Podcast #42 with Bharat Vasan of Basis


Today I got to Interview Bharat Vasan from Basis. I hope you enjoy it!

Links from the Show:



Pre Order the Less Doing Book

This podcast was edited and remastered professionally using 


 as well as fully transcribed using 



Recording begins

Ari:                                  Hi and welcome to the Less Doing podcast.  Today we’re talking with Bharat Vassan from My Basis.  Hi.

Bharat:                            Hi, Ari.  How’s it going?

Ari:                                   Great.  Thank you so much for talking to me today.  So, tell everybody what the Basis is first of all.

Bharat:                            The Basis is the most advanced health tracker you can get on the market.  It tracks heart rate, perspiration, temperature; all of your life’s physiological things about your body.  But in addition to that it tells you what it means and it helps you take the small actions, form new smart healthy habits and fit them into your everyday schedule.

Ari:                                   So, what I love about the Basis - and by the way, I just got mine this morning and I've been playing around with it – is that there's all sort of activity trackers and fitness monitors and things out there that work great.  They’ll show you your movements, your steps, and your sleep but a lot of them are based on barometers.  There's a couple that bring heart rate into but you actually have a...a...optical....  why don’t you explain actually what the B is on the back of the watch?

Bharat:                           Absolutely Ari.  So, when we started the company we felt like there was an early start you could have by our tracking just motion alone around the body and you can tell certain things from that.  We felt to go deeper to understand how your body is really doing you need real physiological signs.  Things like heart rate, temperature, perspiration.  And what Basis is one of those products that combines all of those things in a form factor you can wear on your wrist and you can see continuous real-time heart rate on your wrist.  In addition to that, all of that data connects to your mobile app and gets processed into cloud and it gets turned into useful insights about your body.  So the bottom line is we can provide a lot more deeper insight about how your body is feeling, what you can do about changing your activity patterns, about sleeping better, than other products can.

Ari:                                Right.  What is also so cool there is that your device is pretty much the only one I think that makes it so that if you're sitting and doing an isometric exercise where you're working really hard or you're just kind of sitting and looking at a book, it can tell the difference and it knows that you're not just sitting.

Bharat:                         That’s correct.  Using multiple censors gives us more context for what's going on with your body so it doesn’t get as easily confused between someone who’s watching TV for long periods of time versus seeping, let’s say.  That’s all really because the technology behind the Basis band is really incredibly cool.  It’s got these advanced light based censors that are right on the bottom of the device.  They shine a green light into your skin and basically it’s looking at the reflections of light coming back from the blood capillaries to be able to look at what that blood flow looks like.  From that it’s able to deduce heart rate and from heart rate we can tell a whole lot about what the state the person is in.  Are they excited?  Are they actively in motion?  Are they sleeping; different things like that.

Ari:                               Now, for the perspiration monitor.  How is it differentiating between someone who’s been working out really hard or somebody who’s under a lot of stress or somebody who’s in a very hot room?

Bharat:                        That’s a good question, Ari.  I don’t know that we rely on any one censor heavily to that degree.  We rely on a combination of censor inputs.  We've got over 4 censors on the device to be able to come up with our insights and recommendations and that’s really the secret sauce behind Basis.

Ari:                               Right, which totally makes sense; you get a much more complete picture that way.  So, you're taking heart rate information and you're taking perspiration and you're taking skin temperature and there's so obvious metric that people can gather from that.  Are you planning on adding things in the future such as heart rate variability for instance?

Bharat:                        We might Ari.  We haven’t talked about our future roadmap yet.  Trust me, when I say we've got some really cool stuff that’s coming up over the coming months and a lot of that is related to the unique differentiators on Basis which would be advanced censors and then turning those into a really useful insight that you can’t get with barometer based devices.

Ari:                               Okay.  So, let’s talk a little bit.  Let’s talk about the backhand stuff.  So, on your website you're giving people a really good amount of data here and you're giving them sort of, I think you called it, pattern detection.  But, you also have the same habits, right?

