#004 - Don't take Alexa through security, Bond Smart Home interview with CEO Zohar Shinar
One Hour Smart Home Podcast Episode #004: Hosted by-James Both including an interview with Zohar Shinar, CEO of Bond Home.
"Security really questioned Amazon Alexa, not the ceiling fan" - Zohar Shinar
"Voice tipped the scale for Home Automation" -Zohar Shinar
In this episode we are excited to have an amazing guest on the Podcast, the Inventor and CEO of Bond Smart Home, Zohar Shinar. Zohar talks about what inspired him to create the Bond Smart Home, electronic warfare and what happens when you take an Amazon Alexa through security. Zohar is a visionary in the field of home automation and customer service. He provides nuggets of wisdom for any entrepreneur, smart home company founder or someone looking to provide world class service to their customers. Zohar has grit, he trekked a ceiling fan across the country to get in front of the smart home sales team at Home Depot to demonstrate their product, and guess what that tactic worked. With Zohar’s background in electronic warfare he’s not just a one dimensional guy, there are things I know he can’t even talk about because they are issues of national security, he’s the real deal and the interview with him was a treat. So please enjoy the podcast, and if you want to by a Bond Smart Home controller and support Zohar your can get it on Amazon or you can learn more about Bond on their website at https://bondhome.io/
If you haven’t already heard about the Bond Smart Home controller it is one of the cutting edge devices in the smart home space that allows you to control your existing and new ceiling fans with voice. Yes, you heard that right not just new smart home fans but if you have an existing ceiling fan with a remote control you can get Bond Smart Home to provide smart voice control of your ceiling fan. The Bond Smart Home controller is currently available on Amazon, Home Depot & The Bond Smart Home Website. I have a Bond smart home controller in my home and after I was able to effortlessly connect it to my fan and control it with voice. I knew I had to get in touch with Bond and get them on the podcast. The greatest part about their product is that as time goes on they are providing additional software updates to enable additional smart home control features such as garage door control and smart window shade control.
What I like the most about the bond smart home product is the ease of set up, the simplicity of the user interface and the easy connection to Amazon Alexa for voice control. There are competing smart fan products on the market such as Haiku Fans but they cost over $600 just for the parts and that does not include the extra $200-$500 you will most likely pay for installation. With the bond smart home you can plug it in, program it and control your existing fan with no need for any wiring for under $100. There are other “name brand fan manufacturers” that advertise that they provide smart home control with their ceiling fans, but I’ve tested these options and found that they don’t work, or they have clunky app interfaces that don’t get updated leading to issues connecting with Amazon Alexa & Google Home. I’m happy to say I’ve had a Bond Smart Home in my house for over 3 months now without a single issue. I just say “Alexa Turn Off Dining Room Fan” and like magic the bond smart home controller works.
This Episode Features:
How to control your ceiling fan with voice using Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
Interview with Zohar Shinar - CEO and inventor of Bond Home
What is a Bond Smart Home controller and what can it do?
Manufacturing smart home devices in China.
How to provide world class customer service by getting your engineering team engaged with your support line.
How Amazon Alexa and voice control is changing the smart home industry.
The future of voice control within the smart home space.
Advice for starting a smart home company.
Staying lean as a startup.
Rapid smart home product development cycle, how to accelerate the smart home product design lifecycle.
How to launch a smart home product.
#004 - Don't take Alexa through security, Bond Smart Home interview with CEO Zohar Shinar
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What devices do you already have in your home from the Episode? More importantly, how do they make your life better?-Please let me know in the comments below.
Scroll below for links, show notes & full transcripts...
Links from the episode
Smart Devices Mentioned:
- Bond Smart Home on Amazon-Control Your Fan With Voice
- Amazon Alexa Dot-Lowest cost voice controller
- Amazon Alexa Spot-Has screen and my favorite echo device.
- Amazon Alexa Show-Has a large screen
- Amazon Echo-Medium sized echo, has the most finish choices
- Amazon Tap-Portable Amazon Echo
- Philips Hue Light Bulbs & Smart Bridge
- Nest Thermostat
- Honeywell Smart Thermostat
- Google Home
Devices Zohar Has In His Home:
- Bond Smart Home
- Amazon Alexa
- Philips Hue
- WeMo Smart Plugs
- Honeywell Thermostat
- Nest Thermostat
- Google Home
Other Related Show Links
Bond on Amazon.com
Bond on Homedepot.com
Show Notes (Time Stamped)
1:00 Guest - Zohar Shinar-CEO of Olibra Smart Home-They make the Bond Home device which can control ceiling fans and
1:30 -Zohar’s background is in electrical engineering, including RF chip design and electronic warfare.
