COVID-19 spurred a wave of new business registrations as people had more time to reflect, learn new skills and invest in themselves. For Luxeia co-founders Connor Thompson and Tez Errington, the pandemic provided an opportunity to develop a solution to a shared frustration around the lack of connectivity between smart home devices.
Now, with the support of Durham Ambitious Business Startups (DABS), Luxeia is ready to turn up the heat in more ways than one.
With a growing number of digital devices to manage things like lighting, heating, sound and security, it’s fair to say that households are getting smarter.
One of the challenges though with smart technology is getting these different devices to talk to each other.
Whether it be a Philips Hue Lightbulb, Hive Energy Hub, Ring Doorbell or Google Nest, each device has its own system and software application that needs to be used separately to function.
Frustrated by the lack of compatibility, Luxeia co-founders Connor Thompson and Tez Errington were inspired to develop their own software application that could connect smart home devices on one unified system.
“We couldn’t believe there were so many different apps for each device and so we looked for an app that could do everything but we couldn’t find one” says Tez.
Another motivation was the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, which saw Connor and Tez furloughed from their technical production jobs at the Gala Theatre in Durham.
Tez adds: “When COVID hit, we suddenly realised we might not have jobs anymore so started thinking about what we could do instead.”
Once they realised there was no other app on the market that could link up all their smart devices, Connor and Tez used the extra time at home provided by the pandemic to work on developing their own software and testing it with friends and family.
From there, the pair met with James Craft at TEDCO who was impressed by their idea and encouraged them to enrol in the Durham Ambitious Business Startups (DABS) programme.
“James gave us the confidence boost we needed and kept us on our toes,” says Connor.
The DABS programme has helped Connor and Tez develop their idea for an all-in-one smart device app into a fully-fledged business.
Now, Luxeia offers a full-service smart home installation solution to customers with modern and luxurious homes, where upwards of 200 devices might need to be connected.
The company’s first customer was Connor’s parents who had just moved into a new home which required a full installation comprised of 37 automations, 128 smart lights, 18 smart sensors and 14 smart switches, all installed and connected to the Luxeia app.
It was a difficult first project but one where Connor and Tez got to experiment and realise the full potential of smart technology in terms of convenience and efficiency.
Tez explains: “In the kitchen alone, we worked out that the average running cost before we put our system in was around £3.
“After we did the installation, this came down to 30p. It was something like a 90% saving on electricity.”
Following this success came an installation at a customer’s home who had found Luxeia online through their website.
“We did his house in around two and a half days and he was the happiest man I’ve ever come across in my life,” says Tez.
“As a first client, it was perfect. He knew what he wanted but could also be flexible.”
The client originally wanted to replace an old smart lighting system that had been in the property for 20 years. But the project evolved from there once Connor and Tez explained what was possible for his home.
Connor says: “We changed his mindset around the idea that anything can do anything through our app.
“All smart devices run on a protocol called Zigbee. So, what we’ve done is made a generic Zigbee hub, which everything can connect to and as you add more devices to your home, we can just tell the hub what that device is.”
With their concept proved and their first customers feeling satisfied, the next step for Connor and Tez is to bring in enough new projects that will enable them to commit to Luxeia full time.
Tez says: “The whole ethos of the business is to be non-intrusive – smart home technology in a non-intrusive way.
“Looking ahead, the dream for us is to team up with a housebuilder to install the smart infrastructure as these homes are being built. Then they can sell their new homes as smart homes.”
Connor adds: “We need to get the word out there and attract more customers so we can focus on Luxeia full-time.
“We know we are on to something and look forward to working with DABS as we grow.”
DABS is an ERDF-funded programme that helps high-quality start-ups in County Durham start trading and offers premium quality support during those critical first 12 months in business. There are two support packages available – one for pre-start businesses with a great idea and the other for early-stage businesses. The programme is delivered by Business Durham, with support from delivery partners TEDCO, UMi and Candle Digital.