Get ready for another connected consumer product company to enter the internet of things fray. Leeo, a company that has pulled in $37 million from some big name investors, including those with ties to service providers around the world, has big, secretive plans for the space. Co-founder and CEO Adam Gettings (pictured above) managed to use all the big industry buzzwords — data analytics, design, robotics, the internet of things — without actually describing a tangible product or business model.
In an interview, Gettings said he plans to launch a product this fall, and it will be part of a series of connected products for the home, designed to be sold around the world, likely in conjunction with service providers. For example, E.ON, one of the firm’s investors, is a large European utility that serves 35 million customers in 10 countries. It has committed to invest and to “explore working together [with Leeo] to provide custom-designed smart home products and services,” according to the Leeo press release.
Other investors include Taizo Son, the chief advisor of Visionnaire Ventures; Formation 8, which invested in RelateIQ and Oculus; Max Levchin, the PayPal co-founder and Yelp chairman; and Scott Banister, a [company]PayPal[/company] board member and IronPort Systems co-founder.
This would be far more impressive with a product. It’s easy to look at the Leeo founding team — which boasts Charles Huang, a co-founder of Red Octane, the publisher of Guitar Hero; Luke Ivers, a former engineering executive at [company]Palantir[/company]; and Robert Brunner, a designer who was the director of industrial design for [company]Apple[/company] and designed the Beats headphones — and assume they have the necessary skill set to combine data, robotics and consumer products into a fantastic and game-changing smart home product. But at this point I feel as if investors are willing to toss dollars at anyone with a slight pedigree and an idea that combines data and connected hardware.
So, Leeo exists, and based on my conversation with Gettings, I get the sense that its future products will be less reliant on a hub and more about individual devices that will be sold and perhaps installed via a service provider. Any products it launches will work well with other Leeo products to combine and create a whole home experience. The company could start out of the gate with a worldwide distribution strategy, which would encourage others already offering devices to pay attention and partner with Leeo.
The addition of data analytics skills from the Palantir side could actually be more helpful than the well-designed products. One looming challenge for consumers is that they don’t know what they want a smart home to do. That’s why we get a lot of marketing around “awake” settings or taking a picture of your kids when they walk in the door from school. But building products that can take contextual clues from your home and tell you how they could make your life easier is a major need in this space, and so far I don’t see a lot of people tackling that as part of their design and launches.
Of course, I have no idea what Leeo is doing, but if it’s just throwing a bunch of smooth, Apple-inspired boxes out there for service providers to sell into the smart home, I will be disappointed.