1:40 Zohar realized that most remote controls for devices in the US market are RF controlled which meant that if they developed home automation product the could control these RF controlled smart home devices.
2:21: Why did you choose the name bond for your product?
2:52 They had a great industrial designer that designed the exterior of the product but choose bond because it “bonds” smart home devices together.
3:30 What does the Bond Smart Home device work?
4:15 The Bond smart home device can control existing RF (Radio Frequency Devices) and allow them to be connected to Alexa.
5:31 You can control your RF devices with Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Voice is the best user interface.
6:20 Did you design your device with voice from the beginning of the design phase?
6:30 The device evolved with the evolution smart home voice control.
8:00 The Bond home device can be used with existing ceiling fans that have a remote control. There is no wiring required. You can plug in the device and it just works.
9:00 Users forget they have a Bond because the voice user interface is so seamless.
9:22 Bond designed their own Alexa smart home skill but abandoned it because they realized that working with the Alexa Smart Home Skill would provide a better user experience because you could talk to the device directly rather than needing to invoke the device name. This is a really important insight if you are creating smart home devices.
10:55 What other devices is Bond Planning to connect to in the future.
11:20 A remote software update will provide additional functionality in the future including Garage Doors, Air Conditioners, AC units, and Window Shades
12:30 They are focused on controlling RF Devices, and connecting them with Home Automation.
13:00 Excited for motorized controlled shades, and garage door control. Future potential.
14:00 How was Olibria financed? They worked with a network of private investors, so they could focus growing the company.
15:48 What advice would you give a person starting a smart home company? Timing plays a major role, their focus is on staying lean.
17:07 Stay lean so you don’t need to a fire people.
18:02 What is your favorite smart home device?
He has a good mix, WeMO, Philips Hue, Honeywell Thermostat, Nest, Alexa & Google Home.
18:44 Kids love Alexa & Google Home. The devices do have issues with voice recognition of a baby’s voice.
19:19 Will voice home automation continue to grow? Yes, Zohar thinks that voice tipped the scale for home automation. In the context of home automation everyone talked about the home automation revolution 5 years ago but it did not happen. Now that voice has come along you have Amazon and Google tipping the scales with implementing voice control in homes. The cost has to automate your home with voice control has been drastically reduced.
20:45 The cost of home automation has greatly decreased.
21:40 What is Zohar doing in China? He is meeting the manufacturer in China. He considers his manufacturing team his partners.
22:23 How did Zohar find the smart home manufacturing partners? Zohar had relationships in China prior to starting Olibra and the Bond Home product.
23:00 The first 100 prototypes of the product were manufactured in China which helped the speed to market because they did not need to migrate the engineering to manufacturing.
24:00 Customer service is integrated into the product. They are talking to consumers on a daily basis. The have customer service 7 days a week.
25:00 Bond has extended customer service hours because they know most people are going to come home and install the device after work.
25:30 They also have a group of beta testers to test the product.
25:56 Having extended customer service hours is a great way.
27:00 Bond has chat included in the app. Customer service is being done by both customer service professionals but engineers and the C-suite team are also on the customer support line so that they can gather feedback and iterate to make the product better everyday.
27:50 They have a customer service engineering & customer service working together makes the best products.
29:15 Does Zohar speak Chinese? Zohar has an employee of Olibra who speaks English and Chinese. They have an employee on the manufacturing line that can help solve problems quickly with manufacturing partners.
31:11 What has been the most challenging day at bond?
31:31 The most challenging day for Bond was the decision the had to make on what to launch with. What features should they launch with? Eventually they went to market with just ceiling fans.
32:31 They made the decision to start with just a single device and single product, and found that they could make a lot of improvements, with just the first product launch to provide the best experience for customers.
33:03 I’ve seen the Bond on Home Depot & Amazon how do you create relationships with suppliers?
33:48 They worked with Home Depot & Lowes to test the initial product. The first demo’s they traveled to showcase the product even before the company was incorporated.
35:00 Zohar traveled around the country with a ceiling fan in a suit cast to demonstrate the the Bond Smart Home product.
35:30 TSA security questioned Amazon Alexa rather than a suitcase with a ceiling fan in it.
36:47 Where is the Bond Smart Home product available.
