Spotlight on: Sense, StartHub’s Startup to Watch for Nov 2016

November 7, 2016

Each month as part of StartHub’s Startups to Watch Program we connect with the winning company to learn more about them. Our November Startup to Watch is Sense, a Boston-based startup that developed a home energy monitor that lets homeowners know what's on and how much energy each device uses in real-time. Recently we had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Phillips, CEO and co-founder of Sense. Here’s what we learned:

StartHub: Tell us about your company. What does Sense do?

Sense mission is to make homes more reliable, efficient, and secure. Sense lets homeowners understand what’s happening in their home by telling them what devices are on in their house and how much energy each is consuming, regardless of whether or not those devices are “smart.”

Customers rely on Sense for a wide range of uses including checking what time their kids get home, monitoring their home appliances, determining whether they left appliances running or doors open, and identifying how to reduce their energy costs.

StartHub: What is your background?

My career began in speech recognition; I worked as a researcher at MIT before co-founding two speech recognition companies (SpeechWorks and Vlingo) which brought groundbreaking speech recognition capabilities to call centers and to mobile phones, including the technology that powered virtual assistants across hundreds of millions of phones including iPhone, Android and Blackberry. Vlingo’s speech recognition technology was incorporated into early version of Siri, later bought by Apple, and powered on all of Samsung Galaxy phones. 

StartHub: How did you come up with the idea for Sense? Who is your target customer?

We believe people’s homes should function more reliably and efficiently. Given the amount of data and information available to consumers today, it's striking how little homeowners know about what is going on inside their homes. You have a check engine light for you car, but nothing like that exists for the home, which is typically our most valuable investment.

Our idea was that if we knew in detail what all of the electronics, appliances, and other electricity-using devices in a home were doing, then we could help people make their homes work better; by helping them to better understand energy efficiency, know when things are broken, and get awareness of what is going on in their home from day to day.

Our target customers are homeowners in single-family homes with busy households who benefit from being able to better understand their home’s activities and identify opportunities for energy savings. We also have Sense Solar which caters to homes equipped with solar panels and enables homeowners to compare their solar generation to their energy usage so that they can see how to get the most of their solar panels.

StartHub: How do you think Sense is going to disrupt the market? What are the main differentiators between you and your competitors?

This is still a very nascent industry and a brand new product category. There are a number of companies attempting a similar approach, but the technology is incredibly challenging, and no one yet has been a breakout success. Over time, we believe that our level of data granularity and our system architecture will be the keys to our success.

StartHub: Who are your main investors?

We recently closed our Series A funding round led by Shell Technology Ventures and Energy Impact Partners, with participation from previous seed investors Capricorn Investment Group, Prelude Ventures, CRV and hardware accelerator Bolt.

StartHub: Why did you decide to start your business in Boston? How long has your company been around?

Boston is our home. Our CEO’s two previous companies were also Boston-based. Sense was founded in February 2013.

StartHub: What resources in the startup community have contributed to the success of Sense?

The MIT community, hardware accelerator Bolt, coworking space Greentown Labs, and our professional networks.

StartHub: What are the next steps for Sense?

We recently closed an A round which will allow us to scale across all areas of the company, including expanding our feature set, enhancing our device detection capabilities, and increasing our production. We plan on doubling our team size within the next year. Please check out our open jobs at http://sense.com/careers.html

StartHub: What is the most important thing our readers should know about Sense?

Sense is a consumer-oriented IOT company that is solving hard technology problems — across hardware, software, and machine learning — while also defining a new product category. Our mission is to make homes work more reliably and efficiently, regardless of whether or not they are “smart.” 

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