Our start-up of the week is HUB Controls, creator of what it claims to be a first-of-its-kind household bills controller and the only smart thermostat that shows customers how much they are spending.
“In a nutshell, HUB Controls is about giving consumers back control of their bills,” explained Oliver Hynes, founder and CEO of HUB Controls. “We’ve developed the world’s first smart thermostat that allows consumers to monitor their energy consumption and actual spend in real time.
“With the HUB (Household Utility Bill) Controller, you will be able to control the heating in your home from anywhere through your smartphone, tablet or laptop. You can schedule the heating on and off, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but we’re the only smart thermostat in the market that gives you this control.
‘What sets our smart thermostat apart from our competitors is that we have worldwide pending patents on our ‘two-wire’ installation system and our ‘cost control’ software’
– OLIVER HYNES, HUB CONTROLS
“The HUB Controller will learn your schedule and optimise your savings to your liking. Over time, it will be able to control all the utility bills in your home, and it is the only learning smart thermostat with this function,” according to Hynes.
Hynes pointed out that the smart thermostat market is a part of the rapidly-growing internet of things/smart homes market.
“It’s regarded as the ‘next big thing’ by many and all the big players are already involved; Google, Amazon, Samsung etc.
“Our big competitor in the market is Nest, which was bought by Google in 2014 for $3.2bn to spearhead its smart homes division.”
‘Our goal for the future is to develop the smart home that will be smart enough to manage its own bills’
– OLIVER HYNES, HUB CONTROLS
According to Navigant, the smart thermostat market is set to reach $4.4bn by 2025.
“Our target market is twofold: consumers and trade,” said Hynes.
“Consumers have no idea how their bi-monthly utility bills are composed. They want to know how much they are spending day-to-day and why. Our product is the only smart thermostat that has this feature.
“Our team has over more than years’ experience working in the heating industry. So we have well-established trade connections, such as Wickes, offering greater margins over our competitors. The HUB Controller is also the only smart thermostat in the world that can be fitted into any heating system in five minutes, without requiring any additional wires. This means a higher turnover of trade stock and an increase in installer efficiency.”
CEO and founder Hynes has worked extensively in the heating industry throughout Europe for the past 20 years., having successfully launched heating products and businesses in numerous areas of Europe for Quinn, Barlow, Irsap and Delonghi.
“I still retain high-level contacts in various key channels in the sector. In 2011, I chose to study software development so that I would be in a position to launch the HUB.”
Chairman Alan Costello specialises in advising start-ups on strategy and funding, having launched a successful consultancy company 10 years ago.
David McKeown, head of trade sales and marketing, is a former sales and marketing manager for Henkel
Graham Merriman, head of consumer sales and marketing, is a former online global sales director with Philips.
Kim Mackenzie-Doyle, chief design officer, was a Red Dot Design Award winner for 2013 and is current president-elect for the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI).
“What sets our smart thermostat apart from our competitors is that we have worldwide pending patents on our ‘two-wire’ installation system and our ‘cost control’ software, which shows consumers their energy spend/consumption in real time.
“Many devices are display-only, or display cost with no control, many others are doing functional control with no cost display or control, but the HUB Controller will be first to do both cost and functional control. The consumer will be able to see how much money they’re spending on energy in real time and set daily, weekly or monthly budgets. No other thermostat in the market offers this functionality.
“No other electronic heating/cooling control device is capable of function without power wires attached. In simple terms, the HUB Controller will be the first device that can simply replace a mechanical thermostat.
“The HUB Controller can be fitted into any heating system in five minutes without requiring any additional wires, thanks to our Power Supply Unit,” Hynes said.
“Our goal for the future is to develop the smart home that will be smart enough to manage its own bills. We’re developing software updates that will allow consumers to manage all their utility bills (electricity, hot water, air conditioning and phone).
“Essentially, the HUB Controller will ultimately control all your bills.”
The company has already achieved pre-sales of 3,260 units, equal in revenue terms to €837,000, ahead of its soft launch this month.
“This is higher presales than Tado, the leading smart thermostat in the European market. As well as our soft launch, we’re also in the later stage of talks with a number of VCs about Series A investment.
Lessons on product development
Hynes said that when you are developing a product with as many components as the HUB Controller (software, hardware, patents) there are countless challenges to contend with.
“We’re going to be competing with Nest, which has invested millions in development and Tado, which is one of the best-funded IoT start-ups in the world. And, until we get further investment, we’re going to be going up against them on a shoestring budget.”
‘You’re going to encounter a number of unexpected issues and you can’t let it get you down. You also need to surround yourself with a great team. Always aim to hire people smarter than you’
– OLIVER HYNES, HUB CONTROLS
Hynes pointed out that Enterprise Ireland is a great resource for start-ups in Ireland. “They have been a massive help to us and will continue to be so.
“Having said that, the start-up scene in Ireland is still behind Europe and the US in terms of funding.
“A lot of start-ups in Ireland are developing software products and not focusing on hardware. There haven’t been any great hardware developments in the last few years, it’s all been service apps, and this is what VCs are backing. “
His advice for tech self-starters is that there is always going to be setbacks along the way.
“You’re going to encounter a number of unexpected issues and you can’t let it get you down.
“You also need to surround yourself with a great team. Always aim to hire people smarter than you.”