Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with founder Darryl Smith from Redshift Wireless.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.
Redshift Wireless controls split system air conditioners in businesses and schools over the web, in order to help them save money. The technology works with almost any A/C unit, and allows managers to have central control whilst giving workers nearby control within set limits. Access to the A/C is through an app-like web front end, although we are working on a version where a normal remote control is still used.
We maintain a database of IR commands and run the system as a service making things easy to install. Our custom hardware connects to the Internet via WiFi sending IR commands on demand.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
The business has to this point operated on a shoestring, relying on a small injection of money from my father, and relying on outsourcing as much work as possible on Freelancer.com. Along with my initial part-time consulting engineering income, this has provided enough funds to release the product to market, at least with limited direct sales.
Our aim is to sell only through authorised trade reseller installers, staying away from the retail market. Doing this, we hope to be able to expand our sales organically, and to use past sales to fund further production. Thankfully we are able to ramp up production fairly quickly if needed, so we do not need to keep too much excess stock on the shelves.
Staying with a product that gets professionally installed significantly reduces support cost, and staying away from the home market allows the fixed installation cost of visiting sites to be amortised across many units.
How do your differentiate your business from your competitors?
Thankfully, there are not too many people in this business at the moment. Google Nest is about, but it cannot control split system devices. Manufacturers are starting to give the option for Wi-Fi control on some of their models, but this does not permit control of the vast array of air conditioners that are already installed. We are also brand agnostic, allowing cloud control of LG and Daikin air conditioners from the same user interface with ease.
We are also differentiating ourselves by concentrating on the features that managers can use to reduce energy consumption rather than purely being able to control the devices over the Internet. We promote features like temperature limits and the ability to turn large numbers of units all off at the same time.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
The big one is email. I use Outlook on the Mac and Mail on the iPad/iPhone, and could not live without them. I have been using eMail since 1990, and BBS systems before then, so I have spent most of my life online. I have most of my email back to 1990 available in Exchange, allowing me to quickly search for past jobs or people I come across. Email for me is a combined diary, communication tool, document management system, contact management system, calendar and word processor. To be honest, I spend most of my life in Outlook.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
I was once given the following advice: "Manage cash flow daily." The person who told me this pointed out that it does not mean that I should log into the accounting package and bank account daily, but I should have an idea of how much money is coming in and going out.
I have heard so many stories about how businesses have failed or almost failed because an employee either did not send invoices out or did not deposit cheques or something similar. In the last month, I even found this myself where a client who was very good with payment was about six months behind paying their bills, and I did not realise. I must say, once they realised, they paid very quickly, and I appreciated the lump sum!
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