Remember that food journal you kept during the nutrition unit in health class? You had to jot down everything you ate and how much. Then you looked up the calories in a database and added up them up. It was a tedious chore to merely confirm your unabated denial that you eat too much, especially when it comes to deep-fried foods and chocolate.

Very soon you can throw away that spiral-bound notebook and instead use a SmartPlate made by Fitly. The SmartPlate is “the world’s first Wi-Fi and a Bluetooth-enabled device that instantly tracks and analyzes everything you eat, so you never have to enter anything manually again,” claims Philadelphia-based Fitly.

The patent-pending device analyzes the food on its surface and tells you the nutritional value. It’s equipped with weight sensors and three cameras similar to smartphone cameras. Smartplate uses the image and weight to analyze your meal by crossing it with the USDA’s database of more than 8,000 foods and another database with more than 100,000 restaurant meals and 300,000 different grocery food items.

Scientific studies prove that simply keeping a food journal can help you lose weight and stay fit. The journal raises your awareness about bad eating habits, patterns of overeating and the number calories you’re eating. Just having to document food intake deters overeating because you won’t want to write it down.

SmartPlate is divided into three portions to help you control your portions. The “Portion Patrol” feature alerts when you put too much food on the plate. The dishwasher-safe plate works with a water-resistant charger that you set next to the sink.

If you go out to eat, you can snap a picture of your food and submit it to the SmartPlate Android or iOS app. The app miraculously tells you what you’re eating and the nutritional data: number of calories and grams of protein, carbs, sugar, fiber, fat, and sodium. Save the info to the app to monitor your diet.

The SmartPlate launched in 2015 with a Kickstarter campaign that raised more $110,000.

The first version of SmartPlate is available for pre-order at getsmartplate.com for $99 with delivery to be determined. But the second version will retail for $149. It comes with a 30-day, money-back guarantee, and a one-year warranty. The first shipment of the product will be manufactured in the U.S. and distributed through Wynit Distribution, based in Greenville, S.C. which specializes in wholesale distribution of tech products.

Before appearing on Shark Tank in February 2016, SmartPlate generated $10,000 to $15,000 in pre-orders every month. Martin Dell’Arciprete who pitched on Shark Tank asked for $1 million for 15% of the company, valuing it at $6.5 million. None of the sharks bit. Kevin O’Leary thought the $199 price tag was crazy.

Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran said the pitch was terrible. The prototypes on the show didn’t include the cameras or the weight sensors and was still very much a work in progress. Mark Cuban and guest-shark Chris Sacca didn’t have confidence that it would work. Dell’Arciprete was fired before the episode aired.

But the sharks may regret it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in pre-orders poured into the SmartPlate website the following week. Fitly signed distribution deals with Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), Jet.com, Amazon (AMZN) and Brookstone.

The company projects annual revenue to hit $1 million next year, $5 million in 2018, $25 million in 2019 and a whopping $100 million in 2020. It’s raised $1.6 million in venture capital, angel investor groups and private investors. Ortiz invested $30,000 that he gathered from friends and family. With five employees, Fitly has a few other products in development but has to keep them under wraps.

Anthony Ortiz, the founder and CEO Fitly Inc., explains why he believes it could help solve the U.S. obesity crisis and much more.

Ky Trang Ho: Tell us about your background. What were you doing before you started your business?

Anthony Ortiz: Before starting Fitly, I founded a successful transportation logistics company, Eco Express, which I grew to a 30-person team and sold under 18 months.

I also held executive and managerial positions in both finance and retail. I was as a mortgage broker on Wall Street and district manager for a family-owned and operated Blockbuster Video franchise in the greater Philadelphia area. I turned my first profit when I was 12.

Hungry for a Better Meal-Tracking Device

Ho: How did you come up with the idea for your business?

Ortiz: My father went through triple bypass surgery, which was the hardest thing for my family and me. Learning that it could have been prevented through simple diet changes, I knew I had to do something for him.

