Ugh, wearables. Can we just get Tuesday's Apple keynote over with so we can stop talking about them until the end of Fashion Month? Or forever, for that matter? Probably not, given the amount of time and money that has been spent developing these products. After all, many non-idiots have said that they are going to be a really big deal at some point in the near future. Financial analyst Mary Meeker, whose annual Internet Trends report is revered across the tech industry, made a point of calling out wearables in 2013, which strengthened the category's validity for a lot of people.
According to New York-based research firm CB Insights -- a company that tracks venture capital and angel funding, and then slices the data in search of interesting trends -- investors have fed more than $1.4 billion into startups making wearables over the past five years. A good chunk of that cash -- over $500 million -- was dolled out in 2014. And we still have four months to go.
But could Tuesday's announcement mark the end of all these little companies trying to make the first wearable on the planet that people want to wear for more than a week? Even if Apple's wearable is the game changer we're all hoping it will be, the potential of the business is broad enough that other players will still have a chance to rise up. (Remember that while a wristband is an obvious vehicle for a technical device, wearables can be many other things.) The researchers at CB actually suggest that Apple's announcement -- combined with the favorable exits this year in the category, particularly Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR -- will spur the development of more products.
What will likely change post-iThingy is the way that the money is distributed. CB says that the majority of the financing that has occurred over the past three years went to early stage businesses. If Apple's wearable is instantly successful, new startups are going to have to prove that they can compete, either by designing something better or completely different. And they'll likely need to sell a good amount of products before anyone offers them a hefty investment. So, expect more Kickstarter campaigns, as if there weren't enough already.