24 Nov 2017

Japanese retail giant to invest in NZ wearable sensor business

7:38 pm on 24 November 2017

Japan's biggest online fashion retailer StartToday has taken a $US20 million option to buy the New Zealand wearable sensors business, StretchSense.

Ben O'Brien of StretchSense with a sensor band

Ben O'Brien of StretchSense with a sensor band. Photo: (Supplied)

The option values the rapidly growing Auckland-based StretchSense at $US120m.

StretchSense's technology was developed in the Biomimetics Lab of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, a number of years ago and established as a company about five years ago with the support of New Zealand investors, including the company chair, Ralf Muller, Auckland UniServices, Flying Kiwi Angels and New Zealand Venture Investment.

StartToday became involved with the business about two years ago and bought a 40 percent stake in StretchSense 18 months ago.

The balance is held by the original investors, including three co-founders, who own about a third between them.

StretchSense chief executive and co-founder Ben O'Brien said StartToday had also launched the ZoZo suit, which incorporated the company's disappearable sensor technology.

The ZoZo suit measures the precise measurements of the wearer which they can use to buy a perfectly fitting garment online.

"This is very very a win-win thing because smart clothing is the next big wearable. It is the next big thing, and by having such a great and public example out there we can really show people what we are able to do," Mr O'Brien said.

StretchSense has about 400 customers in more than 20 countries, using the wearable technology in sportswear, medical devices, virtual and augmented reality.

"The industries are very broad but they all come back to a couple of key themes - one is disappearable technology that is seamlessly hidden in clothes, another is empowering people and another is connecting them up to the digital world we live in," he said.