37:00 They launched with two partners. The Bond Smart Home device was initially available at Amazon & Home Depot. The Bond Smart Home controller distribution is expanding and the product will be available on Walmart.com & Lowes.
37:36 The Bond Smart home device will also be featured on HSN.
38:00 How do you celebrate a success? The team is a very strong and talented group of people that is doing great work.
39:00 To Celebrate successes Bond Smart home goes bowling!
39:12 The party doesn’t start until the engineers get there.
39:00 What device or product under $200 has made the biggest impact in your life? An Espresso Machine.
40:06 Sign up for our email list or visit us at www.onehoursmarthome.com
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Transcript: #004 - Don't take Alexa through security, Bond Smart Home interview with CEO Zohar Shinar
July 17th, 2018
Hosted By: James Both
Interview with Zohar Shinar
“Remember this is mid-2016. So security really questioned Amazon Alexa not the ceiling fan.”
This is episode number four. With Bond, not James Bond. Bond smart home. Control your ceiling fan with voice and don't bring Amazon Alexa through security.
Welcome to the one hour smart home podcast. Helping you make your life better using automation and technology with your host James Bow.
James: Hello and welcome this is your host James Both. With the www.onehoursmarthome.com. Bringing you everything you need to know to automate your home, your life as well as smart home product reviews, the latest smart home industry news and exclusive interviews with smart home industry experts and smart home company founders. Ladies and gentlemen welcome and thank you for being here. We are happy to have one of the guests that I am very impressed with their product and use personally in my home, Zohar Shanaar. He is the CEO and founder of bond home. Zohar how are you.
Zohar: I'm great sitting here in China in Shenzhen and chatting with you.
James: Well thank you for calling in to us all the way from China appreciate it very much. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what you do? So you're currently the CEO of Libra. But what's your background? How did you get into this?
Zohar: So I'm an electrical engineer and I spent a few years in RF and microwave design and mainly for electronic warfare application and I bumped into something that I perceived as a need in home automation industry realizing that a lot of remote controls especially in the US market are RF remote, radiofrequency remote and figured that's required a solution, a technical solution and that's how pretty much Olibra started.
James: That's really interesting I didn't realize you were an electronic warfare before you got in to the smart home space.
Zohar: I kind of brought electronic warfare in just a different scale. But yeah basically just the RF, the knowledge in RF engineering that's kind of like how I got into this.
James: So let me ask you with electronic warfare having been what you were doing prior is that why you chose the name Bond? Are you a fan of James Bond?
Zohar: So I thought about that and I think the name Bond chose us because really how it really rolled out is that we had a great industrial designer who designed the look of our product and her name is Inbal and she also took the liberty of offering names because we did not have a name and one of them was Bond and it just makes sense. Because we are connecting and bonding appliances, legacy appliances that do not have Wi-Fi connectivity to the smart home. Which is usually eventually connects to a Wi-Fi backbone in your home. So we said yeah it makes sense. We wanted a little bit more unique name to help with searches in Google. But you know bond was chosen before we did. So now we're competing for the same name.
James: So could you tell, I mean I obviously have this product my home, love it. I use it to control my smart fan. Can you tell me what the product does and just kind of explain it to our listeners. Kind of all the applications you have and then what you're looking to do in the future with this.
Zohar: Yeah so the way the bond works is by replicating the signals that the remote control generates. so for example we started our MVP, our Minimum Viable products was focused on ceiling fans and ceiling fans have I think 95 percent of the ceiling fans we've seen or even more are using, they're using RF remote controls and what the bond does, the bond listen to the RF signal that the remote control generates and if that remote was recorded previously by another user or configured in our database with the bond app we are populating all the functionality in the bond app for the user and when the user click on the button on the remote or provider control, the bond will generate the same signal. The same type of signal that they remote generate. So the ceiling fan, the device, the home appliance doesn't really care if the signal comes from the bond or from your remote control and acts accordingly. So the beauty about that is that it's not like some other solutions in the market today, like an on/off functionality. It gives you all the functionality you have with your device. The example of a ceiling fan, some remotes are just on-off, one, two, three speeds and light. Some of them have light dimming and reverse function and all of those capabilities or functionalities are available. Because for the bond it's just sending the right command in the right medium, the right RF frequency to your ceiling fan and the ceiling fan will respond.
James: So one thing that I really like about your product in particular is yes I can control it with my phone. But I am a huge fan of voice control and your product works with Amazon Alexa, is that correct?
Zohar: Yes it does and also Google home.
