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Jawbone to Launch Payments Wearable With Amex, as It Closes a $300M Investment Round

Also say hello to Up2 and Up3.

Chris Gramly

“Reports of our death are greatly exaggerated,” said Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman to me earlier today in an interview in New York. “That was Mark Twain, right?”

Indeed, it was — and perhaps the most appropriate quote to pick for the maker of stylish activity trackers and other consumer electronic devices, given the persistent swirl of rumors about how well — or how badly — the heavily funded San Francisco company has been doing.

Today, Rahman and Jawbone are making an aggressive push to show that things are all right, finally launching its delayed Up3 device, reimagining its Up24 as the new Up2 and announcing a deal with American Express to create another activity tracker, called the Up4, that can also be used for payments.

 The Up4 and Up3 are exactly alike, except for payments in Up4.
The Up4 and Up3 are exactly alike, except for payments in Up4.

And, according to sources, Jawbone has also completed a new round of funding, raising $300 million from investment giant BlackRock. While the company declined to comment on the new money, sources said that it will value the company at about $3 billion.

In the interview, Rahman acknowledged the questions about Jawbone’s success, especially as the competition has increased across the wearables landscape.

“We think we are now in a strong position with these devices,” he said, noting that the patent portfolio alone held by the company is hugely valuable. “We think we have the most advanced tracking devices on the market.”

As long as they ship, of course. After a delay since December due to issues over trying to make it as water resistant as possible, Jawbone will begin selling the $179 Up3 on April 20, both online and in stores.

“Shame on us for overreaching,” said Rahman, about trying to make the bands more waterproof.

The $99 Up2 — which ends the unusual crossover bracelet design of the Up24 — is on sale now, while the payments-enabled Up4, at $199, will begin selling this summer. (Jawbone also sells the $49 Up Move, a small pod device that can be clipped on or worn on the wrist and is aimed at newbie tracking consumers.)

 The newly redesigned Up2
The newly redesigned Up2

The idea of a wearable with payments is not new — Apple Watch has Apple Pay, of course — but it is still novel for the category. Jawbone’s version will work a lot like Apple Pay, with the bracelet tapping a terminal using NFC technology. If the device is lost or stolen, the Amex card can be disconnected from it via the phone app. There is no financial information stored on the Up4.

Both Up3 and Up4 add on significant multi-sensor features, most especially heart rate, hydration levels, skin and ambient temperatures. Like the Up2, both track sleep and movement and offer fitness advice to users via Jawbone’s Smart Coach feature.

Rahman said that while he knows there is significant competition in the space, he also thinks it is not as clear-cut as it seems. The Apple Watch, for example, has health apps, but is focused on messaging and other features.

Given the long battery life of Up devices, Rahman said he envisions a future where it is worn continually, sending an ever more sophisticated range of data about the user to the app and perhaps even other places. “Imagine if the band told your Nest how hot or cold you were?” said Rahman, talking about the Google-owned smart thermostat maker. “Data is great, but understanding it is better.”

This idea of actionable data — data that informs a user rather than inundates — is a big idea in the wearable space and one that many are trying to crack. And while Jawbone’s software and app ecosystem is large, it must sell as many devices as possible to create a true virtuous circle and, presumably, big profits.

Hence the new funding, which is a large round. Jawbone has been in talks with several investors, including strategic ones like Google (those talks are still ongoing, said sources).

BlackRock has taken the entire new $300 million round, said sources, adding to the $400 million the company has raised so far. Jawbone already has a strong list of investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, J.P. Morgan’s Digital Growth Fund, Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures and Sequoia Capital. Its board is equally fancy, including VC Ben Horowitz, designer Yves Béhar (who designs Jawbone’s wearable devices) and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

But, despite hundreds of millions in revenue, the company is not profitable.

Also at issue for the company — although it makes up a small part of its sales — is its continued partnership with Apple. Jawbone’s various devices and software have been featured prominently in Apple’s online and retail stores. But with its new offerings, Apple now becomes a significant competitor of all of its businesses. Still, some Jawbone wearables will still be sold there, Rahman said, despite Apple’s recent actions.

This article originally appeared on

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