CubeSensors is a startup that manufacturers small cubes that monitor rooms feeding back information about the quality of the environment, temperature and other data, monitoring the way we sleep and supporting us in an informed and healthy every day life. The company made major updates to its products since the great performance at the TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield during CES 2014 and a good media coverage on international tech magazines like Wired.
After CES 2015, we’ve reached out with CubeSensors founders and interviewed them to get into this revolutionary device.
How was your idea born? How did you set up your startup?
It started more than 3 year with a simple question: “Why do we get sick during winter?” Our CEO’s daughter had a hard time understanding why she always gets sick during the winter, right before her skiing vacation. It turns out it isn’t just due to cold winter temperatures outside. We started to research the topic and it quickly became apparent that a significant part of our health and productivity is highly dependent on our indoor environment, where we spend up to 90% of our lives.
That’s why we set out to build an indoor monitoring device that would easily fit in all homes without a complicated setup. We wanted to create a product that would make it easy to understand how the indoor environment affects our wellbeing by providing easy-to-follow tips that can improve the health of the entire family.
How did you manage your funding needs and what’s your attitude towards the startup environment (crowdfunding, startup funding rounds, angel investors, startup awards / contests, etc.)?
We’ve been bootstrapping our startup for over two years, so we had to get creative. When we publicly announced CubeSensors at the LAUNCH Festival in San Francisco in March 2013, we started taking 10 USD reservations through our website. We also won the Best Hardware Startup award at LAUNCH, which has certainly helped us with exposure. We sold out our first batch of pre-orders in just a month!
Another big milestone for us was being able to announce the beginning of shipping in January 2014 at the TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield at CES. We ended up winning the competition and the $50,000 prize, which has certainly helped a little, and the news coverage again boosted our sales. In summer, we raised a seed round from the founders of Bitstamp, and in September we finally started shipping from stock.
Finding investors still isn’t easy for a hardware startup even though the number of successful hardware exits is on the rise. A lot of investors still tend to approach hardware startups with the same mindset they use for software companies, which prompted Ales, our CEO, to write An Investor’s Guide to Hardware Startups
This, and the ability to test your idea before launch, is certainly why an increasing number of hardware startups are using crowdfunding or taking pre-orders (like we did) before releasing a finished product. It’s extremely valuable to get feedback from customers before investing heavily in a product that nobody is interested in. Prototyping has become easier and cheaper in the past years, but shipping a working hardware product is still hard and expensive.
How Cubesensors can improve our sleep comfort and health?
By keeping a small, stylish Cube on your nightstand, you can finally keep track of how your bedroom environment affects your sleep. Your bedroom might be too hot, noisy or bright during the night, the air might be too dry … All these things and more can make you restless or even wake you up in the middle of the night. Your bedroom Cube connects to the data from your existing sleep tracker (we’re starting by supporting Fitbit and UP by Jawbone), so you can finally see not only when you slept poorly, but also WHY.
The Cubes can also help you go to bed on time by gently glowing in all rooms of your home at the right time. You can even set different bedtime reminders for different rooms, so your kids also know when it’s their time to start to preparing for bed.
On top of all that, the companion CubeSensors web app also provides easy-to-follow real-time advice on how you can improve the environment in each of your bedrooms before going to sleep.
Google recently acquired Nest. Later on Nest acquired Dropcam and launched its smart smoke alarm. Just weeks ago Nest acquired Revolv while other big companies are investing in the home automation industry. What’s your point of view on this? What’s the future of the home automation market?
There’s a lot of innovation in this space, and hardware startups are becoming increasingly popular. The big exits of the companies you mention certain help to fuel interest and innovation in the field.
All this is leading to our homes getting smarter at a more affordable price point. The biggest challenge is building products that don’t get in the way, yet manage to delight customers by providing clear benefits. A lot of interesting innovation is happening around the way we interact with our homes through various devices. For example, our little Cubes don’t have a screen or a single button. They quietly collect data about your indoor environment every minute, and when you want to get quick feedback about the health of the room you’re in, you can just shake the Cube in the room. If the Cube glows blue, everything is ok, you can relax. If you get a red glow, you can check the CubeSensors web app to see what can be improved and how.
Right now, we still have a lot of different apps to interact with devices that make our homes smarter or monitor our personal activity. In the future, we’re expecting all these devices to get even better at understanding each other and increasing the combined value. Little improvements, like opening the windows, should happen automatically at just the right time, without you having to think about it.
Top contract players are based in the US: big architecture firms like Gensler, Klingstubbins – Jacobs, Cannon design and many others. They work on specifications for turnkey projects with a relevant share of hospitality and residential buildings. Cubesensor could be a real plus in hotel projects providing a better guest experience. What’s your view on this? Are you dealing with this business channel already?
At the moment, we’re focused on end consumers, who are buying the Cubes for their homes. We also have quite a few office installations at work places that are exploring different ways of providing a more comfortable and productive work environment for their employees.