James: Yeah so that that is I think probably one of my favorite features, just about any device is being able to use your voice to control your home. Because I believe that that is the best user interface, right. Grandma understands how to turn on and off a light switch or on and off a fan with voice and she doesn't have to have any technical capability. So when you were designing the bond home, did you always have voice centric design in mind or how did you come about connecting it to Amazon Alexa and Google? Why did you do that?
Zohar: So it's a great question because when we started Amazon echo and Alexa and definitely in the middle of 2016 even less so with Google home there were less partners and less skills, the equivalent of an application developed by third parties. But somewhere early in the development process we were just focusing on providing a technical solution. A device that can record many different RF frequencies. Basically we do not know how you’re remote operates and we are not brand specific. So that was a technical challenge. Any type of remote control for ceiling fans not knowing which type of remote it is to be able to record it and replay the signal. As we were doing that we started to think about okay how the user experience will look like and yeah you could push some buttons on the app and that's great and you can do it outside of your home. But really when Amazon echo took off you know it was like a light bulb. we realized that yeah so you can just use voice and it changes the completely the way now that you're going to be interacting with your appliance and it's kind of you know to us it looked like magical. because it's not only that it's smart device, this ceiling fan that you are now controlling with your bond could be 15 years old and you are controlling it with voice. So that's kind of like the point of time we realized that that's really the use case for these controlling appliances.
James: So you just mentioned something that I think is really important for our listeners to hear. Fans can be 15 years old, as long as they have infrared or RF control your device will work with that. So if you've got a remote control, your device can retrofit to that and now you've got voice control of your fan. So it's a very easy upgrade to be able to control your voice with fan and that is what I believe is one of the things that make smart home automation so accessible. You guys have designed a product that you don't have to go do a whole bunch of wiring or anything like that. You plug this thing in and if you have an RF remote control fan, you can make it work. Is that how it works?
Zohar: That's definitely how it works and you know we got a lot of feedback from a lot of users reviewing our product and talking about the product and one of the things that one of our users said that you know it was you know I was happy to read that and realize that we did something good. Although he basically said I use my ceiling fan, I forgot that I have a bond. because he uses Alexa and but you know it means that we've delivered the ultimate user experience that we're not creating any more work or any more hassle for the user to use the end product. because we are bridging between the smart home and older appliances, the legacy appliances with remote controls and another thing that we've done to do that originally when we were thinking about Alexa and Alexa integration Google home, we designed our own skill, our own action. But as we start testing and working with beta testers, we realize that they have to say "Alexa tell bond home to do something" and that's not natural. You just want to say her name and turn on the ceiling fan. So we decided not to go to production with our custom scale and instead be part of Alex's smart home scale and by being part of that the smart home scale its virtual integration that you do not need to mention the name of the device. So you can just talk to your appliances, the device [10:11 inaudible].
James: Yeah when I set this thing up, I mean it was seamless. It took me a couple minutes and I was up online and like you said it was like magic. It was amazing how easy it is and I test all different types of smart home equipment. so out of the thousands of products I test, there are some duds and you spent 30 minutes on an app and you still don't get it connected and it's very frustrating. I didn't have that experience with your product at all and it is so refreshing when things just work and like you said somebody forgetting that they even have a bond, that's almost what you want for the user experience. Because it just works, you don't even realize it. So you started off with ceiling fans. I'm excited about a couple of the other items that you are going to bring control to in the future. mainly because I know how good the user interface is for what you guys are doing and I'd like to see that same UI and just same level of quality and control in some of these devices. Can you go through some of the other devices you guys are planning to connect in the future?
Zohar: Yes so our product development roadmap is based on the, I would say assumption that we will go product category by product category perfecting the experience for the user and the reason I'm saying it is because the hardware that our users and our customers are buying right now can already control many more appliances, such as shades. But the software is not is not supporting that yet. so there's no need to replace the hardware and it's going to be a remote software update and for example appliances or devices that they want to be able to control is motorized shades, garage doors and ACS and TVs. now there's one thing I would like to say about ACS and TVs that those are usually I would say overwhelming majority of them are IR control, infrared control. That means that the bond has to be in line of sight of the device and if you have multiple AC units you're going to have to be in different rooms, you might have to purchase multiple bonds. So we're really focusing in the near future on devices that are RF controlled for two reasons. One, the use case is better. Because one bond can be centrally located in the home and does not have to be at the same room as the device. Therefore it can control multiple shades and multiple ceiling fans from a single location and the other reason is that we're pretty much the only device that can do that.IR blasters you know there's many of them. So we want to really focus on what makes us unique and that we can do to solve an existing problem in the market.
