a Chicago-based food scientist who writes for leading US and European food and technology publications. A devotee of all things shiny, electronic and buzzing, with a passion for building on-line communities and conservation, she is an entrepreneur and founder of a sustainability and social media startup who moonlights on weekends as DJ Moongirl on Moonalice Radio. Clients range from rock bands and media companies to high-tech startups.