Instabeat, the Lebanon startup changing swimming with its wearable technology
Hind Hobeika is the founder of Instabeat, an award-winning startup that creates high-tech tools that track and improve athletes’ performance and well-being. Hind is a WEF Global Shaper and founder of the Quantified Self, Beirut chapter. Hind, a woman engineer and inventor from an Arab nation, demonstrated an early interest in the power of Intellectual Property and converted this into a sustainable business advantage.
YS: Tell us about Instabeat?
Hind: Instabeat is a heart rate monitor to help people measure their effort during a swim. Growing up as a swimmer, I noticed a huge gap in the equipment available to swimmers. Our coach always wanted us to measure our heart rate but it would take quite a while between finishing the lap and measuring our heart-rate. Being a mechanical engineer, I was motivated to fill this gap and I came up with a piece of equipment that would fit in goggles and measure a swimmer’s heart-rate through their temple. From the first design to our present design, we have made leaps and bounds of progress. Our latest design can mount on any goggle in the market and display a person’s heart rate through a simple display on the eyepiece. It also has a USB port by which the swimmer can download her or his data for analysis.
YS: You went from a product that weighed 170 grams to 50 grams which is one-third of its earlier weight. What did that take and what were the design challenges?
Hind: It took us a lot of engineering and two years exactly. Factors like looking for new components, reworking on the design, , reducing the size, improving the layers — these take time. You cannot cut quarters, you cannot make the process shorter, and it needs a lot of work.
YS: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into this profession?
Hind: I am a Lebanese and I’m 25 years old. I studied mechanical engineering, and worked for a year in an air-conditioning company. . I hated it, and this pushed me into the world of entrepreneurship. I believe when you do something and create stuff, they need to be meaningful and they need to be changing something in your daily life. This is my motivation behind Instabeat.
YS: I don’t think playing the woman card is essentially an important aspect of being a good technologist, but tell us a little bit about what you see being where you are and choices that women make?
Hind: There are a lot of stereotypes about women, and the first thing people think when they realize I’m an Arab they probably think, ‘oh! this girl is not veiled’, ‘oh! she cannot drive’, ‘oh! she cannot work.’ But I do acknowledge that there is a problem, that there are very few women engineers not only in the Arab region but in the entire world. I blame this on lack of education for girls. And also society’s mindset which does not push a girl into fields that are challenging, like engineering.
YS: Coming to the question of our generation which is fairly well educated and we do have access to options and in some cases we do have the good fortune and support of families as well, how do you see it playing out over there?
Hind: Stocks show that even in Fortune 500 companies the percentage of women CEOs are very low or the percentage of women engineers in the best colleges is really low so it’s not something about elite or how much money you have or what’s your social class has been, it is something about how the world has been evolving for the past several centuries.
YS: So you have told us the good things about being in Lebanon. You have told us that there are bright young people who you work with, and that’s a great thing. Can you tell us some challenges you have faced as the product developed or even in your journey moving forward, what set you back?
Hind: You can take some things that are positive and have to see the negative side of them. For example, the fact that we are placed out of Lebanon means that we have very few resources that are actually available in Lebanon, we spend most of our time talking to people abroad and this comes at a cost. It is relatively easy to get started but when you want to scale and grow and become an international company it’s very hard to be able to attract the talent and to scale quickly across the region.
YS: Let us talk about moving forward, where do you see yourself, say in five years?
Hind: I think in three to five years, everything is going to change from the way we proceed with wearable technology and the way we design it to the way we manufacture it. I see myself going along this curve hopefully ahead of it. But I think the dynamics are very interesting and the way we are meant to act with our devices and with our data is going to shift completely. So I am definitely going to be a part of that discovering how valuable data is and how important it is in our daily labs.
and its very dangerous to be opinionated and sometimes it can lead you to be stubborn it’s not always a good thing but in my case I have been doing this is for 2 years so I really know what should be done at least at product level and so when people come and give this kind of suggestions, these are suggestions that you have evaluated a million times and people have asked you this question over and over again and I know the answer and you know it is my business if I should do it I would have done it.