James: Well I can tell you I am personally very excited about your motorized shade control as well as the garage door control. There are options out there already that control these things. But in testing those options there's two parts to it. One is there's proprietary systems that are very expensive for the motorized shades. Everybody wants them, but they're just inaccessible. Because we're talking about shades, the outfit of a house. you're anywhere from ten to twenty thousand dollars and with the control system that you guys are making, it allows people to bring in third-party manufacturers or manufacturers that have RF control but they don't have an app database kind of already created. So I think that's great, because it's going to make the cost of motorizing those shades a lot cheaper and it's going to open up the field of players compared to there's a couple people that have a dominant foothold and now the same thing is true for garage doors. I've tested a lot of these garage doors. I've been locked inside of garages testing all this stuff because the remote control didn't work. I think that's going to be a very interesting development for you guys and wish you luck on that. When you started Olibra how did you finance it? How did you go about getting this thing started?
Zohar: So that's a very good question and you know something that we are constantly dealing with as a start-up because as a hardware startup raising money is something that's constantly looming out there, especially when you grow and your working capital needs are growing as well. We decided to work with in network of private investors and that made the original investment much more much faster and productive. Save us a lot of time, basically shopping around and then and selling our company and allow us to focus on developing the product.
James: Now in terms of the finance, so you went with the private side. Do you guys go through a seed round and then a subsequent Series A or B or are the cash flows from what you're producing now kind of sustaining the company?
Zohar: We're basically very close to that point where the company is self-sufficient. But really what determines that is our strategy for the future and the new products that we are working on and they might have capital requirement that will require us to go out and raise more money. So basically we raised seed and that took us to where we are today.
James: And if you are looking to be an entrepreneur in the smart home space, is there a piece of advice that you would give somebody starting up a smart home company? Obviously you had a very good technical background in electrical engineering and electronic warfare. But what kind of piece of advice would you give somebody trying to get in to the smart home space.
Zohar: You know one thing about advice it's very subjective. Because everybody have different experiences and also timing plays a major role and different skill set. But I can tell you what we were and still focusing on and I don't think it applies only to smart home but just for a startup company. Regardless of you know what we're doing and how successful we are, we just stay lean and in every aspect. like the way we develop the product and our expenses, in our operations, in our marketing just trying to stay very very lean to be able to get as much I would say oxygen and time in the market to learn and respond and potentially be successful and reap the benefit of that.
James: That's very interesting that you say that. Because so many entrepreneurs I talked to you know I've asked them the question what is the worst day that you've had in the timeframe is starting this company and typically the response is you know a day that the product had issues and the network went down or something of that. But one of the biggest responses that I get is when I had to fire people or when I had to downsize. So you know a lot of companies end up scaling up and they become a little bit bloated, they're not as lean and then they end up downsizing and that emotionally I think affects a lot of entrepreneurs. Because not everybody has fired 20 or 30 people all at once. So it's very interesting that you say the stay lean thing. I think that is a great piece of advice for any founder regardless of smart home technology to take away and definitely something that I hear echoed among the smart home founders and entrepreneurs that I talk with. As far as smart home obviously you developed a product around the smart home. What is your favorite smart home device or what are some of the smart home devices that you have in your house?
Zohar: So I have a good mix. Also because of the nature of our product we're aiming at the consumer market and you know we're not like a full home automation solution. We’re component for the home automation in the smart home. so I have veto, I have Philips hue, I have Honeywell thermostat, nest and of course I have an Alexa and Google home that we're constantly talking to now you know and I have young kids at home. So it's very funny to hear them talking to them. I can tell you that both of them fail in voice recognition of the baby trying to talk. So they're not as intelligent just yet. I can understand what she's saying, they don't. So there's still a long way in voice recognition.
James: That's interesting that you say that. We’ve been following the voice space for a long time and you know we've covered some of those topics. But where do you think the future of the voice space is going. Kind of what are your projections? Is this market going to continue to grow?
