This is Part 1 of our two part story!
A lot of people are asking how we came up with the idea for our company, and what the difference between RYSE and AXIS is. Well, we’re here to share our story of RYSE, how we got started, and what the RYSE brand means to us.
PART 1: The birth of AXIS
It’s an amazing feeling to upgrade your existing tech. You work hard to switch out or buy a brand new version of something standard.
This is the exact feeling our CEO and Founder Trung Pham had, when he finally worked hard enough to afford an upgrade for his window shades, since he always wanted automated shades for his apartment.
However, there was one issue: Trung enjoyed the look-and-feel of his original shades and didn’t want to get rid of them, but there was no way to upgrade them and simply add automation. To transition to smart shades, he would have to remove and toss out the old shades and buy new smart shades —a costly $1,000 for each window.
A lightbulb went off in Trung’s head and from there started the exhilarating roller coaster journey in the creation of a new SmartShade. Right away, Trung began research to see if there was anyway to just add an automation feature to an existing window shade.
He found nothing.
With an entrepreneurial mindset, he took matters into his own hands. Trung looked at the market, the costs, and all other factors that ultimately pointed him in the direction to create his own product.
As he dug deeper into his research, Trung found that so many people were happy with their window shades, and just wanted to make them automated, so he knew a growing market existed. He also learned that only a small fraction of shades were ever automated due to its high cost.
Trung began building his team to start working on a prototype – a retrofit device that ensured that his smart shades device not only allow you to keep your original shades, saving you thousands of dollars, but also:
- Was designed to be extremely easy-to-install
- Had a mobile app for control
- Had on-device buttons for control
- Provided energy saving benefits to support the continued effort of going green
- And best of all, provided scheduling and timers.
You now have the perfect lighting throughout the day without having to lift a finger. After a long day, close your blinds, dim the lights and transform your home into the perfect theater.
Do I hear movie night?
The Beginning Of The Journey
Like most startups, we hit a few bumps in the road.
The company went through a roller coaster of a journey, dabbling with multiple ideas, and working on multiple projects in the window blinds space, while at the same time, creating our smart shade device. For example, during these early years, we were also developing our own “universal window blind” for the mass market – but that’s a story for another day.
Back in 2015, the smart home space was just taking off; after Google’s acquisition of NEST for $3.2 billion, a tremendous amount of start-ups began entering the space.
After tinkering with various ideas, concepts, and iterations of a smart shade, we launched the AXIS Gear, our first-generation device, to test the market, beginning with a crowdfunding campaign.
Through extensive market research, experimentation, and customer validation via a very successful $118k Indiegogo campaign, we knew we had a winning idea with the SmartShade.
The Growth Years: 2015-2019
After two years spent on R&D and manufacturing, our prototype’s design was dramatically improved – the device was now smaller and more elegant.
During these years, our team spent most of our time in China. The goal of our trips were to inspect and interview several factories to find the perfect fit. We selected a factory that ran like a military operation, extremely efficient, clean, and with a focus on quality. The same premier factory was responsible for the manufacturing of global smartphones, including LG and Huawei.
From 2016-2017, it was time to begin the design-for-manufacturing stages for the product, allowing the device to be manufacturable for the factory.
Late 2017, was when the first products came off the production line, and were shipped to select consumers: early-adopters and crowdfunding backers.
The next step for AXIS was growth. Our team appeared at CES, and Trung pitched on Dragons Den (the Canadian version of Shark Tank). The first few production batches came and went, and before we knew it, we had shipped over 20,000 devices by the end of 2019 and grew our company to 18 dedicated, hard-working full-time team members.
This also led to a project for The Avery in San Francisco, with their multi-family building. Related Developments reached out to us with a problem. The Avery already had manual window shades installed and with the tower’s launch only days away, they sought out a cost-efficient and low lead time solution to satisfy ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) regulations that prevented them from officially launching to the public. Traditional motorized shading solutions were too expensive, time-consuming to replace, and would prove difficult to match the specific look of the other manual shades installed.
The solution: AXIS Gear
The project ultimately opened the door of selling into commercial buildings – a market that was more complex, high longer sale cycle, and pickier customers. The Avery project lled our team to begin exploring the development of our second generation device – a faster, stronger, quieter, and smarter solution than AXIS Gear – but one that could serve and scale into commercial buildings.
Refocus, Realignment, Rebrand
Throughout this entire journey and with the successful launch of AXIS Gear, we had to think long and hard about the type of company we wanted to be. Did we want to be a “window blinds” company, a “smart home” company, or something more specific and niche? Ultimately, we knew we wanted to remain in the intersection of the window coverings and smart home industry, since the former was an industry that has not seen much technological innovations over the years, and the latter was growing exponentially. But with the success of the AXIS Gear, it was obvious that our focus should be in the smart home and devices space.
While we still focused on the window coverings space, we didn’t want to necessarily design our own blinds or shades; it was a fragmented space with too many inefficient intermediaries and issues with fashion, design, materials, and fabrics – things that didn’t interest us.
We knew that we wanted to re-invent the window covering industry with smart and simple technology – with a strict focus on “smart technology.” And so, we knew that we had to refocus and realign our company and team to serve this core purpose, making the hard decisions to kill other projects that didn’t fit this core purpose.
And that’s why we decided to move forward with a rebrand. But what was the best name to move forward with that represented this refocus and realignment of our company?
Now that you know more about how our company got started and why we decided to rebrand, be sure to tune in next week to read more as we dive deeper into our story and where RYSE came from and what it means to us.
We’re all ears. Reach out to us, and we’re happy to help.