I also want to help the millions of people who are trying to promote a healthier lifestyle, lose a few pounds, improve their physical performance, or living with a chronic condition. The current solutions are just too frustrating to use, and people cannot engage for longer than three months.

Ho: What problem were you seeking to solve?

Ortiz: Everyday, an average consumer is faced with more than 200 food decisions that have a dramatic impact on their health.  These choices lead many toward a path of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and many other diet-related health conditions.

To combat this problem each day, over 100 million Americans turn to manual calorie-counting applications to help with their dietary objectives. But these current solutions are time-consuming, frustrating, and worst of all, inaccurate.

Diseases related to poor nutrition, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension have become global pandemics. Today, 95 million Americans are living with at least one of these chronic diseases, which research has shown are directly linked to improper diet management.  Furthermore, studies have proven that people who keep food journals maintain a healthy weight, thereby reducing the risk of developing weight-related illnesses.

Taking a Bite Out of America’s Obesity Epidemic

Ho: What is the market for your service or product?

Ortiz: We have identified three target market groups:

1) Fitness enthusiasts: Our initial target market is athletes (crossfitters, professional athletes, body-builders) and health-conscious individuals trying to achieve or maintain a fitness goal.

2) Weight-conscious consumers: Individuals paying for weight management tools or weight loss programs.

3) Clinical solutions: Individuals with a chronic condition (diabetes, hypertension, heart disease) related to poor nutrition.

These three groups represent a serviceable addressable market of 100 million customers.  Based on research for comparable products (Fitbits, weight-loss programs, high-end glucose monitors, etc.) we estimate our serviceable obtainable market size to be 14 million, which represent a $2.2 billion market cap.

Although we’ve proven a global demand for our product (we’ve sold thousands of units in more than 17 countries) our focus will be to win the North American market first. Based on actual sales data, our current customer demographic is 80% female, age 28-55, with $40,000+ annual income and college educated.

Ho: What made you think it could be a successful product and service?

Ortiz: Our secret sauce is a blend of proprietary deep learning algorithms, training methodologies and a unique dataset that has a huge potential to serve a broad range of purposes. We also have an experienced team of repeat entrepreneurs, and experts in machine learning and computer vision.

Ho: How did you go about making a prototype, sourcing the materials and finding a manufacturer?

Ortiz: We hired a design company to make the prototype and reached out to many domestic and international manufacturers to find the best deal.

Eating Up More Business

Ho: What are you doing now to move your business forward and expand?

Ortiz: Currently we are focusing on product development, both on the software and hardware side.

Ho: What is your marketing strategy? How do you acquire new customers and what are your customer acquisition costs?

Our go-to-market strategy consists of three channels:

  • B2B: We target regional, national and online distributors.
  • B2B2C: We target online, regional and national retailers, as well as corporate wellness providers.
  • B2C: We generate traffic to our website getsmartplate.com through digital and content marketing, influencers, celebrity/athletes, as well as traditional public relations.

Ho: How do you find business partners, instructors, salespeople, etc.? What qualities do you look for?

Ortiz: We recruit through online platforms such as Indeed.com. We look for individuals that possess the following qualities: Work with integrity, take ownership, are punctual, move with a sense of urgency.

Trying to Get to the Sharks to Nibble

Ho: How did you prepare for your appearance? What made it a success?

Ortiz: We prepared a Q&A file with all possible questions and answers, researched the background of all the Sharks, and held mock Shark Tank presentation with our colleagues. The key is to anticipate what the sharks might ask.

Ho: What can you teach others about your Shark Tank experience?

Ortiz: Beware of going on Shark Tank at an early stage (pre-product) company. Know the true value of your company before you go on the show.

Ho: What are the secrets of a successful audition and appearance?

Ortiz: Prepare an interesting initial demo video, with character and charisma. Get your message out in a clear way. Over prepare for your appearance.

Ho: Is there anything else I should have asked?

Ortiz: We are taking pre-orders at getsmartplate.com. Become our beta tester by emailing holler@fitly.com

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