Notion: A Founder’s Story
Ryan and I grew up together in a town north of Boulder, CO called Longmont. And when I say grew up together, I mean we started hanging out 25 years ago at the age of 4. I doubt our parents knew we would someday start a business together, but I vaguely remember playing with financial models and PCB boards, so they must have known something we didn’t!
Once we got to high school, we both had interest in business, specifically entrepreneurship. We didn’t really know what that meant, other than knowing what it meant for our families. His father had started a successful real estate marketing company. My mother was a psychologist and my father was an orthodontist, both with private practices. We started planting seeds about starting a company together and we would send each other news on cool products or industries.
Those conversations continued into college. Ryan likes to say he took a 5th year victory lap at CU-Boulder but the real story is that he double majored in engineering and business. I received a finance degree from the same school. GO BUFFS!!
I went off to do private placements in Minneapolis, MN at the investment bank Piper Jaffray. Ryan landed in SoCal working for Titleist on a new swing sensing system. He worked with golf pros and used all kinds of amazing sensor technologies to help change the way Titleist made their clubs. I was jealous!
After that, Ryan went to Callaway and I became the first employee at a Denver-based startup (that’s not much of a startup anymore) called UrgentRx. The conversations about a business continued to intensify.
One day, a smoke alarm battery in Ryan’s house was about to die. The slow beep during the course of the day drove his dog insane! When Ryan got home, there was chaos. He calmed down his dog, changed the battery, and immediately called me. “Brett, this is the one. A smoke alarm that can contact you when it’s going off, smart enough to know if the battery is low or if there’s an emergency!”
Good idea. We set off two years ago to make the world’s best smoke alarm. After a couple of months of research, we decided that recreating the wheel wasn’t necessary. Why not retrofit? Put a microphone next to the alarm. Better idea. As engineers do, Ryan kept thinking and tinkering. He suggested we add an accelerometer to detect a door or window opening. Great idea!
From here, we dove deep into customer and market research. We interviewed nearly 80 customers and learned as much as possible about the home security and burgeoning do-it-yourself monitoring industries. We came up with Notion. A small, extremely smart, multi-function sensor that we believe solves the problems presented by traditional security and current DIY solutions.
Four iterations, amazing employees and now Techstars. Here we are. Fully functioning, manufactured v4 product, a mobile app, a beta test starting in 3 weeks, a Kickstarter campaign launching on Tuesday the 16th and an amazing future ahead of us — with friendship as the foundation! So what if it’s taken us 25 years to get our company off the ground?