Silicon Slopes Stories
Novi Security: An Entrepreneurial Success Story
At its core, entrepreneurship is about problem solving. Some of the best businesses begin with a product that solves a problem faced by ordinary people.
An idea to democratize home security systems was born in an interdisciplinary Brigham Young University (BYU) entrepreneurship class in 2013. That idea was the genesis of Novi Security, a rising Orem startup.
Matthew Henningson was in the class. With his peers, he discovered renters were an untapped niche in the home security market. At the time, existing security systems were expensive and had to be hardwired into a home, so tenants couldn’t take them along when moving from one place to another.
Over the course of a year, the students conducted a wealth of exploratory research and came up with a low-level prototype for an affordable and portable home security system. When the class ended, Henningson and several other class members founded a company to take the concept to the next level.
Novi Security established headquarters in Orem in 2015 and has been there ever since. From the beginning, the vision has been the same, according to Henningson, who serves as the company’s COO. “Home security shouldn’t only be offered to a small subset of consumers,” he says. “Everyone should be able to have that peace of mind — whether a homeowner or renter. They should be able to be protected and not have to break the bank to do it.”
Product Development and Differentiation
The company developed the Novi Cam, a portable, battery-powered home security system that has a motion detector, high definition camera, smoke sensor and siren built into it. The device is connected to an app to enable users to arm the system with a smartphone or tablet. The product was awarded the 2018 Utah Innovation Award for Outdoor and Consumer Products.
The Novi Cam has a number of competitive advantages. There’s no contract, no installation fee and no monthly fee. It can be self-installed, much like a smoke detector, in about 10 minutes. It’s also battery powered, so it isn’t reliant on proximity to an electrical outlet. And the batteries last a year, which is double the life of products by the current competition.
Another important advantage is that the security system avoids expensive 911 false alarms by sending an alert to consumers and letting them decide, based on visual verification, what type of emergency response may be needed. If a customer is out of the area, its database connects to the appropriate local emergency number to ensure a quick response in the user’s home area.
“This allows you to take action no matter where you are in the world. We’re the only company that offers something like that,” says Henningson.
The Novi Cam has now been available through online and retail channels such as the Home Depot and Walmart for more than two years. The company has also had success selling the product through service providers that are already in homes to install internet. “They become an extension of our sales team. We can push the product out to people we could never reach otherwise,” says Henningson.
A Nurturing Environment
Henningson notes that the entrepreneurial road is not an easy one. He describes the development phase as a “wild process” that was at times very discouraging. “Product development was way harder than expected,” he says, explaining that their security system is a physical product that also requires sophisticated software to run.
Tyler Crawford was instrumental in bringing the product to market, according to Henningson. Early on, the young Novi Security team recognized they needed help and reached out to a number of experienced mentors. Crawford was one of these mentors who ended up joining the team as CEO.
“From the beginning, we surrounded ourselves with smart people — both internally and with our mentor system,” Henningson says, noting that people who have already built successful companies know how to strategize and avoid pitfalls. “We were smart enough to listen and take feedback and realize they knew things we didn’t know.”
Novi Security has six staff members and the intentional plan is to keep the company small. It outsources as much as possible, but keeps the core technology of its products in house. Over the next year, the company plans to release a suite of additional products, such as door, window and flood sensors.
This streamlined mode of operation avoids excess waste and helps maintain a positive work culture. “It very much feels like a family because we’re small and we know each other well,” says Henningson. “There’s no divisiveness. We’re focused on the greater good of what we’re trying to do.”
Orem has proven to be an excellent location for Novi Security, according to Henningson. Eighty-five percent of the capital raised to develop their security system was from Utah investors. The Novi Cam is manufactured in Orem. Order fulfillment and tech support also happen in Utah.
“Utah has a phenomenal ecosystem for startups. All through Utah County, from Salt Lake City to Provo, there’s hyper growth in the technology scene. And a lot of talent with nearby universities,” says Henningson.