Wednesday November 6, 2013 0 comments
By Steve Porter
BOULDER - It could be hard to find two people with deeper knowledge of the smart lighting industry than Matt O'Kelley, founder of Fabriq, and Mark Verheyen, the startup company's CEO.
And while Fabriq - which offers remote wireless lighting control via the cloud -- remains very much a startup, its two leaders are no strangers to what technological advances are now enabling in small and mid-size business lighting systems.
Fabriq was founded by O'Kelley in January 2012 but certainly didn't mark his first foray into wireless control of lighting and other systems.
A graduate of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, O'Kelley is a serial smart energy entrepreneur, co-founding Tendril in 2004 and SmallFoot in 2009.
Prior to that, he was founder of Tsunami Consulting Group and VP of that enterprise software development company for 10 years.
Verheyen, a native of Australia, has a long history of helping companies succeed especially in the lighting industry, and served as president and CEO of TerraLUX until earlier this year, when he joined Fabriq.
O'Kelley said Fabriq is an outgrowth of the "Internet of Things" concept that includes remote wireless control of home and business systems through a cloud connection with a smartphone or other device.
"When we started Tendril, nobody was really talking about the Internet of Things at all," said O'Kelley. "We got a lot of experience under our belt from that."
At SmallFoot, the focus was on controlling air conditioning loads in small buildings, O'Kelley said. But it was in remote control of lighting - particularly commercial lighting - that O'Kelley saw a lucrative niche.
"We like the commercial landscape and thought air conditioning was interesting, but the big market is in lighting," he said.
And especially in small to mid-size commercial buildings - 50,000 square feet and under - which generally have no building management system on site.
Whole different angle
"It has to be simple and it has to be inexpensive," he said. "We've come at it from a whole different angle than anybody else."
Traditional lighting retrofits involve expensive equipment purchases and labor-intensive effort, which Fabriq makes unnecessary.
"Existing wired solutions require thousands of feet of cable to be run to a central server," Verheyen said. "That's why no one's doing it in small and medium-size businesses, and that's where wireless comes in that connects to the cloud.
"You can basically control everything with a mobile device."
The Fabriq system consists of small wireless radios installed in lighting ballasts and a gateway box that's wirelessly connected to a cloud server.
And that will result in significant cost savings to small to medium-sized building owners, its leaders say.
"We take the cost down from over $4 a square foot to $1.20 to $1.50 a square foot," said Verheyen. "It achieves a payback of two years or under, and that's crucial."
The Fabriq system also allows individual building tenants to override the settings for their own spaces through their smartphones.
"That individual control is the sexiness factor," Verheyen said. "That building owner can offer that feature to his tenants."
Switching to a Fabriq-controlled system just for environmental and cost-savings is one advantage of the company's business model, but new energy-saving lighting requirements mandated by state and federal government will also bring in customers as new laws take effect.
"It started in California and requires every lighting installation (including retrofits) to have the ability to be dimmed to at least two lighting levels," said Verheyen. "That dimming technology is required in California and is spreading across the country."
O'Kelley and Verheyen said they expect to rely heavily on energy service companies (ESCOs) that perform energy-use audits as a way of marketing their product.
Headquartered in Boulder, Fabriq recently became an offsite client of Fort Collins startup incubator Rocky Mountain Innosphere.
O'Kelley and Verheyen say Fabriq is in fundraising mode now and they hope to raise $4 million within the next year. That accomplished, Fabriq could be generating revenue within one year, said Verheyen.
Energy cost-savings and the convenience of remote control of building lighting systems are the attractions Fabriq is counting on.
"What we're actually providing is a building energy management system but at an extremely low cost relative to other solutions," Verheyen said.
"You can control in New York what's happening in Tokyo. There's no limit."