For the past seven years, Mark One CEO Justin Lee has been fascinated with the concept of putting computers into everyday objects.
As a biomedical computing student at Queens University in Ontario, Canada, Lee worked in a laboratory brimming with inventions like computerized glasses and all sorts of smart household objects.
It was that experience combined with his interest in health and nutrition that lead him to create the Vessyl — a cup that can tell you exactly what’s in it, how many calories your beverage has, and other nutritional tidbits.
“This was back in 2007 when the iPhone just came out, and there weren’t even apps on our phones yet,” Lee told Business Insider. “This was a pretty early time.”
The smart cup saw a massively successful pre-sales campaign in July when it breezed past its goal within two hours.
Now investors are interested in the device, too. Mark One, the company that makes the Vessyl, just announced that it’s raised $US3 million in seed funding co-led by Felicis Ventures and Horizon Ventures.
Combined with the $US1 million in sales the company has made so far, the Vessyl has already made Mark One $US4 million.
With its newest round of funding, Lee and Mark One cofounder Yves Behar plan to focus on getting to the shipping stage, which also means pushing manufacturing forward. The Vessyl currently costs $US99, but that price will jump to $US199 once the pre-sale special is over.
Lee said Aydin Senkut, founder and managing director of Felicis Ventures, was immediately interested in the Vessyl, and later decided to bring on Horizon as a co-leader for the round.
“He [Senkut] was like ‘There needs to be a big leap in tracking what we consume,'” Lee said when describing his meeting with Felicis Ventures. “And he thought this was that big leap.”
Although the Vessyl has attracted a lot of press and interest within the past few weeks, others remain sceptical about how useful it actually is.
PCMag, for example, pegs it as a gimmicky device that exemplifies the types of silly objects coming out of the “Internet of Things” craze. Tech Hive’s Jon Phillips calls it “the most ridiculous, unnecessary gadget I’ve seen demoed in all my years as a tech journalist.” Why? Because most people already know what they’re drinking, Phillips says.
Lee is promoting the Vessyl as more of a habit-changing device than a straight calorie counter, however.
Beverages are the number one source of unnoticed calories in our diets, according to Lee. In addition to tracking nutrients, the Vessyl cup can tell you whether or not you’re hydrated. Your “Pryme,” which is the company’s proprietary metric of your hydration needs, is displayed on the cup itself.
“When we consume beverages, even small changes can make a big impact,” Lee said. “You have that knowledge of what you’re consuming, and you can make that change.”
The Vessyl is currently available for pre-order via the company’s website, but it won’t ship until early 2015.
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