Zohar: Yeah definitely I think that voice tip the scale for home automation. You know voice in general it's going to change a lot of things. But in the context of smart home and home automation I think everybody talked about the home automation revolution about four or five years ago. There were a lot of startups and a lot of money went into those startups whether they were hardware software and I think that everybody waited for the home motivation to really take on shape in a big way and to be visible in the mass market and it did not happen. But I think now that voice came alone that changes everything. Because you have the two of the big four. you have Amazon and Google home who are pouring resources and money to make sure that as many homes all over the world will have voice control and once you have voice control you can do a lot of things and suddenly home automation becomes much more attractive and the use case for home automation becomes more attractive, more usable and also very affordable. If you think about ten years ago, I'm not even talking about the voice control which was basically non-existent in that context. but if you wanted to automate your home in different ways, lighting and maybe a door and central control not even voice, how much it would cost you versus how much it's going to cost you today and part of that it's not only voice. It’s the fact that those two players are going after this market in a big way.
James: So I completely agree with you and I think the explosion of smart home with voice has been incredible. I've been to some of the Amazon Alexa developer seminars to see the kind of people there and what's being created every day is truly amazing and it's going to be interesting this next ten years to see the transformation. Because like you said ten years ago or five years ago, it was getting hyped up. But nobody kind of was able to put the pieces together and it's like right now we're in a time frame where all the pieces are coming together. Like with your product being able to start connecting fans that are legacy products and now you've got the integration with voice which makes everything much easier. So I want to talk a little bit right now, you're calling me from China. Thank you for being on the line. What are you doing in China right now?
Zohar: I am visiting our suppliers in China. Meeting them face-to-face, going into the factory looking at our product is being manufactured, monitoring quality, discussing forecast with them. They are our suppliers, but we also work with them as partners and sharing information about our needs in our business and our plans I think will help us with our supply chain going forward.
James: So how did you meet these partners or how did you source them and can you just kind of walk us through your product development process, you created a prototype and then what happened?
Zohar: So I have experience in working in China prior to starting Olibra. That’s not the first business I started. So I have relationships in China prior to starting this business and so we got to our suppliers in China relatively early in the game. So before I just talk about the product development cycle from an engineering and marketing and customer service perspective, from a supplier or supply chain perspective we did not really have to go through the phase of manufacturing the product for example in the US and then slowly migrating it. Our first pre-production lot of 100 pieces came out of a production facility in China. So we kind of, we were able to skip that phase and go to market a little bit faster from that perspective, from a supply chain perspective. From a product development perspective what we're trying to do is kind of like in line when I say about being lean is also being lean in our kind of expectations and the features that we are developing. So even when we're looking at feature for customers we're thinking big. What this feature means in a big way to our product and integration with other product. But then breaking it down to sub features and really focusing in making progress on smaller tasks. But always what we're doing is in the context of the consumer’s story, the user story. How it affects the user. Even we're developing internal tools to improve our internal development, which consumer doesn't really even see. That’s being done in the context of how's that for example will help us processing a customer service ticket. So at the end of the day it's about the user and then we take that through our engineering development process. We make sure that of course product is initiating the process and customer service is connected all alone from the planning phase until the pre-release we are making sure customer service is there. Because we're talking to consumers on a daily basis. We have customer service from the day we launched. Customer service is available from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight Eastern seven days a week. During the weekend we realize that our customer’s users will be installing those devices usually at the evening time, not when they're at work. They have to go back home and then unpack the device and set it up. So we're there to assist them and being able to be up-to-date about what's going on with the product and what's being developed is very important. So customer service is really part of the development process as well. Then we have a very enthusiastic group of beta testers that we can launch new features for them and they give us a true feedback. Sometimes you know we don't really realize that what we've done is not exactly what users want. But that allows us to get that before we're going to production.
James: You mentioned something about customer service and I think it's really interesting insight and I wish more companies did this. You said most people are going to come home and they're going to put the device on after work. So that's the reason that you have extended customer service hours. I cannot tell you how many different devices that I have tried to troubleshoot and you call the hotline and it's 6 or 7 p.m. and it's just a recording, "call us back tomorrow at 9 p.m. or 9 a.m. between 9 and 4" and that is one of the most frustrating things as a customer. You’ve gotten this new device, there may not be a ton of technical documentation on it on the internet. Because it's newer and you're trying to reach somebody and you can't reach them. So I think from a customer service perspective that is an amazing insight. It’s something that is really important and I wish more companies would do. Because people are coming home after work, they've had a long day. They don't want to mess with something that doesn't work and being able to connect with somebody on the phone to get answers to a problem in a solution I think is huge and really going to make people raving fans of any product where you do something like that.
