New product plans to put workers on The Level
A new venture is taking shape in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. The man behind the company is Joel Heath, former brand president of Teva footwear under Deckers Brands.
On Jan. 12, Heath launched an Indiegogo funding campaign for The Level, the first product from his new company FluidStance.
The Level, which resembles a skateboard without wheels, is the latest device aiming to change the way people work. Heath’s invention takes the standing work desk, a trend recently popularized in modern offices, one step further, but not as far as treadmill desks available today.
Heath’s project appears to have plenty of supporters, as the Indiegogo campaign smashed through its $40,000 funding goal in just three days, taking in $73,194 with 221 supporters as of press time. The fundraising is set to close on Feb. 26.
Part of the inspiration behind the product were long hours spent sitting behind a desk.
“After coming to Deckers and working with Teva, I started spending 60 and sometimes 80 hours a week behind a desk and eventually I could just feel my body changing,” Heath told the Business Times. “I moved to using a standing desk and that was such a great change. … Fast-forward a couple years and I started looking at what would put a subtle motion under people while they stand at their desks.”
Over 18 months, in offices just behind Seven Bar in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, Heath worked with several designs and engineers, producing numerous prototypes until finally settling on the current skateboard-shape design and web-structured base that allows The Level to rock on its axis.
It took a substantial investment to get about 90 percent of the way with final designs and tooling, but the due diligence he put in up front will allow him to use most of the Indiegogo funding to establish an inventory of product, Heath said.
According to FluidStance’s Indiegogo page, The Level is “a work platform that elicits subtle, constant movement below your feet to increase your range of motion and heart rate.” It was developed primarily as a tool that people in offices would use at their desks; however, the company markets the product as something that could be used virtually anywhere at home or in the office.
The design, which is patent pending, has interchangeable top decks, floating bumpers, and base plates so buyers can eventually customize it as they please, though those products would come later.
There are three different models of The Level, ranging in price from $289 for a manufactured Level to $389 for a handmade Level, with extra costs for optional personalization features.
The Level was tested by Goleta footwear research company, Heeluxe Labs. According to Dr. Geoffrey Gray of Heeluxe Labs, “The Level allows for optimal amounts of 3-D motion in the sagittal, transverse, and coronal planes. The amount of lower leg motion provided by The Level is similar to what you would experience while walking.”
Heeluxe’s study of the device also found that The Level users’ heart rates also increase an average of about 12.2 beats per minute.
With the rise in use of standing desks, The Level was created as a supplemental work tool to elicit subtle, constant movement underfoot. According to the company, The Level increases your range of motion and slightly lifts the heart rate, while requiring the body to subconsciously fine-tune its balance while users work.
According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, 86 percent of the American workforce sits for 7.7 hours per day, which can be responsible for several negative long term effects, including poor posture and back pain. Researches have also linked long periods of sitting to high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, obesity and heart disease.
Heath and those behind the new product go so far as to posit that “sitting is the new smoking.” The Level is meant as an alternative to simply standing or sitting during meetings or phone calls and could be used by call center operators, customer service professionals and security guards. The Heeluxe study found there is no statistical difference in the amount of typing errors that someone makes using the product compared to the same person in a seated environment.
The company has established relationships with manufacturing partners in Los Angeles and San Francisco and is also working with Goleta-based Signature Woodworks on materials. The Level is the first product in what Heath hopes to turn into series of products and accessories.
Heath said he plans to sell directly to consumers and might eventually look at other distribution options.
“We’ve gone all in on this puppy,” he said. “When you’re doing this it can feel like throwing a party and worrying no ones is going to come, so to see the campaign hit the goal it feels really and good and makes you feel like what you’re doing is worth it.”