We’ve all had restless nights: staring up at the ceiling, hoping to fall asleep. As an air vent blew warm air into the face of Ryan Fant keeping him awake, he faced a dilemma. He could turn off the heat and freeze to death, or pile blankets and pillows over his head to avoid the annoyance. For Ryan, opportunity was staring down at him, and he chose neither option. Instead, he turned to fixing the problem on a wider scale with his own venture.
Ryan is co-founder of Keen Home with Nayeem Hussain. Keen Home builds hardware devices that enhance the core functions of the home. The company’s first product is the Keen Vent. The vent can reduce the runtime of central heating and cooling up to 30% by redirecting airflow.
Ryan started attacking his air vent conundrum by looking at the function and inefficiencies with heating and cooling vents. After doing some research, it was clear that this was a problem worth solving. “An average homeowner spends half of their total energy bill on heating and cooling costs, or roughly $2,000 per year.” Social media research revealed that Ryan was far from the only person complaining about an annoying air vent. Over a three-week period, 5,600 Tweets on Twitter were posted by people complaining about air vents. With over 90 million homes in the U.S. with air vents, the market was large enough to pursue, and the problem was a true pain point for a significant portion of the market.
The idea was entered into the New York University Stern New Venture Competition, which has launched many companies, including Urban Spoon and Pinterest. “I expected to have the idea shot down.” As the competition went forward, Ryan received positive feedback from professors and investors. The validation helped give Ryan the confidence to proceed and proved that the idea was a strong one.
The startup was growing, but Fant admitted that there wasn’t a cohesive vision for the company. They were moving fast, but needed additional help to take the startup to the next level. Ryan and Hussain reached out to CEOs who had worked with various accelerators, and they chose to pursue TechStars’ R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator. “The strength of the advisor network paid for itself twofold in the first 90 days.” Many of those advisors are still advisors and mentors to Keen Home.
Keen Home’s current efforts are heavily focused on the Smart Vent, but future company plans include expanding to other areas of the home.
Every entrepreneur has sleepless nights, but Fant’s won’t be because of an air vent.
Listen to the full audio interview with entrepreneur Ryan Fant below!
– How Keen Home developed quickly while in the TechStars connected devices accelerator.
– Best piece of advice for young entrepreneurs: “Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to be wrong.”
– “(We) wanted to make sure that whatever we would try to build would have staying power in this space.”
– “Being disruptive in this space has no limitations.”
– “If you know something is wrong, own up to it quickly and move on.”
– How many hours a week do you work on Keen Home? “It’s a lot; 60-70 hours.”
– How many hours of sleep do you get a night? “I need at least 6 hours of sleep, or else you don’t want to be around me.”
– When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? “This is embarrassing. I wanted to be one of those guys that mowed grass along the interstate. That’s not a joke. I thought that would be the best job in the world.”
– If you weren’t currently working on Keen Home, where would you see yourself working? As an unhappy investment banker.
– If you could add any entrepreneur in the world to your team at Keen Home, who would it be and why? “Elon Musk. I’m just drawn to him as an entrepreneur, person, and as a visionary.”
Connect with Ryan Fant on Twitter @ryanfant
Listen to the full interview here: