James Park is the President and CEO of Fitbit, the tech company known for playing a major role in making wearable fitness technology popular among consumers. Park launched the company alongside co-founder Eric Friedman in 2007.
Fitbit’s products monitor metrics such as total steps taken in a day, heart rate, and quality of sleep. The company went public in 2015 and its market capitalization reached nearly $10 billion. But Fitbit has struggled in the years since due to increased competition in the wearables arena from the likes of Amazon and Apple.
On November 1, 2019, it was announced that Google was buying Fitbit for $2.1 billion. Fitbit explained in a press release that Google was paying $7.35 per share in cash. The acquisition was expected to close in 2020 if it is approved by federal government regulators. The release claims that health and wellness data collected by Fitbit devices would not be used for Google ads.
Park explained in a statement that Fitbit was created with the mission to “make everyone in the world healthier” and that he was eager to see what more they could accomplish by joining with Google. “With Google’s resources and global platform, Fitbit will be able to accelerate innovation in the wearables category, scale faster, and make health even more accessible to everyone,” Park said. “I could not be more excited for what lies ahead.”
Here’s what you need to know about James Park.
1. James Park’s Desire to Get In Shape & a Fascination With Nintendo’s Technology Lead to the Creation of the Fitbit
The motivation to create the Fitbit appears to have been somewhat personal for James Park. He was apparently out of shape in the mid-2000s. According to Wired, Park admitted shortly after Fitbit launched that he had been “working like crazy at startups over the last three years and really let myself go in terms of fitness.”
Forbes also reported that Park and business partner Eric Friedman had also become “fascinated by the way Nintendo Wii combined sensors with software.” Pedometers that tracked steps were already available to the public, but Park and Friedman wanted to create something more high-tech that could still be sold at an affordable price. Together, they raised $400,000 from friends and family members to get the company started in 2007.
Over the next several years, Fitbit achieved major success. The company told more than 22 million devices in 2016, the year after it went public. But the advent of the smartwatch proved detrimental to the Fibit, causing sales to drop and the company’s value to sink. According to Bloomberg, shares of Fitbit were trading at $7.15 on November 1, 2019, the day it was announced that Google was buying Fitbit.
2. James Park Had an Estimated Net Worth of $660 Million as of 2015 & Believed at the Time That Fitbit Could Handle Competition From Other Tech Giants
James Park was named to Forbes’ 2015 list as one of the Richest Entrepreneurs in the United States under age 40. Park was #29 on the list with an estimated personal net worth of $660 million.
Fitbit went public in June of 2015. Shares sold for $30.40 on its first day on the stock exchange and the company was valued at $4.1 billion at that time.
Park told CNBC in 2015 that he was not concerned about competition from companies such as Apple. Before the IPO, Park explained to the network, “There’s over $200 billion of consumer spending on health and fitness. This is a massive market. There’s room for more than one dominant player. The brand Fitbit is really synonymous with health and fitness tracking, so we feel that we have really significant competitive differentiators in the market.”
3. James Park Studied Computer Science at Harvard Before Dropping Out
James Park grew up in northern Ohio. He earned his high school diploma in 1994 from University School, a private institution for boys with two campuses in the Cleveland area. The school lists Park on its website as one of its Distinguished Alumni.
After high school, Park attended Harvard University. He chose computer science as his major. But Park dropped out without a degree. (Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also dropped out of Harvard to focus on their respective start-up companies).
4. Park Began His Professional Career at Morgan Stanley Before Launching His First Software Firm
James Park spent the first year of his professional career working for Morgan Stanley. He wrote on his LinkedIn page that his job included doing “financial analysis and programming for a quantitive trading fund called Equity Plus.”
Park’s next move was to create his own software company called Epesi Technologies in 1999. This venture marked the beginning of his professional partnership with Eric Friedman, who was a founding engineer of the firm.
After two years working on Epsei, Park and Friedman launched Wind-Up Labs. The company was a digital photo editing service that enabled users to share photos with friends. The company was purchased by CNET Networks in 2005. Park stayed on with CNET and served as Director of Product Development for another two years. In early 2007, Park and Friedman launched their next venture: Fitbit.
5. James Park Has Long Advocated That the Goal of Fitbit Was to Provide a Product That Could Help Consumers Lead Healthy Lifestyles
Ever since launching Fitbit, James Park has reiterated that the mission was to provide a tool that consumers could use to help them lead healthier lives.
In 2018, he spoke with CNBC about a product called the Fitbit Ace, which was designed for children. Park touched on the problem of childhood obesity in the United States and how his company was attempting to help provide a solution. “If you look at tech companies today, they’re exacerbating the problem. They want kids to become more addicted and spend more time on their screens,” Park said. “Our goal is actually to use technology to do the opposite. Get kids off the screen and more active in their daily lives.”
Park stays active as well. INC Magazine reported in 2016 that Park was a distance runner. And in an interview with the Players’ Tribune in late 2017, Park explained that he aims to reach 10,000 steps every day.
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