I recently had a chance to sit down with our Co-founder and CEO, Dan Myers. Dan has always been passionate about robotics, design, and electronics. Before he even graduated from high school, he built a twenty-foot-long solar-powered car and raced it from Texas to New York.
Dan graduated from Northwestern University with a BS in Computer Engineering, a BM in French Horn Performance, and an MS in Computer Science—all in five years. After Northwestern he joined ChannelIQ, a Chicago-based eCommerce-intelligence startup. While there, he built out a data system that helped fuel the company's rapid growth.
Living in South Florida and Chicago gave Dan an appreciation of indoor climate-control. He built the first Flair prototypes for his own apartment with our Co-founder and CTO Kenny Tay. I talked to Dan in Berkeley, where Flair is headquartered.
Q: How would you describe Flair to someone who has never heard of the company?
Almost every house has a room that doesn’t heat or cool evenly. Its temperature is out of sync with the rest of the house. Flair fixes that.
Our solutions adapt to the different types of heating and cooling common in the United States. For central systems, Flair’s Pucks and Smart Vents give room-by-room control where you never had it before. For newer ductless systems like minisplits, Flair makes a smart and adaptive thermostat that can replace your old-school remote.
How did you come up with this idea?
I grew up in South Florida. My childhood home had this problem all the time. One room was always too hot. At the time, I didn’t think too much about it. But I experienced this problem again when I was living in Chicago after I finished college. Kenny and I started building the first Flair prototypes for my own apartment!
It was only after I started talking about the problem of temperature unevenness with a couple of friends that I thought that this idea could become something bigger. My friends immediately asked me if I could build a Smart Vent prototype for their homes. Kenny and I quickly realized that we needed to figure out how to make a lot more of our Pucks and Smart Vents. It was one of those situations where an opportunity presented itself and grew legs. Kenny and I decided to help it run.
What are some challenges you’ve faced while bringing this product to life?
If I think about a 10,000-foot view, it might be that heating and cooling isn’t that sexy. But it’s essential to your everyday life! If you live in a place that is even remotely warm and your AC goes out, how long do you wait to call someone to fix it? A couple hours at most.
Unfortunately, people have gotten accustomed to the everyday problems of home heating and cooling. People are used to energy inefficiency, uneven temperatures throughout their homes, and fighting with their thermostats. We're fixing that.
How have you tackled these challenges?
You have to get people to focus on everyday problems and everyday solutions. Tech can sometimes feel too focused on the next social network. But heating and cooling is a better problem to be working on. We can provide products that people want and need.
How has your experience been with building a product from the ground up?
We’re doing a technical dance on the product and engineering side. With our Smart Vents, we have had to research and develop different sizes and material options. These choices can affect performance, quality, and long-term viability. We also need to make sure that our product suite works for everyone, from the weekend DIYer to the professional HVAC installer who has been doing this for thirty years.
On top of that, we realize that we need to be budget friendly. You might install two of our Smart Vents, or you might install twenty. We want to be able to deliver high-quality results to our customers at a price that doesn’t break the bank. Making your home comfortable and energy efficient doesn’t have to be an expensive process that involves ripping apart your walls and floors.
There are so many details that we’re trying to get right. We’re sweating the details because they are important. We realize that our Pucks and Smart Vents are going in someone’s home. They are going on someone’s wall. We want to make something that’s safe, affordable, adaptive, and a little fun too. We always have to remember that.