FORTUNE – If Pebble is the smartwatch category's David, surely Google is its Goliath.
This week, Google (GOOG) announced Android Wear, a version of its popular mobile operating system, with launch partners such as Motorola and its Moto 360 watch, due in the summer. When devices like the Moto 360 arrive, they'll join the massive Android community, one Gartner estimates will have 1 billion users by year's end.
"When we started working on wearables six years ago, there were few players in the space and a lot of skeptics," says Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky of Google's news. "It's exciting to see this market grow so quickly -- enabling more interesting use cases and keeping all of us laser-focused on creating the very best user experiences we can."
If Migicovsky doesn't seem nervous, it's because his startup is off to a solid start. The company has sold over 400,000 Pebble smart watches since January 2013. Back-of-the-envelope math estimates $60 million in revenues for that time frame. According George Zachary, a Charles River Ventures partner and Pebble investor, the company will make twice last year's revenue in 2014. (No wonder Pebble became profitable in early 2013.) There are now over 1,000 Pebble apps available, with 12,000 registered developers all-but-assuring more are on the way. Brags Zachary: "It's my fastest-growing company ever."
As revenues have ballooned, so has Pebble. The startup employs around 70, up from 45 this January, and just added two new members to management. Jeff Hyman, Apple's (AAPL) ex-Director of Hardware Engineering and Manufacturing Law, will serve as general counsel. Meanwhile, former Jawbone VP of Finance Marin Tchakarov will act as CFO.
Migicovsky has already come a long way from the University of Waterloo in 2009, where he developed Pebble as a school project. It passed through Paul Graham's famed YCombinator, the same startup incubator that yielded Airbnb and Dropbox. But it wasn't until April 2012 when the startup joined the crowd funding site Kickstarter, that Pebble took off. Little over a month later, Pebble had raked in $10.3 million from early backers -- 100 times the original amount Migicovsky hoped for. It also raised $26 million from angels including FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit and Timothy Draper, founder of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
While many analysts are bullish on the wearable computing market, today's offerings remain scarce. Last fall, Samsung launched the Samsung Galaxy Gear, a device hobbled by poor battery life, limited device compatibility, and a wacky commercial suggesting the Gear could help men attract women. ("Oh, my god, that was kind of sad," Migicovsky concedes.) But Android-based devices will likely make wearables that much more competitive.
For now, Migicovsky is more worried about making his products better than Google shaking up the market. He's exploring technologies that could help boost Pebble's week-long battery life further and keeping tabs on newer screen displays, particularly ones made from flexible materials. "My dream watch would be something that is just screen, but we're going to live with reality for a little while," he says. Migicovsky also looks forward to a day when Pebble becomes more than an early-adopter digital accessory, when the watch can act as a central controller to some of the user's other devices: their car, items in their home and on their body. His plan is to innovate upon Pebble to the point where "if other people compete with us, they would have to do it on our terms."
In other words, Google? Game on.
TechStars has made a habit of partnering with corporations for vertical-specific accelerators. Today, its first one focused on hardware debuts in New York.
FORTUNE – Venture investors have a worn-out saying for hardware startups: There's a reason they call it hardware. It's hard.
For the past few decades, they've mostly heeded that saying and avoided investing in the category. Software has produced big wins for venture capital, and they've stuck with what MOREErin Griffith - Mar 18, 2014 3:58 PM ET
Is this $250 "smart watch" worth it? It depends on how often you pull your phone out of your pocket.
By Jason Cipriani
FORTUNE -- In the age of the smartphone, wristwatches are no longer worn primarily as timekeepers. But the Pebble Steel isn't a watch -- it's a "smartwatch." Instead of serving as a fashion accessory, the Pebble Steel acts as an extension of your smartphone. Notifications are sent to your MOREFeb 25, 2014 4:46 PM ET
The Kickstarter-backed startup gets a little classier with its latest device.
FORTUNE -- Just around the time the Pebble smartwatch started shipping in January 2013, CEO Eric Migicovsky and the rest of his team began thinking about their next big project. The Pebble was a good first device, but its casual sporty design left more than a few shoppers seeking a more versatile look.
"Some wanted it to be in a slightly MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jan 6, 2014 2:00 PM ET
It looks like Microsoft may jump into wearable computing. If and when its device hits retail, here's what we'd want it to have.JP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 16, 2013 10:50 AM ET
Much has been made of the rebirth of consumer hardware startups. But some high-profile examples have stumbled out of the gate.
FORTUNE -- To hear some in Silicon Valley tell it, hardware is the new software. In other words, after years of taking a backseat to the splashy launches of countless websites, apps, and the cloud, innovation on the hardware side is ramping up again. Is it? Several high-profile launches have stumbled. MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 12, 2013 1:52 PM ET
Google's Project Glass and Apple's rumored watch have promise. But high-tech wearables are already here with the success of Kickstarter-funded Pebble.
FORTUNE -- The first time Eric Migicovsky saw his watch in the wild was at Toronto's Pearson Airport last February. Disembarking a late-night flight, he ran into someone sporting a Pebble on his wrist. "The guy saw me and was like, 'Good work. I just got mine the other day,'" MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Mar 13, 2013 9:17 AM ET
Also: Why Apple's alleged iWatch doesn't scare Pebble; AOL buys gdgt blog.
Apple updates processors and prices of MacBook Pro with Retina Display [APPLE]
The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display now starts at $1,499 for 128GB of flash, and $1,699 for a new 2.6 GHz processor and 256GB of flash. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display now features a faster 2.4 GHz quad-core processor, and the top-of-the-line 15-inch notebook comes with MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Feb 13, 2013 2:23 PM ET
|GM's recalled Cobalt was a failure from the start|
|Michaels hack hit 3 million|
|Americans have fallen in love with real estate once again|
|Walmart offers cheaper money wire service|
|Satya Nadella needs more than one trick to fix Microsoft|