Opening the Smart Home technology stack

If you’ve worked on smart home or home automation products since year 2000 you’ve probably seen a few ups and downs in market awareness and the most recent up, helped immensely by the IoT (a cooler name for M2M for early investors into machine-machine communication) emergence seems to be growing real wings which is encouraging for all – a rising tide will lift all.

Many people and companies have invested heavily and contributed immensely prior to 2000 but this is from my experience after Y2K.  The potential market is massive so there will be a shortage of innovation and competition in the right sectors as opposed to too much competition – consumers need to have choice.

When we built EyeOnHome in the 2002-2004 time frame the home automation market was a niche market dominated by a few large software and hardware vendors.  The providers built great and envelope-expanding products, for the most part and to protect their business they formed partnerships and created their own technology platforms which worked with selected standards.

Fast forward to 2014 and beyond with the advent of Nest, Dropcam, Lowes and a host of other companies are innovating in a big way and it’s great to see.  Problem is, pretty much everyone is still building their own ecosystems where home owners and customers are tied to a manufacturer for adding and changing devices, services or features.  This is the same old business model and is good FOR THE BUSINESS, but not good for customers.

The EyeOnHome motto and goal was to provide an “open” ecosystem where any “open” device could be plugged in by the home owner without having to change a hub, software, host, or standard.  In order to achieve this we worked on open standards of HTTP and Wifi, no propriatary standards or technology – unless it’s in the device hardware which is fine.  This is why we created the Unified Gateway!

So we had the EyeOnHome project cotton-balled for a few year busy with other projects and REALLY hoping someone else would do a better job of opening up the smart home stash to benefit the “customers”. Unfortunately this is not happening (let me know if wrong).  So we’re working on a redesign and rebrand of the site and tools and hope to release it to the public in the next few months.

I’d love to hear from others who are passionate about the same “unified and open” experience we are dreaming of.

Is Omni-channel the Panacea people think it is?

Steven Dennis had a great blog post today on the definition and concept of omni-channel in retail.

Some of my takeaways:

  • Omni-channel is not enough by itself to grow customers, anymore.  This is evidenced by the stagnating revenue and financial number of most of the larger retail chains.
  • There was a time that omni-channel was such a unique feature for consumers that they actually picked who they buy from based on that.  For retailers in 2016 omni-channel is table stakes, it’s the price of entry.
  • You’ve got omni, now what?  Are you missing other key revenue-driving factors in your business as you’re building out your omni-channel systems?

Ultimately all technology is a set of tools for retailers NOT the product, not the experience, not customer service and warranty and environmental consciousness and all the other things that are important to people in today’s world.

The challenge with Omni-channel and the technology is that retailers have been catching up to ecommerce sellers for 20 years now and they will rarely (if ever) be better than Amazon, for a variety of reasons.  The new commerce tools and platforms available to retailers must be omni-by-DNA. , and then the retailers needs to get to the real work.  Product sourcing, selection, display, merchandising, delivery, customer support and service – ALL in an omni platform.

 

 

What is “Smart Money”?

As builders and founders we often hear the advice to find Smart Money, rather than just money (or dumb money?? if there is such a thing.)

So working with the founder of another local startup we started to put together a list of what Smart Money really means to us.  Here’s the list, let us know what you think.  Note that this list is for Web/Mobile products and startups, not as fully applicable to other types of startups.  Each criteria gets it’s own weight based on your specific needs but perhaps this will help in getting some sense of a standard.

