Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Nate Clark, founder of Konnected. Three years ago, I was faced with a challenge: I had a wired home security system but no way to monitor my home on my terms, from my own devices, when I was away. I developed what eventually became Konnected to provide a smart upgrade to my security system, using the existing wiring and sensors paired with some open-source software so that I can monitor my home right from my phone.
Using GitHub and tapping into resources from my work as an engineer, I was able to further develop Konnected.
As the project gained popularity on GitHub, people began reaching out to me to build units for them. It quickly became clear there was a market need for a solution like Konnected for consumers wanting to breathe new, smart, life into their wired home security systems. Today, we are shipping approximately 9,000 orders per year, bringing in an estimated $1,000,000 in sales, and with the increasing demand, we’re able to further develop and expand our line.
What is your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I strongly believe in open systems developed with service providers that offer the freedom of choice for consumers. I am very much an ‘accidental founder’ in the sense that when I first developed Konnected, I was just trying to solve an issue with my traditional home security system and transition it to a smart system.
As I was preparing to go on a family vacation, I learned of a few neighbors reporting break-ins, which prompted my concerns about not being able to fully monitor my home’s security remotely.
During my trip, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a way for me to connect the sensors that I had in my home to a SmartThings device so that I could keep track of my home while I was gone. This put the wheels in motion for a new software project for me.
My first course of action was to tap into open source communities to explore resources and gain insight into what was needed to facilitate the functionality for which I was looking. When I created the first open-sourced version and put it on GitHub, word-of-mouth propelled the project forward, and people began asking me to create one for them. I wasn’t the only one that had this home security need, and if I wanted to make my invention easily accessible to all, I had to create a physical product that people can install themselves.
And because of the open-source culture, the Konnected community organically started growing, becoming more involved and interested. They started sharing feedback and new ideas that helped me develop this product into something that helps homeowners take back control of their home security and smart home automation.
User communication proved to be the most valuable asset because it enabled us to develop a lasting relationship beginning from purchase through installation and daily use of Konnected.
Wireless smart home security systems require consumers to purchase costly additional accessories and sensors that largely rely on battery power that will fail if not consistently replaced. However, millions of homes are already pre-wired and powered with similar contact sensors yet don’t seamlessly blend in with the smart home technology so many of us enjoy today.
Most homeowners simply stopped using their wired systems due to expensive monitoring fees. With Konnected they can be “recycled” into smart security The system through simple self-installation, without having to add a host of new equipment or spend on costly renovations. Konnected makes pre-wired systems useful again, without additional monthly fees, interacts with, and gives you control of your home’s security which you can command right from your phone.
Konnected is unlike anything that I have developed in the past. With my background in software development, technology, and a passion for smart automation, Konnected allowed me to marry everything together and present one product that integrates home security into smart home applications and gives consumers the ability to monitor their safety from their smartphones.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
To bring my ideas into reality for Konnected, I used my software development background to write an inexpensive IoT development module program that would integrate with SmartThings. For there, I focused on refining and simplifying the experience to make it easy enough for the average homeowner to understand and install on their own.
I found some help on the software and hardware engineering side through my early user digital community. It was rewarding to work with other people who were equally as passionate about what we were building.
I teamed up with an electrical engineer who introduced me to a manufacturer. I leveraged their guidance and support to develop prototypes for Konnected. Through connections like these, I became immersed in new and helpful knowledge about manufacturing, electrical engineering, and the process of bringing a physical product to market.
Thanks to the enthusiasm of our early supporters and our Konnected Users Group on Facebook, my team and I were able to launch the first generation of Konnected on Kickstarter and successfully ship! The Konnected Users Facebook Group has been a huge help when it comes to sharing ideas, challenges, and keeping general communications flowing with our passionate fanbase. It’s been thrilling for me to see how the community has grown and to learn from the projects our customers are doing.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since our launch, there have been a few key drivers to grow the Konnected family of Users. The most important being user communication, nurturing the word-of-mouth. The recognition we were receiving and emphasizing the enthusiasm of early adopters.
User communication proved to be the most valuable asset because it enabled us to develop a lasting relationship beginning from purchase through installation and daily use of Konnected. Our customers don’t see us as some faceless company that just wants to make a money grab and run, but more as a network of enthusiasts that want to help protect and automate their most valuable asset: their home.