Bharat:                        Right and that’s one of the things that we are super, super excited about.  When we built the system we said, Yeah, all this technology is really, really cool but what does it all mean?  What can I do to change my very busy life?  What can people do to fit a little bit more activity, a little more sleep into their lives?  And what we did was we said let’s take all this data, let’s abstract it so that we can help people find pattern in their life.  Whether they're not sleeping enough or they're not going to bed at the right time or are they too inactive sitting at their desk just typing away.  Let’s give them the small trackable things that they can do.  We call them healthy habits that are basically take charge of your health actions that you can adopt.  Things like, hey I'm going to get up and move every hour or I'm going to go to bed by a certain time each night, which would increase the amount of time you would sleep.  So, for me personally, sleeping has been a big issue.  You know I work a lot; I work at a Starbucks.  And for me, going to bed early now has always been an issue.  There's always TV, you want to talk to someone and go to bed at 2 or 3 but you got to wake up at 8 o’clock every single day.  That compresses the amount of time you have to sleep.  So my healthy habit that I'm working on, for example, is going to bed by 10, 11 o’clock at night and Basis helps me do that.  It helps me stay on track both with the website as well as my mobile obligations.

Ari:                       So what is particularly interesting to me about that is that as you said it’s great to have all this technology, it’s really cool, you get all this data, but then what do you do with it?  As somebody who has worked on myself as far as overcoming chronic illnesses but also training effectively for different events, it’s really interesting to sort of have that built in visualization.  So I think that’s really great that you guys are doing that.  Backing up a little, what got you interested in sort of the quantified self-phase?

Bharat:                  You know, Ari?  I come from a long tradition, family tradition of public service.  My father was maybe always wanted to do something that gave back to society.  I worked in banking, I worked in games, I came out of those phases with a good amount of work experience; especially from gaining a good amount of experience [8:44] engaging.  I figured if there was some way to combine that experience with more purpose for the product or more purpose for the company where we were making a difference with society.  That would be a [8:58] I would want to work out.  So I cofounded Basis with Nadeem Kassam a few years ago and we both made an amazing team out here in San Francisco, shipped the product and we've got many happy customers.  So, it feels like it’s coming together.

Ari:                        Well, that’s great.  Did it start at the Kickstart campaign?  Am I remembering that correctly?

Bharat:                  No, we did not do a Kickstarter campaign.  We are a venture funded by Norwest Venture Partners, we raised angel money before that, and we’re funded by Mayfield and DCM as well.

Ari:                        Oh, okay.  Sorry for confusing that but good for you guys.  So, one last question about Basis because I want to talk about you a little more but the censor in it obviously are pretty comprehensive buddy.  Are you planning, I know that you said that there's some pretty cool stuff coming out along the pike but do you have any other plans for any other hardware or any censors that would integrate?

Bharat:                  Good question Ari.  Again, like I said.  I can’t tell you too much about our product roadmap but we’re always thinking about extending on top of the existing service we have.  The good news is we’re barely scratching the surface of all the things the existing censors are capable of.  So, as a Basis user you're just going to see the functionality for the device not just at the level you're seeing it now.  You're going to see the extend.  The ends, the outs; it’s going to be useful more many years to come.

Ari:                         Okay.  Honestly, that’s actually good enough to be exciting.  The last question I always like to ask people when I do these quick interviews is what are the top three things that keep you being more effective every day?  Whether it’s fitness based, meditation, or working, what are those three things that make you the most effective?

Bharat:                  Great question.  So I’d say the top three things – and this is just for me personally – I use continuous heart rate to monitor my stress levels throughout the day.  It’s kind of a [11:10] indicator and it affects how I interact with people.  I monitor that throughout the day so I'm nicer to people, I'm calm, I'm centered, I'm thoughtful in the things that I'm saying and doing.  So, I’d say that’s number one.  I’d say number two is like I mentioned sleeping is a big issue for me just because my work life kind of gets out of hand with work taking most of it.  And I try and preserve some level of work life balance and sleep is a big part of it; kind of go to bed at the right time, getting the right number of hours especially as I'm getting older.  I'm 37 now.  Sleep becomes a big part of it.  I’d say the third part which has less to do with Basis but diet is a big part of your life and I think controlling what you eat is a huge part of how you feel every single day.  So I would say those are the three things for me in terms of being personally effective and healthy.

Ari:                        Well, I think those are very, very good examples.  I do actually want to probe a little more on the first one.  Since you are monitoring your heart rate on a constant basis, how are you using that to be nicer to people or be more aware?  Are you just looking at situations that affect your heart rate and change or something?  How do you actually take action on that?

