This LA Startup is Harnessing the Sun to Do This



What if whenever you wanted to go outside you could guarantee safety, entertainment, shade, and a table? Sounds impossible? Think again. ShadeCraft the IoT company, has launched its flagship product SUNFLOWER to satisfy every virtual need to enjoy the outdoors. The ten-foot umbrella is solar powered, has an internet connection, security cameras, weather detection, speakers, and a built in table. The SUNFLOWER is easy to transport and will make your next trip to the beach or your outside porch that much more enjoyable. In our increasingly connected world, the Sunflower is just the beginning of the future of IoT.

LA TechWatch chatted with the team about SUNFLOWER and how they plan to create more ShadeCraft products for you.

Tell us about the product.

SUNFLOWER is the world’s first autonomous robotic shade that tracks the sun for optimum solar energy retention. Through its AI integration, SUNFLOWER connects people to the internet of things (IoT) and the smart home ecosystem. It also has onboard cameras to capture images as well as connect to a home security provider as an extension to their camera system. Its onboard speakers can also play music, audio podcasts or whatever the consumer enjoys. SUNFLOWER has a multitude of sensors, such as proximity for safety and machine learning, and air quality sensors that provide real-time data on humidity, UV, radiation and any present harmful gases. Additionally, it is equipped with sensors which recognize unsafe levels of wind, triggering the SUNFLOWER to close without human intervention. SUNFLOWER is portable and can be taken to the beach, camping, etc., and will also have a table attachment so consumers can enjoy having a technologically advanced robotic shade system attached to their existing table.

How is it different?

Prior to SUNFLOWER, there was no viable product to integrate AI and machine learning. SUNFLOWER combines solar energy, connectivity, protection and entertainment in a completely new way. While consumers have traditionally thought of such a product as an outdoor parasol, SUNFLOWER is much more than that. It is a complete outdoor shading system and smart home hub. In essence, SUNFLOWER is a robot that will coexist with consumers in an outdoors environment, while communicating, learning, entertaining and protecting consumers at the same time.

What market are you attacking and how big is it?

Although SUNFLOWER is very useful for both the B2C and the B2B markets, our primary focus will be the U.S. consumer. Currently, in the U.S., the IoT and smart home market is ever-expanding and expected to reach the trillions by 2025. There is also a large need and market for consumers seeking high-quality shade solutions outside their home. As such, we will be targeting the high-end outdoor parasol, IoT and outdoor smart home markets simultaneously. Our plan will be to expand to Europe and other countries in 2018 through various retailers and distributors. In 2019, our focus will be to create a more affordable and smaller version of SUNFLOWER for a more price-conscious consumer worldwide. Our goal is to manufacture in the U.S., but we understand that we may have to expand and partner with companies around the world as the demand grows.

What is the business model?

We aim to generate revenue through sales in both the B2C and B2B sectors. ShadeCraft’s mission is to improve human life outdoors through robotic technology, and we plan to release a multitude of products in the coming years to help consumers do just that. SUNFLOWER is only the first product we have released, but as we increase our presence in the U.S. market, we look forward to growing ShadeCraft overseas as well.

What are your predictions for the LA startup ecosystem for 2017?

I think that LA is one of the greatest hubs in the world, especially for tech startups specializing in consumer products. As a metropolitan city, it not only brings together the richness of culture but it also echoes the current zeitgeist as it pertains to consumers. Secondly, the climate and geographic location coupled with great schools provide an opportunity for scaling up and staffing a startup. Lastly, being one of the hubs of aerospace allows for startups to benefit from a rich manufacturing history and technical knowledge.

Tell us a little about your background and what inspired the business?

I have always been fascinated by mechanical and electronic things. Since I can remember, I have been building things or trying to adapt them to a different use. Perhaps one of the greatest inspirations in my life was the first box of fischertechnik, which my father purchased for me when I was eight. My fascination and frustration with mechanical parts started with this great toy. My love for building things from a young age led me to study industrial design at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, where I received two degrees and continued teaching for several years. After spending some time in the field, I wanted to start something of my own, which led to ShadeCraft. ShadeCraft unites two of my passions – technology and intelligent industrial design – and has limitless potential.

Tell us what building your company in LA has been like?

This is my third company in LA and, as a resident, I feel like I’m living in one of the best cities in the world. I think that in the coming years there will be a great movement towards LA for a multitude of startups. Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of living in LA is the diversity of businesses. Although being surrounded by a large community of tech startups can have its advantages, many firms have to fly down to LA for design, production, marketing, PR and filming needs, which isn’t an issue when a company is headquartered here.

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?

Our primary milestone is consumer testing and presale to the American public within the next 6 to 8 months. SUNFLOWER is designed for the consumer and, as such, it is very important to understand the needs of the consumer as well as how they will coexist with a new, one-of-a-kind product.

If you could be put in touch with one investor in the community who would it be and why?

It would be Upfront Ventures because of their experience across technology sectors and their deep understanding of retail consumers.

What does being “Made in LA” mean to you and your company?

I have been an advocate of being “Made in LA” for over 11 years. I even used the tagline for my furniture company Lounge22 as a symbol of pride. It symbolizes quality and higher manufacturing standards with regulations that surpass that of many other cities and countries around the world. It also has a fresh, hip, and innovative appeal reflective of the city itself. To me, it seems if something comes out of LA, by default it is already ahead of many cities around the world. Since LA is such a melting pot, saying something is made here, is almost like saying ‘international’ by default.

What else can be done to promote early stage entrepreneurship in Los Angeles?

I think having more opportunities for LA-based professionals and startup founders to come together is always a great step towards promoting early stage entrepreneurship. For example, a startup collective that is LA-based with opportunities to share experiences with the community – especially young minds – would be a great start.

About the author: LA TechWatch

LATechWatch is a property focused on the Los Angeles technology, startup, and entrepreneurial ecosystem with a global readership of highly affluent and educated individuals across 200+ countries.

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