Because of this, when monitoring smart home security threads on Reddit and Facebook Groups, you will find comments enthusiastically recommending Konnected. Our community is as passionate about the product as I am!
YouTube has also proved to be a huge win for us. We realized that a visual demonstration component to Konnected’s setup is as crucial as a written one. Video can guide consumers, step-by-step, through the ease of set-up and product use.
Allowing the customers to see the simplicity of the installation process helps remove concerns over the DIY aspect of Konnected’s set-up. I always opt to be the one creating the videos to further increase the interactions between me and the Konnected users since, at this point, I do feel as though we have created a personal connection.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are very excited not only about the rollout of our second-generation hardware and V2 boards, but also the long-awaited Pro Board that features 12 zone connections in one device, with the possibility of adding more zones if needed.
From the beginning, we have always taken all the feedback we’ve received from our users to enhance our product. So, we are very excited to show them what we have all created together. We’re also excited for the release of a few key platform integrations that we believe will continue to advance our offerings. We are focused on growing our market share with the new products and capabilities that we are in the early stages of launching.
In 2021, we aim to implement a new premium service that will give customers new capabilities and add-ons for their Konnected unit to meet and expand their smart security needs.
Soon, we are expanding to create a network for builders and installers, creating additional platforms and sales channels to give users extended options for installation, features, and capabilities.
Finally, with social media, we love our Facebook, Reddit, SmartThings, Home Assistant, and Hubitat communities! They’re vital to maintaining the same level of open communication that has always influenced our product development. We relish in seeing how Konnected is being implemented and the stories of use cases that we didn’t even think of! The creativity and industriousness of these communities are always inspiring and we don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Count on every project taking longer than expected to come to fruition. There is no point in rushing a project because there will always be setbacks that are out of anyone’s control.
If you want to get an accurate projection on how long a big picture project will take, I have noticed that multiplying your original date by 3 will give you a more accurate timeline on when the larger initiative will be completed.
It is very inspiring to see people creating and integrating other platforms to make something different with a completely separate set of possibilities. I’m inspired by community engagement and the free sharing of ideas.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For external and customer-facing support, Freshworks’ platform has been an integral tool for providing instant feedback and giving the best customer experience as possible.
We also heavily leverage Amazon’s suite of tools to grow our business and find new customers. Shippo has been an excellent tool as well when it comes to shipping.
The one platform that has truly been extraordinary is Shopify. As an engine of e-commerce, it’s been tremendously helpful as it has evolved along with our business needs. Open-source principles have been pillars of my entire career so it’s truly thrilling that a powerful platform like Shopify can be augmented to fit a growing company like Konnected. It keeps everything streamlined and automated, which is essential for efficiency and quality service for a small team like ours.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My inspiration comes from the world around me. With every new product that comes to The market, I always think: how can we make it better, how can we make it cost-effective, and how can we make it more compatible with what we already have?
Much of my inspiration comes from the community of developers and engineers working to create innovations and ideas in open-source software.
When new programs are available for other people to see, I’m eager to dive in, explore, and see how I can use these new programs to enhance my products and productivity. Not only is this great for people who are just starting, but it gives everyone the chance to integrate the latest developments into their works, edit it, and make something greater.
It is very inspiring to see people creating and integrating other platforms to make something different with a completely separate set of possibilities. I’m inspired by community engagement and the free sharing of ideas. It’s humbling to be able to work side by side (online) with brilliant minds to solve complex software issues or design limitations, most of whom simply want to lend their help and know-how to build genuinely useful products.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My advice is to always work on something that makes you passionate. I believe that “if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.” Despite sounding like an adage, this is true. Your drive, motivation, time management, and work ethos are far greater and at times easier when you are doing something you truly enjoy doing.
Also, don’t be afraid to fail. Refraining from a well-calculated risk out of fear of failure can hold you back from valuable learning experiences. Take those opportunities as they come, but before you act on a leap of faith, come up with a game plan to help achieve the best possible results from your risk-taking.
And if it doesn’t work out the way you planned, be quick to pivot and use the experience to build your knowledge base. Don’t give up after one mistake. Thomas Edison made 1000 failed attempts at developing the light bulb, but if he gave up, we might still be in the dark.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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