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Unconventional Genius sets out to broadcast influential ideas and progressive business stories through the minds and voices of some of the most prolific names in the tech, CE, publishing, and professional world. Each week Max Borges, Founder & CEO of Max Borges Agency, speaks with industry leaders to unveil motivational narratives on how they found success. Listeners can anticipate learning business tips and tricks relevant to their own professions and life goals, while also having the chance to witness how most stories of triumph are truly “unconventional.”

Max Borges is the host of Unconventional Genius and the Founder and CEO of Max Borges Agency, a communications agency that works exclusively with consumer technology clients. The Max Borges Agency has launched thousands of consumer tech products. To learn more, check out:

Oct 2, 2018

This week on Unconventional Genius, I talk with Stuart Lombard, Founder and CEO of Ecobee about how he led his company to overcome adversity to become the smart thermostat leader. Even what sometimes seems like a victory in business can turn in to an unexpected setback. It’s not about the challenges but how you respond to them that matter.

Stuart Lombard is serious about saving energy. Even with no background in the energy sector and no experience in consumer electronics, Stuart set out to create a better way to manage energy in the home. “When we started people were like ‘Why are you doing thermostats? That’s the stupidest idea ever!’” With a degree in applied mathematics and a background in leading businesses, he started a company that produced one of the first connected thermostats.

How a potential setback set the course for continued success

Before the launch of Ecobee, thermostats were programmable, but not wifi connected. In 2009, Stuart led Ecobee to raise capital, secure investors, and release the first connected thermostat to market. It was a huge success. However, 2 years later NEST introduced their cheaper and more feature-rich thermostat. What could’ve been a devastating setback turned into be a defining moment for the company.

How you respond when unforeseen trouble arises can make or break your company. For Stuart Lombard, even a potentially crippling challenge couldn’t stop his optimism or passion for creating a great product. Instead of giving up, the Ecobee team dug in and found a way to create the next best product that would put them back on top of the connected thermostat market.

How Apple set the expectation for all consumer electronics

Even though they don’t make thermostats, Apple has set the expectations for all consumer electronics when it comes to form and function. This has led Stuart Lombard and his team to pursue excellence and innovation. During our conversation, Stuart shares five competitive pillars that Ecobee strives to win at with every product.

One key to success that Stuart shares is the importance of slowing down. For startup companies, everything is urgent. However, when you are first developing a product you have to take your time and consider every detail. Once you’ve solidified the actual product, then you can speed up. Knowing the rhythm of when to slow down and when to push forward is critical.

The mission that propels Ecobee

Ecobee's mission is greater than creating a great consumer product. It is about making the world a better place and helping people reduce their carbon footprint. They have a program that allows customers to anonymize their data and share it for research purposes. This program helps Ecobee make life better and more efficient through their products. They are also partnering with utility companies to help them serve their customers.

I ask Stuart Lombard about the advantages and disadvantages of running a tech company in Toronto. He shares that there is a wealth of talent in Toronto, with less competition than Silicon Valley. The cost of living and quality of life are also better. Access to capital and quality of the teams continues to raise the level of opportunity for Ecobee.

What the future holds for Ecobee

Ecobee continues to innovate by bringing new and improved products to market. The newest is the Switch Plus, which is a wifi connected light switch. It has occupancy detection so it will turn on the lights in a dark hallway. It will also turn off lights for you. Listen as Stuart shares about how their light switch solves common problems in the home.

10 years into the business and Stuart Lombard says he is as excited as ever about the opportunities ahead for Ecobee. They are continuing to research and learn the needs of customers. He believes the connected home will be the next computing platform. With all the adversity that Ecobee and Stuart Lombard has faced, they have been able to overcome and take their place at the top of the smart thermostat industry.

If you are with a consumer technology company planning to launch a new product at CES or are even looking ahead to CES 2019, the Max Borges Agency can help you succeed. To learn more, check out:

Topics Featured In This Episode

  • [1:27] Introduction of Stuart Lombard, Founder and CEO of Ecobee
  • [3:57] How Stuart turned belief in hard work and potential into launching a successful company
  • [5:54] How to do you build optimism and drive into a company
  • [10:15] After taking time to build a better thermostat, Ecobee released a product that was hugely successful
  • [12:52] How Ecobee works with utilities
  • [15:00] The mission of Ecobee is larger than just creating a consumer product
  • [16:45] The advantages and disadvantages of running a tech business in Toronto
  • [19:15] The product for the family that can’t remember to turn off the lights
  • [21:15] What’s in store for the future of Ecobee?
  • [23:05] How the room sensor feature works to measure and adjust temperature in different rooms
  • [25:07] Stuart Lombard gives his final word about the future of Ecobee

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