New innovators: Start-up aims help households get to grips with utility bills
Serial entrepreneur Ollie Hynes claims new device is first household bill controller
Ollie Hynes: “HUB is a next-generation smart thermostat that is not only smart enough to control your heat, but also your heating bill.”
Juggling utility bills and worrying about the rising costs of running a home can be a real headache for cash-strapped households. But entrepreneur Ollie Hynes claims his new device is the “first and only household utility bill controller”.
“The HUB is a next-generation smart thermostat that is not only smart enough to control your heat, but also smart enough to control your heating bill,” Hynes says. Energy costs are his first target, but when his patent-pending technology is fully developed it will be able to manage water, electricity and phone bills as well.
“Like many other Irish people, one of my family members was struggling to get control of rising utility bills,” he says.
“Their utility company offered a simple choice: either pay your bill now, agree to be disconnected or move to a pay-as- you-go system. I was asked for my help and to my horror discovered that my relative was being charged a higher rate for pay-as-you-go. It seemed wrong to me that people who are struggling to pay their bills should be forced to pay more. This got me thinking about making a product that would allow people get control of their bills without the extra cost.”
HUB Controller has been in development for two years and a prototype was launched in 2014. It has since been on test with 350 customers and installers. The product will have its full commercial launch later this year.
“HUB Controller wants to save the world 20 per cent of the energy used in every household. We will do this by first bringing real monetary savings to the end-user and then real savings to the environment,” Hynes says.
“We are the first device that puts cost control into the hands of the consumer and margin control in the hands of major trade partners. This gives us a trade-plus-consumer product revenue model and a consumer software as a service model for ongoing revenues.”
Hynes began his career in the heating industry with Barlo before moving on to the Quinn Group and then to leading Italian heating company IRSAP, where he managed over €130 million in sales.
The HUB Controller is Hynes’s third heating sector start-up. His first was sold in 2009 while the second is still operational in the UK.
It has cost over €200,000 to develop the HUB Controller. This has come from a combination of seed funding and Hynes’s own resources. The company has raised €350,000 in first-stage investment. Hynes was a recent participant in the New Frontiers entrepreneurs programme run at the Synergy Centre at Tallaght IT.
The company expects to employs seven people by the end of 2015, 38 by the end of next year and 71 by 2020.
“The heating industry is a notoriously difficult market to penetrate, particularly without existing relationships. We have a distinct advantage over competitors with the contacts we already have within the heating industry,” Hynes says.
“We will begin selling in the UK and Ireland, using sales agents to target over 8,500 outlets where our relationships are strongest. We will then move into the European market. Our target customers are the trade, made up of installers, specialist on-sellers, regional merchants, national merchants, DIY sheds and manufacturers,” he adds.
Hynes says the retrofit market accounts for over 92 per cent of installations and that the HUB Controller is the only next-generation smart thermostat available to the trade that can be fitted retrospectively.
“The retrofittable element of our offering is a very powerful USP [unique selling proposition] and as such we expect our competitors will try to copy it. For this reason, we have worldwide patent protection on this element of our product.”