04 Sep 2017 | 02.28 pm
Hub Controller Wired For International Growth
Ollie Hynes's smart home thermostat
04 Sep 2017 | 02.28 pm
In a market where Nest, Hive and Climote are already active, is there room for another smart home temperature controller? Ollie Hynes, founder of Hub Controls, thinks so. His startup has developed Hub Controller, a smart thermostat that launched in 2016. It’s a touchscreen thermostat that sits on a wall in your home and it can be controlled over WiFi using a smartphone app.
One of the Hub Controller USPs is that it uses a home’s existing wiring to function and charge its battery. Rival smart thermostats require an extra wire and thus more complicated installation. Hub Controller is also being billed as being smart i.e. over time it learns the usage patterns of the consumer and controls the heating accordingly.
Hub Controller is an ambitious project for Hynes (46), who operates the business from the Synergy Centre in Tallaght. He started the venture in 2014 after 20 years working in the heating industry for companies such as Barlo and Quinn. “During that time, the only innovative product I came across was Nest, the smart thermostat that was acquired by Google. Nest looks great sitting on your wall but it’s not really ‘smart’,” Hynes maintains.
“I wanted to develop a smart thermostat that was easy to install, easy for consumers to use and that provides real savings on their heating bills. Some aspects of the software side of the business were initially outsourced but have subsequently been brought in-house,” he adds. “Our CTO, Andrew McMillan, is a former site reliability engineer with Google so we are really strong in that department. A bigger challenge was developing the hardware, and we are extremely pleased to have found a great local partner who has supported us every step of the way.”
Hynes and co-investor Clive Reynolds funded the venture with €360,000 of capital in May 2015, which leveraged €250,000 from Enterprise Ireland. Startup losses to end 2015 amounted to €186,000. Since then, Hynes says that Hub Controls has received funding from VC fund SmartInvest and angel investors. “We are in the process of raising a further €1.7m,” he adds.
To date Hub Controller, which costs €249, has around 500 installs in Ireland and the firm has found distributors in the UK and America. “We had to make a few component changes to the device in order for it to be compatible with the US market – it needs to work with air conditioning units for example. We will be ready to launch there in partnership with Aris Energy before the heating season kicks off in September.
Building The Team
“We have launched in several Woodies stores, as part of their new smart home range. Regarding marketing, a lot of our focus has been on below the line targeting of heating installers, trade merchants and distributors.”
This remarkable entrepreneur says that he has had to overcome countless challenges to get this far. “These range from product development to developing a world-class team. It is inevitable that you are going to encounter issues along the way and it’s important to not let it get you down. And when recruiting, the aim is always to hire people who are smarter than you!”