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Focal Upright Standing Strong: Transforming How We Work, Improving How We Live

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Founders League are collaborating toshowcase local companies pioneering new health and wellness solutions. The diversity of these companies captures the depth of activity happening across Rhode Island’s startup scene and highlights the global impact these companies are already having on the world. Below is the first in a nine-part blog series on these special local companies.

For many of us, sitting--probably in front of a computer screen--is just part of the job. Mounting evidence shows that too much time on your tuckus may lead to serious health issues, from neck and back problems to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But how do you stop sitting when you can’t stop working? Focal Upright has the answer: lean in.

From within a sprawling workshop and warehouse in Quonset Business Park, Focal Upright designs, manufactures, and markets a line of radically active office furniture. Focal Upright challenges both the design of the traditional chair and the notion that you have to be seated to get serious. Their beautifully crafted workstations put you in a healthy leaning posture halfway between sitting and standing.

Focal Upright’s products are designed by Martin Keen, founder of KEEN Footwear. After stepping away from the footwear business, Martin set his sights on something even bigger: transforming the way we work from sedentary to active. Keen’s design philosophy is rooted in the idea that form follows function. His designs--whether a pair of durable sandals or an upright workstation--support your body in a healthy, neutral posture so you are able to focus on what matters most.

Think a little time on your feet can’t make a difference? Think again. Focal’s leaning seats and standing desks and tables put users in a posture halfway between sitting and standing. The seats gently rock your pelvis forward to a 135° angle, opening up your hips and allowing for a neutrally aligned lumbar spine. This means less back pain and more hip flexibility. The seat allows you to move throughout the day--keeping your major muscle groups active and your blood pumping. This means increased caloric burn and better blood oxygenation. Your body engaged and your brain energized. No wonder that Inc. Magazine named Focal’s “Sphere” workstation the Best New Product in 2014.

Their newest line takes what they’ve learned about helping individual users work better into the conference room. Focal’s line of Confluence Collaboration Tables are fully height adjustable and allow groups, both large and small, to reap the benefits of standing meetings.

Focal is part of a new generation of businesses in Rhode Island finding success where design, manufacturing and technology converge. Focal Upright is going beyond office furniture. It’s designs reflect Keen’s vision for the future of work. All Focal’s products are designed to support how we work in the digital age. They fit seamlessly in any office environment--from home offices to large organizations where space is at a premium.

Additionally, Focal Upright is one of a group of Rhode Island startups participating in the Venture for America Fellows program. The VFA program places graduates from top tier schools into communities where startups are vital to economic recovery and growth. It’s like Teach for America for aspiring entrepreneurs. Focal Upright has been host to three fellows (and counting) since the program began and these young people add a much needed energy boost to Rhode Island’s startup community.

“We are proud to have our home in Rhode Island and to be a part of a growing cadre of companies focused on solutions that help people live better, healthier lives,” says Keen. “Our bodies have evolved to be upright. It’s time we rise up, literally, and take a stand for our well-being. This is more than furniture. This is an Upright Revolution.”

For more information about Focal Upright, visit their website at

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