Trung Pham didn’t come from a consumer electronics background. But, when he went to upgrade his window shades one summer, he struck a pain point that drove him to innovate.
What he found was, there isn't any way to upgrade your shades—at least not if you want them automated.
His recently installed shades had already cost him $150 a pop. When he went back to the dealer inquiring about an upgrade, they wanted to charge him $1,000 per window to rip out his shades and replace them with motorized ones.
Trung had assumed there was some kind of gadget you could purchase and install to get those luxurious, energy-saving auto shades.
There wasn’t—so, he made one.
How It Works
The RYSE SmartShade is about the size of a remote control.
With a screw or some double-sided tape, you can attach it to the side of a windowsill right where the shade’s cord hangs.
The bottom of the cord is looped around a small motorized sprocket inside the device.
You use the buttons on the device or the RYSE app to calibrate the desired up and down positions of the shade, and you’re done.
Installation takes just about five minutes.
Once you’re all set up, the device can be run via an app, by the push of a button, or by any voice speaker on the market.
You can raise or lower any number of shades remotely, or set a schedule in the app to make your entire home or office fully automated.
Appearance On Dragon’s Den
Trung appeared on the Canadian version of Shark Tank, called Dragon’s Den.
He brought the first-generation SmartShade before the mighty Dragons. A fascinating pitch deck ensued, resulting in an offer from three out of six Dragons.
In the end, Trung accepted a double-deal with Michele Romanow and Lane Merrifield for $400,000 in exchange for 3.5% of the company, split between the two hungry Dragons.
Of course, the capital injection must have been great, but as you may already know, these shows have a huge exposure effect that likely turned a few heads towards RYSE.
Entering the Commercial Space
Things were going well for RYSE with a strictly direct-to-consumer model. Trung had a loyal fanbase and word was slowly getting around.
But, it wasn’t until a new distribution channel opened up that things got really exciting.
Opportunities started creeping in to outfit entire commercial buildings with smart shades. Hotels and office buildings wanted to tap into the money and energy-saving benefits of automatic shades for a fair price.
The problem was that the first generation SmartShade wasn't suited for these large-scale installations.
While a few one-off deals were struck, it wasn’t until Trung got huge financial backing from none other than the Canadian government that this channel became a real possibility.
Energy Savings and Clean Tech Grant
Buildings consume 42% of all energy we produce. Most of that is used for HVAC and lighting.
Within a building, up to half of that energy is lost through the windows. Glass is a poor insulator, meaning temperature control slips right through. Windows are also responsible for more solar heat gain than any other part of the building.
Automated shades, which insulate and block the sun, can reduce cooling loads from 20% to 24%. When opened, they reduce the need for indoor lighting from 20% to 74%.
These figures translate into big energy and dollar savings for big buildings.
Nights and weekends, when no one is in the building, a commercial building’s HVAC still runs.
Leaving shades open and forcing the AC system to work overtime is a bad idea. Paying workers to walk around shutting dozens, hundreds, or thousands of shades each night is also a bad idea.
Retrofitting windows with an automatic shade system is a great idea, both for business and the environment.
This discovery led Trung to apply for a few federal clean tech grants.
RYSE won and was awarded 3.8 million Canadian dollars (just over 3 million USD) to develop the next generation of RYSE SmartShades.
With this second-gen, it became possible, and more profitable, to serve commercial clients, selling, installing, and servicing SmartShades in their windows.
Property Tech Space and Potential Exit
After studying the acquisitions in the PropTech and IoT space, Trung sees the potential for a similar deal for RYSE.
Some of the biggest examples are:
Ring was acquired by Amazon for over $1 billion.
Dropcam was acquired by Nest Labs for $555 million.
Nest Labs was acquired by Google for $3.2 billion.
And the list goes on.
Acquisitions are increasing, and the market is heating up. But while we see dozens of gadgets for home security, many other aspects of the “smart home” are still pretty dull.
RYSE has tapped into a unique niche within home tech that may one day sit on a list like the one above.
And that's really the goal here—Trung says he hopes and plans RYSE will land a major acquisition deal from one of these industry giants.
Learn more and invest in RYSE here.