James Park is the brains behind Fitbit, a consumer electronics and fitness company whose range of activity trackers, smartwatches, and wireless-enabled wearable technology devices have made keeping track of our daily activity levels less of a chore and more of a game. A Harvard drop out with a history of starting successful startups, Park is a member of the new breed of CEOs who’ve taken the stuffiness out of the boardroom and installed a treadmill in its place. Find out more with these ten things you didn’t know (but really should) about James Park.
1. He practices what he preaches
James Park sits at the top of a multi-billion-dollar fitness empire. In other words, he makes a mint by encouraging people to invest in their health by investing in his products. It would be a bit hypocritical, then, if he travelled everywhere by car, ate pizza for breakfast, and got out of puff after climbing more than 2 steps. But he doesn’t. This is a man who practices what he preaches, at least if his interview with theplayerstribune.com is anything to go by. Asked how many steps he averaged in a day, Park answered “It depends on the month, really. There was a stretch where I was doing 15–20,000 steps a day. When I’m really busy with work, I’m probably doing 8–9,000 a day, but I try to hit an average of 10,000 a day.” Not bad going, we think you’d agree.
2. He was inspired by the Nintendo Wii
Fitbit may have seemed radical when it entered the market in 2007, but it was actually inspired by a product that had already gained a firm footing in the fitness sector (even if it had originally been intended for a very different market). The Nintendo Wii had launched 2 years previously. Initially conceived as a gaming service, it quickly found traction among people who wanted to improve their fitness without the hassle of going to the gym. Inspired by how the product managed to combine motion sensors with software as a means of ‘gamifying’ fitness, Park and fellow Fitbit co-founder Eric Friedman came up with the idea of a fitness-tracking device that used the same principles as the Wii, albeit in a very different format. The rest, as they say, is history.
3. Fitbit wasn’t his first start-up
Fitbit may have become Park’s most famous start-up, but it was by no means his first foray into entrepreneurship. After dropping out of Harvard, Park flirted briefly with the nine-to-five at Morgan Stanley before founding the software company Epesi Technologies. The company folded not long after but undeterred, Park set about launching a 2nd start, Windup Labs. Windup Labs subsequently went on to create HeyPix, a digital photo sharing service that was eventually sold to CNET Networks Inc. in 2005 for an undisclosed sum.
4. He likes a bit of ‘me time’
As the CEO and president of Fitbit, Park is unquestionably a busy boy. Fortunately, he’s found a way of managing his hectic workload by carving out some much needed ‘me time’. After arriving at the office at around 8.30am each morning, Park starts his endless parade of meetings, sometimes not leaving until 7pm at night. But on a Wednesday, it’s a different story. “My typical day is usually packed with meetings,” he tells elemental.medium.com. “I do try to carve out time for myself, though. We have this thing at Fitbit called “no meeting half-day Wednesdays,” which is from 1 p.m. onward, and I try to preserve that time. I usually use that space to do longer-term thinking, catch up on work, or do tasks that require longer stretches of focused thinking.”
5. It’s all about the passion
When you dedicate the best part of 15 years to developing a product from the ground up, you need to have faith that you’re doing the right thing. The challenges of launching a startup, not to mention the ongoing pressures of keeping a company afloat in an ever-evolving business landscape, is tough. Moments of doubt inevitably creep in. So, how do you stop those moments developing into something more permanent? For Park, the secret lies in maintaining his passion. Speaking to techcrunch.com, he explains, “To not have doubt is kind of crazy over 11 years. There are always those moments when it’s tough. But the most important thing for me is whether I still have the passion.”
6. He’s a college dropout
After graduating from the all-boys University School in Cleveland, Ohio, Park won a place studying computer science at Harvard. So far, so impressive. But like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs before him, Park decided that going into business seemed a far better use of his time than spending 4 years huddled over the textbooks. In his junior year, he dropped out of his studies to concentrate on developing his own business. The decision may have paid off for him, but he’s quick to dispel the idea that it’s a sound plan for everyone. “There’s a lot of successful high school graduates out there,” he’s said to The Irish Times. “People should stay in school.”
7. He’s a multi-millionaire
He may be a college dropout, but Park is also one very wealthy man. Thanks to the success of Fitbit, he now ranks of one of the health industry’s richest men, possessing a whopping net worth that Celebrity Net Worth estimates to be in the region of $660 million. If anything was going to undermine his ‘stay in school, kids’ message, this is probably it.
8. He’s been named to Forbes magazine’s 40 Under 40
You know you’ve made it when you see your name on a Forbes list. And you definitely know you’ve made it when that list happens to be the Forbes ’40 Under 40′, a yearly round up of the top movers and shakers under 40 years old. In 2015, Park earned a mention on the list, ranking #29 in the magazine’s America’s Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40.
9. He’s got a vision
Startup CEO’s can all too often get so bogged down in the minutiae of running a business, they lose sight of the vision that attracted them to the position in the first place. Not so Park. It may have been 13 long, hard years since he and Eric Friedman first conceived the idea of Fitbit, but as he explained to The Irish Times he’s still holding on to the pair’s original vision for the company. “My vision is, just as today people think of in automobiles – things like airbags and seatbelt are standard and you’d be crazy to buy a car without them; you can’t even get one – there shouldn’t be any reason why Fitbits shouldn’t be considered the same way,” he explained. “It has the potential to help people get healthier and prevent disease so, if you could be healthier by wearing the device and getting motivated, why would you not?”
10. He loves Korean food
If there was only one type of cuisine Park could eat for the rest of his life, it would be Korean. More specifically, Korean barbecue, as he explained during a question answer session with theplayerstribune.com.