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James Keirstead

Levven is a product design and manufacturing business with a mission to make homes more affordable to build, purchase, and operate with smart controls.

Tell us about yourself?

I am a serial entrepreneur. I originally got into the electronics business as a vertical integration player to make controls for Blue Falls Manufacturing Ltd. (maker of Arctic Spas), a company for which I was one of the founders. I saw the opportunity to leverage the IP we developed connecting hot tubs to the internet and worked with a local home builder to solve the issue of removing wire from the walls to speed up factory assembly of wall panels.

I have always loved making physical products, and the idea of marrying hardware with a unique software platform to deliver an experience never before available to everyday homes is so exciting.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Focus on growing sales faster. Revenue makes the development of new products and systems so much more manageable because it can support team growth. We have had to do a lot with a relatively small team.

What problem does your business solve?

People want their homes to be smarter and more capable of meeting their ever-changing needs, but home automation has been largely unaffordable to the masses due to product design and installation methods not addressing installation costs. We remove up to 39 per cent of the building wire, switch boxes, and up to 30 per cent of the installation labour to install switches into a home. These savings offset most or all the cost of the new smart switches we offer, making them accessible to everyone.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

I grew up in a single-parent family. As someone who grew up poor, the idea of making something that has always been unattainable to the average person available to everyone is incredibly fulfilling for me. Our simple technology shifts costs from low-value installation materials and labour to high-value smart technology.

What is your magic sauce?

We are the first company to figure out how to separate a switch into its two operating components: the rocker you interact with every day and the power controller which actually operates the circuit. We developed a very secure wireless protocol that could switch entire homes as reliably as traditional wired switches and give homeowners the flexibility to change what a switch operates and program features that allow them to personalize the house to their needs.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

Our goal is to change the home-building industry by making this type of home control the norm in houses across North America.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

We have faced so many challenges. I am surprised we have made it this far. First was the technical challenges of delivering a secure, reliable wireless network of devices in a home that is as reliable as traditional wired switches. Once we overcame that, we ran headlong into the Canadian and US Electrical Codes not recognizing wireless wall-mounted controls like ours as an acceptable means to deliver the outcome homeowners expect. It has taken five-plus years to move those codes, and now Canada and many US states have adopted the changes, which has opened the market to us.

How can people get involved?

If you want to try our products, you can order them on Amazon or ask your builder and electrical contractor to use Levven controls. The more people that use and talk about us the more likely this technology will become ubiquitous.