Generally smart:
– Experience in starting and building a web/mobile company in the last 10 years.
– Experience building and growing web apps or websites
– Have built or was deeply involved in building and growing native apps as part of their past/current business.
– Knows and can provide real-life advice on growth marketing and “the new customer acquisition” methods.
– Access to funding and recruiting leads.
– Access to prospective customers.
– Social media savvy.
– Has liquid funds to invest in your time frame.
– Expresses passion about the concept. (gets the vision quickly)
– Be experienced enough to help when things get rough, not jump the gun.
– Does not meddle daily in operations.
– Respects the leadership of the team.
– Experience in exiting companies.
Really smart:)
– experience in your specific vertical.
– B2B and/or B2C experience – depending on your model.
– Has access to c-level executives in customer orgs.
– Has deep and active network in your network.
Of course as they say all money is good.  BUT, is it really?  Have you ever experience being married to the wrong investor?  Bottom line, it’s better to not work people you don’t really feel excited about than to take anyone’s money, specially as first time founders.  If you have past experience in funding and building new enterprises from the ground up you will know how to handle even “just money” investors properly.  Until then make sure you find the right investor for your new venture.

Note to FCC: this is all the data you need to see your strategy is failing!

While we keep talking to the FCC to explain why their strategy is a #failure other countries keep moving forward.   The results tell all.  If the FCC’s strategy, tactics (and motives?) were in the right place the US should be at least in the top 5, and moving up not down every year!

Is there any country in the world that has better hardware, software, technical minds, resources than the US to be no.1 on this list? NO.  When you have the fastest, best handling car and you come in next to last there is one reason – the driver.

Solution: Focus on the motives.

Difference between Blogs and Twitter notifications.

I’ve been trying to find a useful cadence on absorbing information from people I follow on Twitter without getting a firehose pointed at me.  No luck so far.

I like using Twitter notifications but with only 10-20 people this turns into a constant stream during certain times of the day and  after a while it becomes almost useless.  If I turn the notification off I get nothing, if it stays on it’s the firehose.

Subscribing to a Blog is still a lot more efficient.  It is a known fact that you can not email people too much or they will unsubscribe so people may blog once a week or every few days if very active writers.  What I get from the blog is usually laser focused on the topic I expect, again because if not I’ll unsubscribe!

On Twitter it seems like the opposite is true, at least for now.  People have to send the same tweet multiple times hoping that their followers actually see it.

Twitter can make improvements on the notifications system helping people become a lot more efficient in absorbing the massive amount of shares and tweets.  The notification system can actually be a savior for Twitter in providing an easy to manage way to people for spending time only on the content they are interested in.

My trip to Boulder, CO

I’d been wanting to take a trip to Boulder for a couple of years but never found the time before. This changed when I met Brad Feld in LA in December ’12 and was struck by his genuine interest to help “everyone”!! So when I took him up on his offer  to help do intros for me that’s when the big surprise came. First he immediately accepted and sent emails to a good group of pretty influential people in the Boulder startup community.

The next nice surprise was when everyone on the list happily setup appointments with me and even recommended others I should meet. I have never seen this level of genuine interest in helping others, and considering these are all extremely busy people it makes it even more important.

So I made the trip, found a room using airBnB (first experience was positive) and spent 2 days in Boulder in January. Even though the weather was a shock to my thin SoCal blood the energy in the city was so hot I felt warmer inside than in my normal days in OC. THis is not a slam on OC but it’s just amazing to see so many people close together, working on similar projects. The downtown Mall is an awesome place to hang out around or even find job at hot startups. Great coffee and fantastic restaurants and even local live music by the Harp Guy that caught me off guard.

The meetings
Although some of the meetings had to be re-planned for future the majority of them were help on time and as planked and were packed with fantastic feedback and offers of help and support. Top of the list is of course meeting Brad in his office at the Foundry Group and Luke Beatty at TechStars. Tim from SendGrid is also an amazing person – I recommend touching base with him for events in OC as SendGrid has a local office and is interested in helping the community here. (and hiring)

So, if you can take a couple of days from your busy schedule and make the trip I “highly” recommend it. Brad is walking the talk from his Startup Communities book and Startup Revolution project and will actually put you in touch with people that might change your life.

And if you’re interested to help an OPEN and FREE entrepreneurial community in OC hit me up and I’ll share my vision with you.