A third of the world’s population lives in countries where there are water shortages. In the US, 1 TRILLION, yes that’s TRILLION, gallons of water are wasted a year due to leaks. While we may be mindful of turning off the faucet while we brush and doing a load a full load of laundry, we are oblivious to the water being wasted as a result of leaks that have traditionally been invisible or hidden. Introducing Phyn, the IoT water monitor that syncs your phone with your pipes to watch over water consumption. With the average home leak wasting 10,000 gallons of water, you owe it to your bank account and our planet to monitor your water usage.
LA TechWatch chatted with CEO and founder Ryan Kim about the company and how they raised their newest round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Phyn is a joint venture between Uponor, a leading provider of plumbing for residential and commercial spaces and Belkin International, the consumer electronics giant based here in LA.
We announced a $10 million investment in the joint venture from Uponor. This is their second investment in Phyn. They have invested $25 million to date.
We recently unveiled our first product Phyn Plus last month at CES. Installed directly on a home’s main water line, Phyn Plus uses high-definition pressure sensing to detect leaks anywhere in a home, from one single location. The product alerts you the second a leak is detected, mitigates costly water damage through automatic shutoff, and diagnoses potential problems in your plumbing system before they become an issue.
The science and technology that are the backbone of Phyn were initially conceived at the University of Washington and acquired by Belkin almost a decade ago. Since then, countless hours and millions of dollars have gone into the development, testing, and refinement of the Phyn Plus solution.
What inspired you to start the company?
Over 10 years ago the leadership team at Belkin took a look at emerging global trends and saw some alarming things: the global population was exploding, infrastructures were rapidly aging, and global warming was impacting the global water supply. At that time it was said that in 20 years two-thirds of the world population would lack access to clean water. More recently, a study by the University of Michigan found that in the next five years the number of U.S. households unable to afford water could triple to nearly 36 percent as a result of rising water costs.
Phyn’s mission is to teach the world to speak the language of water – to protect our homes now and to conserve water for future generations. We believe that if we can be more aware of the water we use, we can do things like prevent leaks, eliminate unnecessary water waste and better prepare our communities to face the looming global water crisis.
How is it different?
Most connected “leak detectors” are actually moisture or flood sensors that require a homeowner to place many around the home and guess where a leak might occur. These solutions catch a leak after the fact – when water is already leaking out onto a floor. Phyn is able to detect a leak the second it happens, send a notification and turn off the water to mitigate damage and loss.
Another big differentiator is our data. We have a huge proprietary data set of water events from the largest ever pilot study of residential water use and leaks in the North America. We had sensors in homes in Alaska through Florida, California to New Hampshire. We looked at homes with wells, at high altitudes, with different types of plumbing materials and fixtures – and we catalogued over ten billion data points from over ten million events in these homes (irrigation systems turning on, dishwashers being run, toilets being flushed, etc.) to train our machine learning algorithms to know the signatures of events that are leaks vs. those that are not. Being able to mitigate false positives will be key to providing a great customer experience and to our success.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
If you’ve ever had a catastrophic pipe leak in your home, you know how expensive, time consuming and inconvenient it is. The average insurance leak claim is well over $8,000 and it is the now the 2nd largest category of claims in the U.S.. Billions of dollars are being spent to repair damage done from pipe leaks. We have heard over and over from homeowners that have had a leak experience that had they known about a device like Phyn Plus that detects leaks before they cause damage, that they would have bought it on the spot. As homes and their plumbing systems grow older, this problem is becoming larger every year.
What’s your business model?
Our first product, Phyn Plus, will be sold and installed exclusively through Uponor’s Pro Squad, a nationwide network of expertly trained plumbers.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We are in a unique situation to most startups, where our technology has been incubated within a large company, Belkin International in Playa Vista, for many years with dedicated resources. Belkin sought investment and a partner that understood the plumbing channel and found the perfect complimentary partner in Uponor. As part of the formation of the joint venture Uponor invested $15M and received a minority stake in the new company. This round of $10M that was just announced brings them up to equal partnership with Belkin. The decision by Uponor to give us additional investment at this point, as we are getting close to launching our first product, shows their belief in what we are doing; our company, our products and our mission. We couldn’t be more grateful and humbled by their commitment.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Our teams are laser focused on successfully launching our first device, Phyn Plus, in late spring. Some of us have been working toward this moment for nearly a decade, so it is a long time coming!
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
Our HQ is in Torrance, and the food options here are phenomenal. The team is fond of Sokuri Kitchen, a bibimbap spot in our neighborhood that is walking distance to the office. But you’ll mostly find us at Smog City or Monkish brewery down the street.