Bharat:                  Yes.  The elevated heart rate, not always but sometimes, when you feel anxious you can get some validations from the Basis band by just looking at it and you can feel your heart rate elevated but you're not active.  You're not doing something particularly intense and it’s really because the body’s releasing cortisol, it’s constricting your heart, it’s pumping faster.  It’s really a sign of hey, I'm stressed by something.  Whether it’s that email that came in or a deadline or some interaction with a particular person.  And I think having tools like Basis just helps people be a little more mindful.  I certainly think you can do this without a product as well but it’s certainly helpful to have that validation and it’s helpful to realize that hey, I can be a little more mindful in my interactions with others.  I can also just be a little calmer when I'm working through stuff and my body is going to feel a whole lot better.

Ari:                         That’s a very good explanation.  I think that that’s something in itself that can make people really effective.  What I like about that also is that it becomes very useful not just to use it for straight fitness tracking which obviously I know that’s not what you're pushing it for but also I think that for a lot of people [13:44].  But, you really can wear this – I want everyone to realize – you can wear this kind of thing all day long and benefit from it all day long because you're seeing in your daily life and in your daily activity whether you're working or you're playing with your kids or you're having an argument with your spouse, this can show you how your nervous system and your body is reacting even when you can’t necessarily sense it.  I love that and I think that the censors that you’ve decided to combine for this make that a really, really special offering.  Bharat, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.  Like I said, I got my Basis this morning and I'm already really, really impressed with it.  So, I highly recommend that everybody check it out and I look forward to those developments in the future.

Bharat:                  Wonderful, thanks Ari.  You’ve been great; I really appreciate you taking time.

Ari:                         Okay, that’s perfect.  Thank you.  I love to do these sort of short what is it and what does it do kind of interview so thank you again for that.  It’s completely your option but I like to offer – everyone on the interview – if they want to offer like a discount code or something to my listeners.

Bharat:                  Sure, Ari.  Let me look into that.  I don’t know; there's some codes setting up people that we have that do a lot of that stuff.  So when you check with them to see if we have that program and then I can extend it to you as well.

Ari:                         Again, it’s totally at your option.  I think that this will probably post maybe next week and I’ll send you an email as soon as it does.  Yeah, that’s really cool and I think the device is very nice looking and again, I think the censors are great.  Just so you know, by the way, one of the things that I use any self-tracking device for is not just for myself but I use it with clients who I'm training for all sorts of things.  Whether it’s an event or just for being more productive at work and I have to say I have people, clients come and spend like half a day with me in my office.  We’ll do workout, they’ll eat a nutritious meal and they’ll work.  And while they're working I’ll sort of monitor how they're doing.  I've been doing that with sort of an array of censors but I'm actually now just going to have clients strap on the Basis the entire time that they're here.

Bharat:                  Oh, that’s cool.  I'm interested to see how they react.  We’ve got this focus on activities, sleep, stress kind of 360 degree thing.  We’re not a fitness tracking device obviously but it does kind of give you a more well-rounded sense of what people do.  I think the interesting thing that we’re going to do leveraging more of the censor power to go deeper on some of those fields of activity and sleep, I think, are going to be particularly interesting to people in the coming months.

Ari:                         Yes, for sure.  And, obviously I know you said you can’t really tell me about it, but if you are considering doing heart rate; really, really cool and very useful.

Bharat:                  Hey, Ari?  Can you hear me?

Ari:                         Yeah.

Bharat:                  Yeah.  I mean, it’s not like we haven’t thought about it I think it’s just needs a space on our roadmap and I think we also need to…

Ari:                         I mean you have a censor already so.

Bharat:                  We do.  I think most of our focus is not just hey, we got the data but we want to make it meaningful to people and give them some sense of what it means.  Most consumers aren’t super familiar with what HRV is so if you enable that I know the promiscuity would be super excited.  At the same time, I'm not sure if a much broader audience will be more excited.  So, we’re trying to productize that in the right way so it gives people feedback that they can actually act on.  They're helping out something we’re pretty committed to and we want to find a way for those two to work well together.

Ari:                         Cool.

Bharat:                  Hey, if you have any issues or questions at all, feel free to reach out to me at any time; I'm happy to help.

Ari:                         Okay, great.  Thank you.  Let me know about that code if you can and I’ll let you know when this post in about a week, I think.

Bharat:                  Alright, thanks Ari.  I appreciate it.

Ari:                         Alright, take care.

Bharat:                  Talk to you soon, bye.

Recording ends