Startup of the Month

Startup of the Month: LifeWhere

LifeWhere is transforming the home service provider market by introducing predictive analytics for home utilities.

The breakthrough LifePulse technology attaches to machines in the home, constantly monitoring utility health.  Through applications and cloud analytics, service providers are alerted to a problem before it happens.

Homeowners have a home health dashboard, efficiency advice and warning system to schedule repairs before problems arise.

Proactive monitoring allows the service provider to reach out – multiplying customer conversations, increasing subscription contracts and reducing callbacks.

Q: Tell us more about LifeWhere and where the inspiration came from.

A: LifeWhere helps monitor home utilities and appliances, looking for early signs of failures, to help homeowners get ahead of expensive repairs (and avoid them when possible). We sell through HVAC services companies, home IoT companies and home warranty companies. Before starting LifeWhere I ran part of the analytics business for GE. We helped industrial partners monitor assets like turbines and jet engines. While doing this, I traveled a lot and it seemed like every time I was away something went wrong at home. From an AC failure, to a sump pump failure that lead to a flooded basement, I kept having issues. It hit me that if I could monitor homes like I did turbines, I could help people avoid the expensive repairs I was now faced with. So I partnered with the owners of GrayMatter Systems, a local software services company in Pittsburgh, to solve this problem. GrayMatter was my largest partner while at GE so they were a logical fit. We started on this 2 years ago and are now gaining traction in the market.

Q: What made it possible for your company to start?

A: LifeWhere was able to leverage a lot of the progress that industrial giants, like GE, made in the predictive analytics and machine learning space. The real key though was getting an IoT device (the device that captures the data from the equipment and sends it to the cloud so we can process it) to the right price point. We worked for 18 months on the design and cost structure so that we could create a device that made sense (cost wise) in the home. In the industrial sector, companies spent thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars on industrial IoT devices. In the home, we had to target a price around $50 and at scale at $25 so it was cost effective enough to add in the home. I’m happy to say we are just about there.

Q: Who can benefit from LifeWhere? What are these benefits? (homeowners, businesses, etc?)

A: We offer a lot of value to home owner, brining them visibility into the condition of equipment in their homes, that they often know very little about. A new furnace and air condition can cost $12,000. Most people don’t have that much money lying around for an emergency. LifeWhere shows them when they should get maintenance and repairs so they can avoid having to replace their equipment. We sell though to service companies and IoT company. There we create additional value. Because they can see what is going on in your home, they can plan better, repair faster, and utilize their teams better. All of this improves their profitability while allowing them to provide better service. A win-win. The IoT companies also like LifeWhere because it gives them a chance to help customers, who have problems, find solutions. That entitles them to a ‘connection’ fee for connecting the problem (the issue in your house) with the solution (a local service company) much like Google connects people who are searching for things with people who are selling them.

Q: How does LifeWhere use technology to communicate with customers?

A: Our solution leverages an IoT device that captures data at high speed from your equipment and sends it to the cloud, where LifeWhere analyzes the data, looking for early signs of equipment failure. When we see problems, the system sends alerts to our customers (the HVAC services company or the IoT company), who can further analyze the problems and work with the home owner on a solution. We also have a mobile app where the homeowner can see all the alerts. This creates market transparency, i.e. the homeowners can see the intermittent issues as well as the failures. This helps create trust between our customer and the homeowner because it takes the uncertainty out of the conversation.

Q: Why Pittsburgh?

A: Pittsburgh is home to GrayMatter. We started LifeWhere as part of GrayMatter and spun it out as a startup once we realized that it could grow faster if we raised external capital. Pittsburgh is also a great place to start an IoT company. With all the colleges and universities, we can draw on a lot of talent from electrical engineers, to software developers to data scientists.

Q: What’s next for LifeWhere?

A: We are about to launch our 2.0 design that will make it easier to install our IoT device (called a LifePulse) and to attach it to more types of equipment. We started with heating and cooling systems, but the new device will help us on sump pumps, hot water tanks, pool equipment, jacuzzies, and major appliances like refrigerators, freezers and washer/driers. The new device can also be used in commercial building and monitor heating, cooling and commercial grade refrigeration.

Q: What suggestions or advice might you have for other startups and entrepreneurs beginning in Pittsburgh?

A: Pittsburgh is great place to start a business. I would recommend that they plug in to the local universities the way we did. We sponsor projects with CMU that allowed us to work with graduate students and undergrads on product design and usability. We also sponsored work with the Katz Business School at Pitt, where we worked with MBA students to do market segmentation and analysis. LifeWhere was also able to hire young talented graduates from RMU (data scientists) and to leverage the CMU network (one of our founders was from CMU). Pittsburgh has a vibrant startup community with firms like Innovation Works, PGH Labs, and URA.org, all designed to help local startups gain traction and growth.