This is a follow up story for Turn Touch. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi, I’m Samuel Clay and I designed and built Turn Touch. Turn Touch is a wooden smart home remote. Basically Alexa without the voice. These remotes look stylish and are unique in the world of connected home automation.
These remotes have four buttons because that’s enough to control dozens of devices, lights, switches, and playlists. A Turn Touch pedestal allows you to mount the remote on a wall or a table, with a magnetic grasp that seamlessly holds your remote in place.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
I’ve been running Turn Touch for four years now and after the initial Kickstarter, I managed to build 2,000 devices and have sold roughly 75% of them. Eventually, I plan to design a plastic version for half the price (wood is $39, and plastic will be $19), but there are so many priorities in my life, and aggregating home automation feels like a solved problem.
Email marketing is a great channel but without spending more time building new tech, it’s hard to clean out inventory supply.
I haven’t been actively marketing Turn Touch apart from announcing new features over the mailing list and periodically running 25% off sales. Word of mouth has continued to sell a steady stream of a few dozen remotes a month. Eventually, I’m going to have to build more but by then I’ll have a plastic version that doesn’t involve as much labor as the wood.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
When thinking about the next year in terms of how I’m going to update the remote to last another 5 years, I’m thinking a few things need to happen.
For one, the enclosure needs an update to better address how the remote is used. Often when I ask users how they’re doing with their remotes, they’ll say that they are the only ones who use it like nobody else in the family knows what the buttons do. Sometimes it’s shared but often it’s unknown. It would be nice to solve that problem although I haven’t figured out how. Whether that’s little embedded screens or a print out that makes it easy to annotate the remote, at least for people unfamiliar with it.
Next, I’d like to upgrade to Bluetooth 5, including the ability to use Bluetooth Mesh when communicating back to a central. Bluetooth Mesh would allow a chain of remotes to work, instead of having the central computer or iPhone/iPad be within spitting distance. Additionally, Bluetooth 5 has a longer range, almost doubling how far the remote can work. This comes at the expense of bandwidth, but a Turn Touch sends 2 bytes of data with every button press.
Because the remote is composed of several pieces held together by magnets, it's easy for somebody to swap out the circuit board. I’m thinking about building a new, more advanced board that has an accelerometer on it that allows you to hold a button and then move the remote for a more interactive experience. Would be handy for choosing colors on lights, as well as scrubbing videos.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Energy and Civilization by Vaclav Smil. Recommended by Bill Gates, this book walks through history from the perspective of energy use, methods of generation, and ultimately what energy buys a culture.
Smil paints a scene where mechanical advantage grows superlinearly, and that brings us to home automation hardware that lets somebody click a button to control power, and uses of power, of the many devices in their home. It’s a natural extension of our power as inventors, and as technology commoditizes, more people around the world can enjoy the power of embedded computers.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Don’t ask me, I’m struggling to grow my own business. Email marketing is a great channel but without spending more time building new tech, it’s hard to clean out inventory supply. I could work more on the software and widen my targetable market, but that’s slow going and risky.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I could always use help, whether it’s design, engineering, or marketing. If you want to take on a part-time project, I’m willing to pay. Email me at [email protected]. It’s a great project and could use the love and I’m more than happy to help make that happen.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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