Zohar: Yeah we have chat and emails built into our app. so you know somebody can always send us an email via email. but the idea is that they can chat with somebody live inside the app. they don't have to leave the app and get customer support and I can tell you this from my personal experience, you know when we first launched everybody are involved in customer service and by the way talking about the product development and our team everybody you know customer service is being done by customer service professionals that we're constantly training internally. But we're making sure that engineers and myself we are all spending a few hours a month doing customer service. At beginning it was much more than that. But now we are little bit more structured. But the idea is that the engineers never detach themselves from customers. When you talk to customer, it is different when customer service comes to you and say hey I have a customer that has this problem. When you talk to a person and he tells you about his problem and you go through trying to solve the problem, as an engineer you realize one, you know the extent of the issue. Two, what is the customer service agent on our end will need in order to solve this problem in the future if it's not solved for the next customer. So that has to do with developing tools and making sure that we can provide support for a customer. Because all that knowledge comes from engineering. So we're very strongly coupled into customer service.
James: Well anytime that you can talk about engineering let me just tell you it warms my heart. I am also an engineer by background and I think what you just said is something I also wish I would see with some of the other products we work with. because there are a lot of beautifully designed products and that product goes out to market, it works, somebody sells a million of them and then what ends up happening is I've seen it before where the engineering isn't quite right of the product and the next iteration doesn't take care of the engineering issues that are there. So having a mix of not only your customer service people, but the engineers to actually solve problems and make things better. I think that iterative engineering process is a beautiful thing that you can't go wrong with in the future and it is something I wish more people implemented. Because I know there are products out there right now that they just have customer service folks answering the phone and they're getting a hundred thousand calls about a particular product, but they're not solving the problem. Because the engineering team is on and off to another product rather than making sure that the iterations are perfect in getting better every time. So I think that is a beautiful process as well as just I love the engineer staying involved. Because when you see companies bringing solutions to market that are truly world-class, it's about a combination of what you've designed and listening to your customer’s feedback and that's really really important. So you are in China right now, you're partnering with your suppliers which I think is an amazing thing. You had relationships there, do you speak Chinese or do most of the people that you're working with speak English or do you have an interpreter when you go there?
Zohar: Excellent question. We did not dare starting this operation in China without an employee of Olibra in China that speak Chinese. We have Jacob who speaks Chinese and English and also involved in engineering. But we have our men on the ground. So when something goes on in the production line, somebody who can reprogram our programming feature is there. I think that's mandatory if you want to have smooth operation in China. Not because your suppliers are not good enough, it's just because you need somebody for your organization able to solve problems quickly. Still 12 hours difference and fifteen point five hour’s flight from New York to Hong Kong. So somebody there is a big deal for us.
James: No that's interesting. a lot of companies do it a lot of different ways and I think that's really interesting that you have an actual employer, representative of yours on the ground to help troubleshoot and problem-solve in real-time. Not everybody does that. But I think ultimately that probably saves you a lot of time and miscommunication I would imagine. What has been the most challenging day at bond?
Zohar: Good question. I think that the most challenging day for us was I don't know if it was a day that we had to reckon with something specific that happened. But it was the decision that we had to make about how we launch. We were getting to a point where we knew we have to get the product out there to put it in people's hands. Because we were inside an echo chamber making a lot of decisions and assumptions and about features that are needed and not needed and we had to make a decision. So this product is all about the promise of being able to connect everything that has a remote control and make everything smart. But then eventually we went to market with ceiling fans which is just one type of device and we grappled with this decision a long time on the marketing side and the product side how people would receive it and is anybody going to buy it because of that. Because there's this promise of more devices to be controlled and eventually we made a decision to go with a single product and add to it later. So since then we already added support for fireplaces and motorized shades will come right after that and I think that was a good decision. Because we've seen that even with a single device we had a lot of improvements to make and had we waited or went out to market with more devices, I think it would have been a grave mistake. Because we would have not been successful.
James: So you mentioned a little bit about product launch and marketing of the product. I've seen your devices on Amazon, Home Depot and several other retailers. How did you get those retailer relationships? I assume that you know Walmart.com and Home Depot weren't buying electronic warfare drones. So how did you create those relationships with those suppliers?
