Smart home devices are on the rise — by 2022, American households are expected to spent upwards of $63 billion in smart home systems and services. We see smart thermostats, smoke detectors, cameras, and other devices creating safety and efficiency in our homes.
Akshita Iyer still vividly remembers when her mom accidentally left the kitchen stove on, walked away, and started a fire a few years ago. While her mom was unscathed, Iyer learned that unattended cooking is the leading cause of U.S. house fires.
While smart stoves and ranges are available in the market, they require the consumer to toss their still-working appliance for a brand new one which costs upwards of $12,000. “It’s a tough sell when your appliances have an average lifespan of at least 12 years,” says Iyer. “The kitchen is really lagging behind in the connected devices industry.”
“What if we could build something that’s super simple, easy to use, and works with any existing appliance?” asked Iyer.
Iyer and husband Ranjith Babu co-founded Inirv to bring the idea of smart stove knobs to the market. These knobs have an automatic shut-off to avoid kitchen fires like the one Iyer’s mom caused.
“More and more people are more accepting of home automation and connected devices, and people are cooking more at home thanks to meal kits and grocery delivery,” says Iyer. “Inirv makes it easy and gives you the peace of mind that you get in other parts of your home.”
The installation is fairly simple — users just replace the existing knobs with Inirv’s smart knobs, follow the calibration instructions, and are good to go. The knobs can be controlled through the Inirv app. The user can power, monitor, and adjust temperature on their stove from anywhere. They can also set timers at different temperatures.
The technology integrates with the two most popular home assistants — Google Home and Amazon Echo.
Iyer and Babu have taken a data-centric approach to the product, thanks to Iyer’s consumer behavior and neuroscience background and Babu’s technology and engineering experience. To get the product off the ground, they led a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017 which pre-sold over 1,000 units.
But through the feedback they received, they remained very careful about the features they added.
“We really dug in deeper into what functionality would be most beneficial today. It’s really easy with tech products to throw in a bunch of really cool features, and nobody will ever use them,” says Iyer.
The team is in the midst of manufacturing knob units for over 7,000 people on their waitlist, which will be delivered at the end of the year. Each kit contains four knobs.
Inirv focuses on homeowners, apartment complexes, and retirement communities as their customer base. They also reach customers through appliance manufacturer partnerships.
They have raised $450,000 in funding so far, including funding from a stint in the Techstars Future Home accelerator. Earlier this year, the team pitched the television show Shark Tank, but walked away from a deal that wasn’t a good fit, says Iyer. They will be opening their formal seed round of $1.2 million at the end of the year.
The Durham, NC-based startup has a pipeline of other products that will give users more accurate information about their cooking environment. They will introduce a subscription option soon that includes a child lock and an option to add multiple users.
“The ultimate goal is to react in real-time if your spaghetti is boiling over or your chicken is about to get burned,” says Iyer.