Business

Wake Forest startup raises $300,000 for wristband that aims to re-focus kids

RE-vibe wristbands
RE-vibe wristbands

FokusLabs, which recently launched a vibrating wristband designed to remind kids with a wandering attention span to get back on-track, plans to expand its marketing efforts after raising $300,000 from investors.

The Wake Forest startup, founded and led by former school psychologist Rich Brancaccio, has sold more than 1,000 of its $99.95 RE-vibe wristbands since they became available in December.

The company has been selling the wristbands, which are assembled by a contract manufacturer in Florida, on its own website, fokuslabs.com, and on Amazon.

“We didn’t expect to ship so many so quickly,” said Brancaccio, who nonetheless added that a lack of awareness of the product is a hurdle the company needs to overcome.

RE-vibe hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, nor does it need to be to be sold to the public.

“It’s a behavior intervention tool,” said Brancaccio. “It’s very much akin to having somebody tap the child on the shoulder or tap them on the wrist at the exact right time when they would benefit from it the most.”

The RE-vibe can be adjusted to four pre-programmed settings so it will alert users to focus based on their needs, depending on how much their attention typically wanders. There’s also a “homework” setting designed to alert students when they can take a break and then return to their studies.

The RE-vibe is “built for school,” Brancaccio said. “It’s completely silent. It won’t bother the other kids around them.”

The new funding for the company, which has two full-time employees and three part-time contractors, was led by two Triangle investment firms: Cofounders Capital and Bootstrap Advisors. FokusLabs previously raised about $140,000, including grants from NC Idea and Innovation Fund NC and $28,146 from a Kickstarter campaign.

In addition to using the company’s latest funding for marketing, Brancaccio said he also intends to develop a next-generation of RE-vibe based on customer feedback.

David Gardner, general partner at Cofounders Capital, said he was impressed by the positive assessments he received from the customers he contacted.

“It’s nice when something is good and is socially the right thing to do and can also make you money,” Gardner said. “I think this is one of those.”

Realizing that some may be reluctant to give the product a try, RE-vibe comes with a guarantee.

“You can try it for 30 days and, if you don’t like it for any reason, you can return it,” Brancaccio said.

So far, he said, fewer than 3 percent of the wristbands sold have been returned.

“There are kids who will say, this isn’t for me,” Brancaccio said.

Of the 24 reviews of the RE-vibe posted on Amazon, 79 percent of users gave it five stars. No one gave it less than three stars.

Brancaccio was a psychologist with the Wake County Public Schools System for eight years. He left the school system a few days ago to devote himself full-time to FokusLabs.

Brancaccio said he started tinkering with what is now the RE-vibe several years ago after hearing one too many parents worried about their kids’ inability to pay attention in the classroom. He built the prototype himself – after teaching himself software programming and the basics of microelectronics.

“I went to Radio Shack probably 200 to 300 times for the very first prototype,” he said. “I created the first circuit boards by hand.”

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii

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