This is the fourth in a series of interviews I am doing with new and innovative companies in and around the Smart Lock, Security and Access Control industry. It's time they have a voice and we meet them. If there are any companies you'd like to see highlighted in the future, let me know. I plan to do this regularly. I am open to your feedback and appreciate the heads up. Thank you!
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with two of my favorite people in the lock start up scene, Alex Bertelli and Clay Banks of HavenLock (btw...another Veteran owned organization). I first met them back when I was at UniKey (we helped them with the electronics, app and backend of their Haven Connect product). From the first meeting with them you could tell they were going to not just be great customers, but partners and friends. Their integrity, honesty, purpose and clear vision of what they are trying to do makes you, like Lifedoor, want to see them "win." With that, here is what I learned when they answered the 5 questions:
As always, please let me know in the comments what you think.
1. Tell us a little bit about your business.
HavenLock Inc. was started in 2014 with a very simple mission- to prevent residential break-ins. After 2 years of difficult research and development, and completely reinventing the concept of a lock, we shipped our first order. Along the way we have formed some amazing partnerships with companies like Futaba, Berkshire Hathaway, and Unikey (which is how we met Lee). We built two amazing variants of our residential product, one mechanical, and the other a BLE connected smart lock. A radical departure from deadbolt-based locks, our residential locks sit on the floor in front of the threshold and operates mechanically and electronically (Haven Connect). Our locks find their strength in absorbing the energy of a forced entry through a specifically engineered and chemically formulated wedge gate to prevent someone from kicking in your front door. As we grew our business and word got out to students, parents, and teachers we found customers asking us for a solution for individual classroom security. Listening to our customers, we ventured down a path to utilize our technology to build a smart lock specifically designed and engineered for classrooms—Haven Lockdown. Through a year of R&D, codes and compliance tests to tackle life safety issues, and pilot programs across the country, we now have a fully functioning classroom lock that gives a teacher or administrator the ability to lock down a classroom in less than a second. It also provides for means of egress in the event of an emergency and backup redundancy if first responders need to get into a room. Coming up on 6 years of being in business, we ship globally, have two product verticals and are working with some amazing partners to continue to bring our wedge-based locks to market in new and interesting ways.
2. What got you into the access control business?
In 2014, my partner Clay and I, were crisscrossing the state working for the Governor of TN recruiting new businesses to establish their factories and HQ locations. As Clay and I got to know each other we quickly found out that both of our neighbors had experienced break-ins. At the time, I lived in metro Nashville, and Clay lived in Franklin—one of the safest places in TN to raise a family. We quickly realized that a break-in can happen to anyone at any time. The emotional toll and violence that occurs during a break-in can stay with someone for a lifetime. As we finished our first week together Clay and I had decided to solve the problem. I explained to Clay an idea I had while I was overseas in Army Special Operations flying for the 160th SOAR. After countless night raids and infils of Americas special operators, I noticed that the bad guys were fortifying their entry ways, making it difficult to capture them quickly (we still got them though ;). As I drove back through the airfield security checkpoint after a mission one night, the Hilux crested the entryway bollards and I thought to myself, this concept could have prevented my neighbor’s break-in. After some research I found that there wasn’t a physical security product on the market that was smart enabled for residential applications. So in reality, the entire concept was generated from lessons learned overseas flying Americas warriors into battle.
3. What markets and verticals do you serve?
We service both the residential and commercial access control markets. We ship to a variety of outlets including Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon, Walmart, our website, and soon to the alarm and security industry. Our commercial business is mainly focused on classrooms, but Haven Lockdown will work in any standard commercial setting (think location and size of a door closer).
4. What is one thing that you were surprised to find out about the access control industry?
A lot actually surprised us. We wanted to perfect our lock and sell directly to consumers, so we chose the BLE route, which has allowed us to test, iterate, and accelerate our product roadmap more quickly. I would say the biggest thing we learned and faced countless times had less to do with access control and more to do with hardware. Manufacturing and inventing new products is really hard. You would say I was lying if I told you that a sweet little old lady sews our product shut with a $7K sewing machine on our assembly line. Concerning access control—integrations are probably the most important thing to consider when developing a product for either vertical. Nowadays, it isn’t just about access control, scheduling, and ease of use. It is about what panel, what camera, what sensor, and what voice assistant can you instantly tie into. Customers expect your product to work out of the box for even the smallest of integrations.
5. Where do you see your business in 5 years?
I’ll keep the last one short. In 5 years I see our residential lock on the back of home security trucks all across the country. Our commercial product will become the standard in classroom hardening. All to accomplish our new mission—to keep people safe at home, while at work, church, or learning at school. The next time you walk past your front door look at the threshold. If you stand a nickel on its side in front of the door, that is the thickness we had to build our residential lock to in order to meet most threshold heights and code standards. This design feat is truly a real testament to our partners, and the power of American manufacturing. In closing, one guiding principle that never failed me in the Army and one that guides our team here at Haven is a simple acronym – NSDQ. If you don’t’ know what it means look it up, and then watch my episode on Shark Tank—season 10.