Research and design house Vinaya has closed on a $3 million seed round of funding.
The seed round, led by Passion Capital, includes Carmen Busquets as an investor. Busquets, who recently exited her investment in Net-a-porter, is also an investor in Lyst, Moda Operandi, Astley Clarke, CoutureLab and Maiyet through her fund Cabus Ventures. The round includes 10 other investors, among them Playfair Capital, Local Globe, attorney Ken Hertz and Liz Bacelar of Decoded Fashion.
According to Kate Unsworth, who founded the London-based firm — was previously known as Kovert Designs — the goal of Vinaya is to create “lifestyle-enhancing technology products.”
Vinaya is comprised of two components. The Lab represents the research hub that focuses on the relationship between humans and technology. The Studio is the technology design house that creates the products that benefit humans in improving their well-being.
The first wearable tech products from Vinaya is Altruis, a collection of smart jewelry pieces that — through hardware and software — help users control their digital lives to improve their mental health. Named the Cleopatra Collection, options include a ring, bracelet and necklace that are available in different color overlays. The jewelry features a stone made of zirconia ceramic that is Bluetooth embedded, which discreetly vibrates to allow the wearer to be notified of incoming e-mails, messages and calls. Currently the collection works using an iOS app.
According to Unsworth, the collection pieces allow the user to be partially connected, without the smartphone needing to be out in full view all the time. One feature for users is the ability to create profiles, such as work and family, that work as notification filters for prioritization.
Unsworth said the plan is to collaborate with different designers to create various Altruis designs that can “empower the fashion industry with the latest technology.”
Eileen Burbidge, who is from early stage venture capital firm Passion Capital and a member of Vinaya’s board, said the round was oversubscribed. “It was immediately obvious to us upon first meeting Kate that she had both an inspiring vision and ability to pull together a team as well as get s–t done which is second to none,” Burbidge said.
She added that her VC firm gets involved with their investments to build and help execute the founder’s vision. “In this case, Kate [and her team] need little help, but we hope that our catch-ups and discussions prove useful in accelerating some of the decisions they make which are common to all fast-growth start-ups,” Burbidge said.
Busquets said she met Unsworth and learned about Vinaya at a “time in my life I had personally decided to retreat from technology and control it rather than [have] it control me. If you respond to all your electronic devices and every notification they generate, then you do everything that’s urgent and nothing that’s important; you allow others to set your agenda rather than set your own. I wanted to manage my life differently and more effectively, but until I met Kate I did not think there was a technology that could help me manage this new approach.”
Busquets added that Vinaya’s “strategy of collaborating with other designers and brands by incorporating their technology into a variety of accessories lines is both forward thinking and scalable, making this a smart investment for me. It may sound easy, but creating a modular solution that is also beautiful requires great technical skill and persistence.”
The Altruis product line will be available at its site and in a select boutiques, such as Fivestory and Ron Robinson, later this month.