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Small Empires: Forget your keys? There's an app for that

Small Empires: Forget your keys? There's an app for that


The connected home is rapidly becoming a reality, and the August Smart Lock is at the forefront of a new era

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We've reached a stage where most consumers are familiar with the concept of a "smart home," full of "connected devices," that works, at least in the commercials, something like the futuristic home of The Jetsons. The problem is that unless you're building a home from scratch, most people are going to be adding these smart features in a piecemeal fashion. Each device has to justify its price tag over cheaper, more conventional appliances.

The August Smart Lock brings a couple of enticements to the table, starting with its design. Crafted by the legendary Yves Behar, the August lock is a gleaming, modernist beauty. More importantly, it's social. Because the "keys" to the lock are just some code executed by a phone, you can use the app to send "keys" to anyone you like. Having friends over but you're stuck in traffic and won't be there to let them in? You can use the August to send a temporary key that will get them into the house and self-destruct at your command.

Our host Alexis Ohanian sat down with August to discuss the challenge of taking a hardware startup from an idea, to a prototype, to a finished product at a store near you. The rise of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo has helped to provide hardware startups with seed capital from curious consumers who don't mind dealing with products still in beta mode.

August decided to skip that step, raising venture capital the traditional way and relying on its well-known designer and a press tour to generate interest, awareness, and demand. After all, this wasn't a pain point that really needed explaining. "The past two years I've been working on this, if there is a phrase I've heard more than anything, it's 'I hate keys.'" That's how August co-founder and CEO Jason Johnson described the company's market research.

Speaking from personal experience, the struggle is real. As Johnson notes, in New York City alone, two million people per year get locked out of their own homes. Since my smartphone is basically welded to my hand at this point, perhaps it's time to try using it in place of an analog device I can't seem to help misplacing on a weekly basis.

From Our Sponsor Inside Small Empires: August Smart Lock