While serving overseas in the U.S. Army, Alex Bertelli witnessed how opposing forces seeking to hide would reinforce their doors with steel bars.
“Our guys were having difficulty physically kicking down the doors as the insurgents were barricading themselves, essentially creating a wedge barrier that prevented our guys from grabbing them,” says Bertelli.
The idea came back to him once he returned from his deployment in 2014 and his neighbor’s house was broken into by kicking in the door. Surprisingly, over one-third of burglars enter through the front door of a home.
Their first smart lock prototype used military-grade materials like steel, nylon, and industrial strength polycarbonates to absorb the burglar’s kick during an attempted break-in. Their proprietary weaving process is done on-site with a sewing machine.
The wedge lock, which claims to be 10 times stronger than a deadbolt, is secured to the bottom of the door and is activated with a foot. It sends alerts via a smartphone app and allows for keyless entry.
Haven launched a Kickstarter campaign in late 2014 with their prototype. Despite the failed campaign, Bertelli shares that it was an incredible way to validate their product.
“Our goal was $150,000 and we knew that this product would take a lot more to get to market. We raised $116,000, but it gave us great validation that people wanted this product and were willing to pay for it,” he says.
From there, Bertelli and his team started building the only floor-based smart look on the market.
The Home Depot, Amazon, and other major retailers now stock the smart locks nationally. They have been installed in nearly 4,000 homes to-date.
The startup has also added additional offerings, including a home security bundle and the Haven Lockdown, which mounts above a classroom door to prevent intruders from entering during an emergency.
Their Lockdown Pro HQ takes the Lockdown one step further by allowing administrators to lock down an entire school building in a few seconds through the app.
Bertelli says that his team’s “never quit” mentality, something he attributes to his time in the military, helped them get through several challenges during those first three years in business, from manufacturer truck drivers striking in China to expensive mold mistakes.
“Ultimately if we’re not accomplishing what we set out to do, our customers are the ones who suffer. We work back and we set this culture of we’re going to do whatever it takes to succeed for our customer,” he says.
A large part of the startup’s story is their commitment to making all of their products in America, says Bertelli. Most of their assembly line workers are recruited from a local distressed community.
“We’re really prideful about that aspect of our business and our veteran brand story. What better way can I give back and still protect people by creating this product and the story around ‘Made in America?'”
Both co-founders were on stage on ABC’s Shark Tank startup pitch show earlier this month. Bertelli’s priority for their participation in the show was exposure on a national stage.
He says they succeeded — they’ve been fielding interest from salespeople to investment firms and new manufacturing opportunities since the show aired.
“I think the biggest thing in business is to rally people around the vision, get them excited about the problem and then solving that problem will just become a natural process,” he says.
The startup is in the midst of fundraising a Series A round, which while already oversubscribed is still open.
“My goal remains to resource the team, set the strategy, and get out of the way. Once we close this round, we will push for customer acquisition, advertising, new product development, and streamline manufacturing processes,” says Bertelli.
Featured image courtesy of ABC/Eric McCandless