Wearable tech startup, Machina, has ambitious goals for transforming fashion's scope and capability. We caught up with co-founder Linda Franco to find out how the challenge is coming along.
Technology innovations can sometimes defy belief, and the MJ v1.0 jacket was no exception when it was first brought to our attention last month. Designed with style in mind as well as tech capabilities, the MJ v1.0 jacket enables the wearer to make musical sounds through gestures. The company behind the tech, Machina, is in its infancy and the jacket is its first creation. The business focuses on a co-operative approach and has a clear and ambitious vision for the future, where fashion will merge with technology to create new capabilities for humans, for example increasing strength through wearable tech that helps the wearer to lift heavy items.
Co-founder Linda Franco has a background in design, and she started out studying marketing and strategic design at Centro University in Mexico City. Shortly after she co-founded The Gyzu Experiement – a web design and development firm and alongside this she set up the Plan de Escape prison project which taught male inmates the ins and outs of fashion and trends with the end goal of creating their own fashion label. We caught up with Linda to find out how the first year of business has been so far.
1. Where did the idea for Machina come from?
One random day in the past, I was talking with Antonio about the future of his tech idol Ray Kurzweil; Kurzweil predicted that wearable computing would be embedded in every accessory that surrounds us like furniture, walls, clothing and more. Kurzweil mentions in one of his books that the boom of wearable technology would be in 2019. Machina was formed in November 2011. Antonio Machina, Co-Founder and creative director, wanted to make and wear more mechanical clothing. It was this desire for clothing that was more practical, more personal and more unique that led Machina to our philosophy of the wearable machine.
2. Can you describe a typical working day?
Something that we have learned is that even if we have a timeline of our activities something always comes up. We usually have our plans defined but then we get invited to a lot of events or to work on new projects so this makes our lives shift constantly. I regularly wake up at 5:30 am to do exercise and by 8:00 am I am already at our co-working space ready to work. Most days in Machina, we have meetings. I am in charge of trends, social media, press, administration, international deals so usually I am on the phone or answering e-mails.
3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Machina?
As an entrepreneur you are on a constant high of work so I suffer from extreme migraines and anxiety attacks. For this I generally run in the mornings or do extreme crossfit because exercise in some way keeps me sane. I love the movies, I usually love to visit different tea houses and just have an hour of peace.
4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
Three key points for success: – Failure – We see success related to failure. I am of the idea that the people who fail first are the ones to understand how to succeed in the course of time because if you rise from a fall at an early stage you are most likely to survive anything in the future. – The team – A company, a project, homework, a sport, a relationship (any kind of relationship) can’t happen if you don’t stick by it and work on it as a team. It is proved that society united as one can achieve great accomplishments. If you have a great team, you can make ANYTHING happen! Team members are essential to any kind of startup. – Perseverance – Things don’t just happen because they should, you have to make them happen. I once read a book that said just because you’re an entrepreneur it doesn’t mean you get to go on vacations whenever you want to. It doesn’t mean you get to sleep in. “Time is money”. Time slips through your fingers like water for the entrepreneur. The discipline to work hard, fulfil deadlines and grow must come from you! If you fear failure you will never know if you made it, you have to try! And if you fail it’s OK to fail! You shall do better the next time and will never live a life going around saying “What if….”
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
The fact that times are changing, we believe that we are at the beginning of a new era in the fashion industry where clothing is beginning to merge with technology and from this a new future will emerge. Integration will become ubiquitous, in every device we own, we have forgotten the role fashion can play in this cutting edge technology. That is only the beginning. We are working in parallel in many of these fields to achieve that vision. We want to provide every digital athlete the best wearable gadget for his respected discipline to help him have an interactive and unique experience.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
My future. I truly believe in my company, my team and myself. There is so much I still want to do and experience so I am looking forward to the people I am going to meet and things that we are going to do. Mostly because we have met people that have told us “This is impossible, that is too futuristic, I don’t know if you are going to make it” the end result of making it happen is inspiring.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
This is an interesting question because I am the kind of person that never regrets a decision or a mistake. And this is because I am of the idea that you learn from every action you make even if it’s bad. But if I was to start again and do something differently it would only be one thing and that would be never to have invited friends to work with us. Why? Because most people don’t have the maturity to separate one relationship from another. It was heartbreaking for me at times to know I had lost a friend because he or she didn’t agree when I mentioned a mistake or change or whatever. But though it’s hard it is possible. One of Machina’s Co-Founders has been my life partner and business partner so I know it is possible.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
We see Machina like a brand of a new generation. This new generation has new aspirations which aren’t to become the next Michael Jordan, these great people are the ones that are growing up to be part of the four pillar of the digital era – technology, gaming, music, communication and interaction. We like to call them digital athletes. This is where Machina comes in because as young designers we understand the needs of the youth. By that time we will already have our Machina Pop-Up store (it will be a trailer) travelling the world popping up in your favourite cities. We will be positioned and selling in Japan, Europe and the USA. We will get there by slowly expanding starting with the US. We will keep travelling as speakers to big events like Wired. We are beginning to build a community around the brand extending the life of our products. More than a brand, we see Machina represents a community of great minds interacting and working with each other to the design the next big thing.
9. If you weren’t working on Machina, what would you be doing?
Before Machina I had another startup called The Gyzu Experiment – it was a web design and development firm. I would probably keep doing that because it was going pretty well.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
In the outside world nobody really knows what our true names really are.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Troubles will always be around the corner and trust me, this applies to happy moments too. Don’t get chaotic over tomorrow or about what happened yesterday. The moment is right here, right now. Cross the bridge when you get to it, not when you’re a thousand miles away.
1st May 2013