Peeple lets you see who’s knocking at the door on your smartphone

PeepleFounders

What do you do when someone calls you on the phone, and you don’t answer it?

It goes to answer phone.

What do you do when you miss someone at your front-door?

Well, I guess you just miss them? Or maybe they put a note through your door?

Your front door is a blind spot. Peeple solves that. Peeple is Caller ID for your home.

That’s how Chris Chuter, the CEO and Co-Founder of Peeple, describes his product. A simple question, yet my perceptions have been shifted from seeing Peeple as a cool piece of technology to an essential feature in the home of the future.

Peeple came about when Chris’ 4 year old son decided he was going to leave the house and attempt to embark on the 160 mile trip from Austin to Houston, to see his Nan. This is when Chris realised he wanted to know “when his door opens, who is leaving and who is entering”. Being an engineer, Chris wasted no time in hacking something together to fulfill his need.

The initial product worked pretty well, with lots of people showing an interest in Peeple, leading Chris to enter the Highway1 accelerator. Here, he learnt how to move Peeple from an invention to a product, “that’s where the nitty-gritty is, making something that people will buy and love”.

Next it was on to CES, “the hardware version of TechCrunch Disrupt”. Peeple did a pretty good job, coming in second, but Chris wasn’t content, especially seeing as there was no second prize. So it was onto crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise some cash and, most importantly, raise more interest in the product.

The team almost doubled their Kickstarter target of $50k and, most importantly, they sold 700 units. “This was important as it meant we had real paying customers, helping us to improve the product”.

Earlier this year, Chris and the team came to the UK to take part in JLab, winning the competition and the hugely valuable relationships that came with it. “The key to JLab was how closely integrated they were with John Lewis”, Chris told Follow Innovation. “That was the biggest benefit, being part of the retailer”. Now the focus is on preparing Peeple for its expected shipping date of May 2016.

The biggest focus for Peeple, in the next 10 years, is iterating and perfecting the product. With a few miniaturisation steps, the price will come way down (the expected RRP for launch will be £100), and Chris sees “no reason why we can’t replace the regular peep-hole”, with the aim of selling 1 million devices in the next 5 years.

Chris is a massive proponent of “not expanding the features, before you get the core features right”. His biggest fear is not the threat of a tech giant or the brand battle currently on his hands, but “making a product that isn’t as useful as we know it can be, and failing on the execution”.

It’s refreshing to see the passion that Chris has for this product. He’s not driven by commercial success or fame, in his own words “I just want to make a damn good product. It would break my heart if Peeple was sitting on a store shelf and people said it just doesn’t work, so that’s our number one priority”.

Peeple lives proudly within the Internet of Things industry, with Chris insisting their in a strong position due to being at “the boundary condition of the IoT”. Whereas products such as Nest rely on commands and people walking past the device to understand who’s home, Peeple’s position at the door means its better able to keep tabs on this.

But Peeple aren’t trying to insulate themselves from these other devices, “The plan was always to be part of the ecosystem, not create the ecosystem”. The open nature of all of the IoT devices, means the greatest value to the consumer, and in the end the businesses, is when these devices work together to deliver an seamlessly connected in-home experience.

Chris himself has a host of experience in the startup world, experiencing both success and failure. His first startup, Magic Earth, specialised in 3D visualisation and data interpretation. They were bought by Halliburton for $100 million in 2001, despite only being a year old. Chris then went on to found Stray Bullet Games, in the “bruising and soul crushing” gaming industry. Although this startup failed, there were some essential lessons that Chris has applied to Peeple.

Chris found himself in a difficult position after Stray Bullet Games, leaving 23 employees without a job. As a result, he is now trying to bootstrap and contract as much as he can – “it’s a constant struggle, making sure every single dollar is spent to its fullest”.

There are two other members of the co-founding team, David Genet and Craig Sullender. David takes care of the art, design and modelling, whilst Craig is their hardware guy, “nuts about cameras”. Leaving Chris to deal with the software, the pitches and these pesky interviews. Besides this team of three, Peeple use contractors from California, through Ireland to China.

Peeple is a really exciting product, with a great team behind it. Keep your eyes peeled for May 2016, when you’ll be able to pick one up for yourself!