Being a startup in the smart home industry can be tough. Not only is there lots of competition, but usually you have to spend lots of time and money educating the consumer about what your product does.
Smart home gear tailored towards home security has it a little easier, since most consumers understand that security keeps bad guys away. But when your product is a sub-$100 device with no 24/7 monitoring like the big boys, you then have to spend much of your time creating a compelling message that your low-cost gear can do the job.
This was the challenge faced by Korner, a Seattle startup that makes a patented, ultra-low-cost security sensor. The device, which comes in packs of three for $98, can be stuck on any window or door and sounds an alarm when it senses movement. This sounds great but, if you’re like me, you wonder if putting your safety and security in the hands of such a low cost system is a good idea.
What this usually means for a startup like Korner is that they have to work really hard telling prospective buyers that their product really does work. But as the old adage goes, showing is better than telling, and so when Korner’s security sensor stopped a burglar and the incident was caught on tape – a tape which eventually made it to the local 5 o’clock news – the company knew that they were lucky enough to now have something most startups only can dream of: market validation in the form of a news story.
According to Korner’s CEO Steve Hollis, once the story of the foiled robbery hit the news, buyers flooded Amazon and soon the site had sold out of Korner sensors. And while Korner was rushing to get Amazon more inventory, the folks behind Shark Tank called Hollis and said they’d heard about the story and discussed having Korner on the show.
Stepping back, this is a win not only for Korner, but for the DIY smart home industry, which has had to prove itself in the eyes of doubtful incumbents. Before industry giant ADT had decided to dip their toe in the DIY waters with their own platform, they launched an ad campaign last year to beat back the flood of self-installable home security devices coming to market with the message that these newer smart home-centric security products weren’t a match for their monitored solutions.
And now? Less than a a year later, ADT, like the rest of the industry, is coming around on DIY smart security. In their recent press announcement about their pending acquisition, ADT highlighted Canopy, their platform for self-installable, low-cost smart security devices. Who knows, maybe they’ve been watching the news.
So what lessons can other smart home startups glean from all this? Here are a few to start: Show don’t tell. Sometimes luck is just as good as hard work. And finally, see if you can get your product on the local news.