Home energy consumption is a tough thing to constantly monitor, no matter how hard we try. This week some local entrepreneurs are making this significantly easier as they revolutionize the way we interact with our homes. Ali from Neurio tells us more about the inspiration behind the product that just raised $267,373 from just under 2,000 backers on Kickstarter!
1. Tell us about your business/core idea and what inspired you to create it.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. When it comes to energy use, we’re completely disconnected from our impact, and we have no concrete ideas on how to reduce energy costs. The inspiration behind Energy Aware was to address this problem.
A simple solution is to show people how much energy they use at any given moment, in dollars and cents. This was the idea behind Energy Aware’s very first product called PowerTab. In fact when Vancouver’s Olympic Village was built, they equipped every home with a PowerTab to showcase Vancouver’s sustainability values.
2. Tell us about some of the exciting projects Energy Aware has done in the past and how this led to the development of your recent Kickstarter success, Neurio.
A couple of years ago we started working on a science fiction-like technology that takes the home’s energy use patterns to figure out the cost of running each individual device. That is without putting power monitors on every single device! Very quickly we recognized the potential for this technology to transform how we interact with our homes.
Imagine if your old washing machine started sending reminders when you forgot to dry your clothes. Or if you could find out how much money is lost powering devices that are supposed to be off. We call this new technology Neurio, and it can make ordinary appliances interact with occupants in a way that has never been possible before.
This goes beyond saving on energy bills, as it introduces a new kind of convenience and peace of mind to our homes. It sometimes feels like we’re building the Jetsons’ home!
Neurio can message you to say you left the oven on, as you’re about to get into your car to leave for work. In a way, we’re bringing artificial intelligence into home devices, without changing the devices or adding any hardware to them.
3. How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Energy Aware?
As we were preparing for our campaign, many people, including even strangers, stepped up to help us out in different – and often unexpected – ways. Vancouver has a very close-knit community of entrepreneurs who are often very supportive of each other. I think at some level many of us want to see Vancouver grow into a Silicon Valley North.
4. What kind of challenges has your team had to face and how have you mitigated them?
One of our biggest challenges is that we’re not just creating a new product – we’re creating a new product category! This concept of making ordinary appliances learn and interact with users simply doesn’t exist out there. In fact, we had to term the phrase “Home Intelligence” to describe this new category.
It’s exciting to be at the bleeding edge of technology, but it’s also very challenging as you’ll have to figure out how to get others to see the new possibilities. Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” It’s our job now to show how transformative this technology is.
5. What core problem are you specifically solving for Vancouverites?
Vancouverites have a reputation for being environmentally conscious. In fact, the number of Vancouver startups in the sustainability domain is a testament of how engrained these values are in our society. We often find people here to be very interested in and supportive of the work we do.
Another way companies like Energy Aware help Vancouver is by creating job opportunities for our highly qualified personnel. With the type of work we do, we’re attracting talented people with Masters and PhD’s in computer science and mathematics, who passed opportunities with companies like Google and Facebook to stay here.
6. What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
As a child, Bill Gates was my hero. I wanted to make the next operating system! Today, I find his philanthropist work quite inspiring. I have the most respect for thought leaders and entrepreneurs with strong vision. Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Larry Page – all these guys are transforming our lives while playing a beautiful game of chess on a global scale.
7. What Vancouver celebrity would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
Trevor Linden. Do I even need to explain why?
8. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Don’t waste your 20s making money; invest it in your dream career. Dream big, but take small, steady steps in the right direction every day. If you have a big idea, realize that you’re not the only one who thought of it, but you may be the only one with tenacity to make it real. Just do it!
*End of interview*
This is a great Vancouver Kickstarter success story as we’ve been a little quiet since a Vancouverite set the Kickstarter record of raising over $10,000,000 in 2012. They have addressed a very relevant void when it comes to how in touch you really are with your daily energy home usage. At my house, it’s always a drumroll when we get the monthly hydro bill as we really have no idea how responsible we really were with our energy management. Neurio has a fantastic team they have put together and have developed some deep domain expertise in the last five years. Watch out for the product to hit the market in June 2014. Today is also the last day to get 30% off their pre-sale so think fast.
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit