From Sugared Water to Changing the World
John Sculley Co-founder, Misfit Wearables
John Sculley is perhaps best known as the man to whom Steve Jobs made his legendary pitch: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
In 1983, Sculley was Pepsi’s youngest-ever president, and already famous for starting the Pepsi Challenge campaign. Steve Jobs was head of the Macintosh division for a seven-year old Apple Computer. Little did Jobs know that he would end up in a power struggle with the very man he hired to take over his company and resign two years later.
Eight years later, Apple’s board would force Sculley himself out. Since then, Sculley has invested in and been involved in a number of businesses, one of which is Misfit Wearables, a company he co-founded with Sonny Vu. The name Misfit is taken from the famous Apple commercial which went: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers…” Why the interest in wearables? When I joined the computer industry it was in the early days of the microprocessor, and we’ve seen where that’s gone. Each decade it’s grown more and more capabilities. We’re now in the early days of sensors, and the estimate is that they will be 75 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020, most of which are going to be sensors.
We’re excited about wearables, because the sensors are becoming so powerful that they can actually monitor all kinds of bodily functions. Healthcare over the next decade is going to radically change because we’re going to be able to track wellness over many different factors. For Misfit Wearables, it’s all about the big data analytics, the ability to do population studies and look at people with similar types of conditions, to track based on those conditions and predict from that health and wellness issues. The Misfit Shine only tracks individual data, but you’re talking about big data. Where’s the bridge? What we’re seeing is the beginning of activity trackers, where we use accelerometers to track calorie burn and help people get movement goals. This is just the very beginning of what’s going to happen, so this is the start of something that’s going to be revolutionary, but it’s just the first step. What makes the Shine shine over its competitors? I think it has a lot of the same philosophies that we had in the very beginning with Apple. Apple wasn’t focused on being the first computer; it was interested in being the best product, where elegant design was as much a part of its reputation as much as anything else.
In the case of Shine, we started with the idea that people want to feel good about wearing something. We have a product we believe that people can wear anytime; it’s one of the reasons why we focus on the fashion and design of it. What does innovation mean to you? I think innovation has to be something that solves a big problem in an important way. And innovation is not linear. It doesn’t always happen when you predict it’s going to happen. In the case of wearables, the real innovation is about how we take health and wellness and help the consumer become part of their own health practice. In the past, we would have said that someone else does that – the doctor, nurse, hospital or clinic. That’s the real innovation, where you think of it in the context of a complete health and wellness system, not all the features that you can squeeze into a device you put on your wrist. How do you think a culture of innovation can be fostered within companies? I think that innovation means taking risks. When you take risks, you’re going to fail. One of the reasons why you see so much innovation coming out of Silicon Valley is the culture there is that failure’s okay. So culture is extremely important for innovation to thrive. What would you say to a young person wanting to be the next John Sculley, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? To take an idea and turn it into a company, you have to do that as a team. So it’s more important to have the best people with you who complement what you do. The best team has the best chance to take that inspirational idea and turn it into a start-up business.