How Alexa and I Finally Out-Smarted My Teenagers...
I love bringing new technology into my life, so it was only a matter of time before I jumped aboard the “smart house” craze. I got the smart doorbell, door lock, garage door opener, heating system, Nest thermostat, alarm system, light controls, and all the other gadgets. Each one had its own app, and not all of them worked like they should. It was a real pain! Instead of making me feel like I was living in the future, struggling with all these gadgets made me want to go back to 1985.
Fortunately, there’s a company located in Richmond that specializes in automating residential and commercial properties. Livewire got it all to work seamlessly within a single app. Now when I want to switch on the lights, turn up the heat, or make sure the garage door is closed, I can do it all with a voice command through Alexa.
I was so impressed with the result that I invited Livewire founder and CEO, Henry Clifford, to talk about what got him into the home automation industry.
A Word from Henry
I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandfather. He was an electrical engineer and invented a lot of technologies still being used in the industry today. When I went to his house, he wasn’t playing shuffleboard; he was soldering electronics together. I remember the excitement of seeing the latest gadget from Japan or hearing amazing sound systems. I wanted in.
That passion continued to grow throughout my life. I love taking things apart and putting them back together. As personal computers and the internet became more prevalent, the idea of machines talking on a global network fascinated me. Shortly after graduating from high school in 1995 (the first year the internet was considered commercially viable), I got paid to rebuild a web server from scratch. Later that year, someone from the Washington Post came into my journalism class and told us that if we wanted to succeed in online journalism, we needed to learn how to code HTML. I bought a book and taught myself how to make my own websites. In 1996, I started a consulting business writing code for websites, which would grow to earn a few million dollars in revenue per year.
I got a taste for being an entrepreneur and decided I never wanted a “real job” again. After the dot-com collapse, I still wanted to work for myself, this time with employees. I bought my first house in 2001, and my wife and I wired it for the latest technology. Shortly after that I ran into a builder whose electrician had left him high and dry. He hired the electrician to automate his property, but halfway through the job, the electrician realized he didn’t know what he was doing and bailed out. Of course, I opened my big mouth and said, “Well, we can do that!” At the time, “we” was me, my Dodge Neon, and a rented generator from Home Depot. My brother and I went out there and set everything up. That first job took us two days. Today, I would expect someone on my team to get it done in four hours.
After that first job, I started reaching out to home builders and convinced them to hire us to wire their properties for audio, video, phone, and data. At the time, it was largely assumed the electrician should handle that kind of job, but I convinced the home-building community that was like contracting a plumber to sell candy bars.
Rapidly changing technology is part of the reason Livewire is so valuable to our clients. There’s always going to be some new gadget or doodad that claims to make life better. You could DIY each one, or you could get premium service and make sure it gets done the right way.
Drastic change is also what I love about the industry. It’s exhilarating. The tech field is completely different than it was when my grandfather was starting out, and I can only imagine how much it will have changed when my grandkids are getting into the industry. I’ll never stop learning new things. Plus, I get to play with cool tech for a living. What could be better than that?
Thanks for reading,
Randy Sklar, CEO