Mysa Creates Your Smarter Home

August 6, 2017

As another Newfoundland and Labrador winter rolls around, rising energy costs are top-of-mind for just about everybody. A new company, Empowered Homes, has developed smart thermostat technology that works with high-voltage energy systems—a first for homes with electric baseboard heating. Called the Mysa, the thermostat has pre-sold 1,400 units to 420 customers, many of whom have put one in each of the most central rooms in their homes. 

The idea for Mysa came to Joshua Green, who co-founded the company in 2016 with his younger brother Zachary Green, when he worked as an energy auditor, pointing out weaknesses in residential heating systems. As part of his cost-saving recommendations, Joshua would ask his current customers about taking advantage of their programmable thermostats. The answer was resoundingly negative: they are too difficult to program using just one or two buttons incorporated in the unit. “When you’re talking about seven days a week, many different rooms, and different temperatures in each room throughout the day, the process just got too complicated for people,” says Joshua. Yet this was the best way for these residents to save on their heating bills. 

Unlike most of North America, where only about 10 percent of homes use electric baseboard heating, Newfoundland has baseboard heating in more than half of its homes. Others in this category include northern cities in British Columbia, Quebec City, and Seattle—places that have other sources of low-cost energy, such as hydro power and natural gas. 

Joshua got to work designing the smart thermostat, soon to be joined by Zachary who was finishing up university. Once Zachary officially joined Empowered Homes, he took over the business end of the company while Joshua focused on product development. Both are mechanical engineers, equally adept at talking technology with investors as they seek out working capital to fund their business. 

Zachary’s task was to prove that the company’s concept had merit, so his goal was to get people excited enough about the product to pre-order units at about CAD $100 a piece. Although they had received initial funding from the provincial and national governments, they knew they would need a lot more cash to move into production. 

"We needed traction to show potential investors that there was a market out there and that people were willing to pay for it," said Zachary.

The company launched its first website and experimented with ways to drive traffic. If nobody knew that the product or site existed, they would have no luck generating pre-orders. Discovering that “Wi-Fi baseboard thermostat” was a common search term, Zachary started buying Google Ads and gaining better visibility for Mysa. Over time, he continued honing the company’s online advertising strategy to get better exposure but still rein in costs. In a nod to normal human nature, the brothers decoded not to request payment for pre-orders up front since production and delivery would still be several months away. 

Once the pre-orders stared accumulating, two of the province’s most active investment companies — Killick Capital and Pelorus Venture Capital — decided to join forces, providing the CAD 600,000 investment the growing company needed for staff and production. Now the total staff numbers fifteen, the majority of whom are on the product development and technology side. 

Having fulfilled the original Mysa orders, the team intends to dive into the development of other energy-saving products, including a device to control mini split heat pumps, which many Canadians also have. They are also trying to develop technology that will allow utilities to directly manage a homeowner’s energy consumption, potentially reducing heating costs substantially. At the same time, the team will continue to promote Mysa, working toward their goal of increasing not only the number of customers but also the number of units ordered per customer. 

Joshua and Zachary — along with many of their employees — see their roles as not just entrepreneurs but as conservators of the environment in some small part. Visit getmysa.com to pre-order a Mysa and read the accompanying spotlight to learn how Joshua incorporates energy-saving measures into his everyday lifestyle. 

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