Regular exercise and dieting is hard. It’s harder still when tangible results are slow going. Brad Root, the founder and president of Levl, wants to lend a hand on those personal wellness journeys by making it possible to monitor the effectiveness of a fitness routine—even when it feels like it’s all for naught—with the gym rat’s equivalent of a breathalyzer. Set to launch his product this year, Root reflects on how he went from costs and estimates to biosensors and acetone.
1985–89: Paying Dues
As a teenager at north Seattle’s Ingraham High School, Brad Root wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of joining the family business, GM Nameplate. “Out of all the exciting things you dream up as a kid, working at a nameplate manufacturing plant somehow didn’t sound glamorous,” he says. Still, at his father’s insistence Root spent years doing odd jobs in the warehouse, absorbing the company’s work ethic and an understanding of its operations.
1990–93: Estimates and Plans
While Root describes his time at Seattle Pacific University as “a little aimless,” he did take a particular interest in cost estimates and project planning within GM Nameplate after being hired as a process engineer in 1993. Root spent much of his college years traveling among the company’s Washington facilities, earning a second education on top of his studies in psychology and sociology.
1993–2002: Finding His Place
As a process engineer, Root discovered a role in the family business that would actually mean something to him. “I liked working with numbers,” he says, and the position encouraged him to troubleshoot and approach projects from new directions. The company didn’t build products off the shelf but custom manufactured components ranging from instructional placards on passenger planes to printed labels for cosmetics bottles. “I’d have to get creative and figure out the most efficient way to deliver all sorts of products.”
After Root’s promotion to president of GM Nameplate in 2002, he began steering the company toward more electronics integration. Soon he became interested in biosensors—the technology used in blood test strips for diabetics—and saw a potential to use this tech in exciting ways. At the same time, Root started looking for an easy way to monitor the effectiveness of his personal diet and exercise program. “Just like when I was a kid working on the manufacturing floor, I started gaining this knowledge…this time with biosensors,” he says. “I saw an opportunity in this diet and exercise space, a chance to help people.”
2009–16: The Side Project
In 2009 Root branched off from his duties as GM Nameplate president and contracted a research and development firm to create an at-home product that could monitor metabolism using biosensors. Blood samples, it turns out, were too inaccurate, and any product requiring users to draw blood “would not be widely accepted in the market.” After years of trial and error, Root switched development partners and found a new technology using breath instead of blood. Now in prototype stage, the Levl device is set to launch in 2016. “Success to me will be if we can educate people,” says Root. “It’s the most liberating thing to learn you don’t have to kill yourself to be healthy.”