February 2, 2023

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CEO and Founder of Ecobee Speaks to TechCrunch Live About CES, Nest, and Finding Products to Market • TechCrunch

TechCrunch Live hosted a special in-person event at CES with a lengthy chat with Ecobee CEO and Founder Stuart Lombard. This was our first in-person TechCrunch Live and I can’t wait to do more. We’ve talked a lot about how a startup can maximize CES, build great products, and how hardware startups can raise money.

Nest played a large part in part of this interview. While Lombard and Ecobee claim to have made the first internet-connected thermostat, Nest, which came out four years after Ecobee, set the standard. After Nest broke from stealth in 2011, it forced Ecobee to upgrade its smart thermostat. As Lombard admits, Nest has changed Ecobee’s trajectory. “[The Nest thermostat] taught us the difference between wanting to be good and actually being good,” he said, later adding, “It really forced us to retool and think about what it means to be great.”

And the early Ecobee products weren’t great. “We’ve made a lot of compromises over time,” Lombard said, showing the TechCrunch Live cameras Ecobee’s first product. The differences between the first Ecobee and the first nest are striking: while the nest is made of smooth metal and shiny glass, the Ecobee is made entirely of plastic. Sure, it worked well, but it didn’t have the same appeal as the first Nest. In short, as a startup, he says, customers need to love your company and your products.

I hear this feeling a lot on TechCrunch Live. Great products inspire in surprising ways. While Ecobee offered similar features, Lombard acknowledges that it wasn’t until Nest launched that Ecobee developed a premium user experience and design.

I hope you can take the time and watch the show. It’s embedded below and is a must-have for hardware startups. Trust me this is one of the best TechCrunch live events.

Watch the entire show here.

show outline

On CES:

What’s it like to be at CES for a hardware startup? What should a hardware startup aim for to reach CES?

Founding Ecobee: Developing a market segment and competing against Nest:

How does a budget target become a business? How has Stuart Nest transformed Ecobee and how can founders best capitalize on competition, particularly in marketing? How does it feel when your company finally finds Product Market Fit?

How Ecobee still wins:

Why is it difficult for hardware companies to raise capital? Why did Ecobee make a significant investment from Amazon and what advice does Stuart have for founders speaking to Amazon? How is Ecobee keeping up with changing consumer expectations?

Hardware fundraising

Why Stuart advises startups to scan their client list for investment opportunities. Why a company should aim for longevity when fundraising Why Ecobee attempted to go public via a SPAC in 2020.