Zohar: So it was a shocking experience you know for our team. So when we started and we built a little demo we were about pretty much a two-man operation and believe it or not, I did not believe it. But we were able to demo the product inside Home Depot and Lowe's without any previous experience, relationship, contacts with these guys. They have people, very experienced professional and talented people that we now enjoy immensely working with that are listening and looking for new products and you would think that you know a giant like Home Depot is just stocking shelves and it's completely not the case. They have noticed the home automation, they're going after this market, and they realize that home automation is built on the giants like Google and Amazon. But a lot of third-party partners of those companies that integrate with those product and they need to give them a stage and they need to listen to them. So the first demos, we went there. We basically, we did not even had an incorporated company. we just went there to show them a concept and we traveled with the ceiling fan in the suitcase and they gave us a conference room and even I can tell you that in the first home depot demo we did not come with our own Wi-Fi router and they have a firewall on their Wi-Fi connection, so we were not able to demo. So they accepted us again. Which I think is amazing and just so I encourage anybody just to knock on their door, it opens up.
James: Wait so let me get this straight, you traveled around the country with a ceiling fan in your suitcase?
Zohar: I did travel around the country with the ceiling fan in the suitcase yes and yeah and the funny thing is that in security going on footage to make sure it's not kind of some kind of a weapon and that Alexa gave me more trouble than a demo board full of wires coming out of it and a ceiling fan in a suitcase.
James: That is amazing just the visual of you going through security with a ceiling fan in your suitcase and they're worried about the Amazon Alexa and then I assume you know hooking it up at Home Depot or wherever you were trying to demo this product. So that is commitment that is heart there. so it sounds like you are willing to get your hands dirty and do the work to make it happen if that means carrying a ceiling fan across the country to sell your product. I think that's very interesting as a founder. Some people step away from that. But I appreciate the fact that that shows commitment and I think that really just kind of personifies what you guys are about doing it right and making it happen for your customers and user experience. But that is a good one. I'm glad that we touch base on that. That is a true gem that I'm sure our listeners will love. So where is your product available? I've seen it on amazon.com, I've seen it on Home Depot. Can you give us a short list of some of the other retailers you work with?
Zohar: Yes well so again taking this lean approach we decided to launch with two partners so we can focus on them. So we decided instead of going to shallow and wide with a lot of partners, go deep with two and see what happens. so we focused on Amazon and Home Depot and now that was successful we are now expanding and in two weeks the product is going to be selling in Lowe's and we started selling in on Walmart.com about five weeks ago and there is a piece coming up on HSN of the bond and there is two other major retailers who are evaluating the product as we speak and that will give us a pretty good coverage.
James: So can listeners also get your product on your website and what is that website?
Zohar: The website is www.bondhome.io and they can get it on our website definitely.
James: All right well how do you guys when you've got a big success, how do you celebrate that success? Do you watch episodes of James Bond, a movie marathon or how do you celebrate and reward the employees in the team when you've got a big success like a launch of your product?
Zohar: That's a good question. Before I answer it I just want to say something about our team that we have a very strong and talented group of people that works very well together. Both in engineering and marketing customer service we have true professionals that are working in any one of those groups that allowing us to do what we're doing right now. So I'm very proud of the talent that we were able to bring into the company. Everybody have a sense of ownership and just doing great work and as for as celebration we're trying to be very diverse. But at the end of the day most of the company is a group of Engineers, so I don't know how exciting it's going to sound. But I can tell you that we went bowling once.
James: I will tell you that's great, that is classic. I was always told in college the party doesn't start till the engineers get there. Is that true?
Zohar: I don't think that’s accurate.
James: That’s great. We’ve got one more question for you here and then we're going to wrap this thing up. What device or product under two hundred dollars has had the biggest impact in your life?
Zohar: When we got an espresso machine in to our office.
James: There you go, you got to keep those engineers working. Zohar, it has been truly a pleasure speaking with you. Everyone can go to www.bondhome.io to see what Olibra and Zohar are doing with home automation. Amazing product, I've got this in my home. It’s a 12 hour time difference here. So right now it's 10:00 a.m. for me, its 10 p.m. for Zohar in China. Beating the boots, the pavements in China making it happen. Thank you for being here all the way across the world. Do you have anything you want to leave our listeners with?
Zohar: Nope just thank you very much for your time, it was a pleasure.
James: Thank you have a good one Zohar.
Ladies and gentlemen thank you for listening to episode number four with Zohar Shamar from www.bondhome.io. we are happy to bring you value each time you tune in. if you've got questions you want us to cover on smart home automation, go ahead and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We always look forward to hearing from our listeners and providing topics that you want to hear about. Now if you could do me one more favor, go ahead and give us a 5-star rating in the App Store or give us a thumbs up and like and share the one hour smart home podcast with your friends.
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