smart home

Houston home tech startup emerges from stealth with $10M series A round

A Houston startup has launched to keep an eye on your AC to predict and prevent outages and issues. Photo courtesy of SmartAC.com

It can get hot as Hades in Houston during the summer, and a new Houston startup is using machine learning and technology to ensure that users can count on their air conditioning units to stay up and running during the heat.

Houston-based SmartAC.com has emerged from stealth mode with $10 million in funding from a series A investment round. The company's technology focuses on maintaining air conditioning and heating (HVAC) health before a major service issue occurs.

"Over 70 million homes have central air in the U.S., making indoor comfort a regular way of life. People don't often think about their HVAC systems, taking it for granted, until the day the AC or heat goes out," says Josh Teekell, CEO and founder of SmartAC.com, in a news release. "These systems require regular upkeep, and when they aren't maintained, costs can get out of hand. SmartAC.com's offer is simple; we care about your AC so you don't have to."

The company's technology combines three hardware sensors — which users can install themselves — and machine learning software to analyze data to predict service issues. The comfort sensor monitors the temperature of the air coming out of the unit, the filter sensor tracks the lifespan of air filters by tracking pressure and airflow, and the water sensor protects against leaks and clogs.


The three SmartAC.com sensors are magnetic and easy to install. Photo courtesy of SmartAC.com

All three sensors are linked by SmartAC.com Hub, which sends data from the sensors to the cloud and the SmartAC.com app to translate the data into recommendations to help users reduce costs and get ahead of issues.

"The average AC replacement cost is $7,500 — an expense that can be a huge burden on homeowners. Caring for these assets is inconvenient and oftentimes confusing, resulting in 80 percent of homeowners skipping the recommended maintenance on their AC systems," says Andrew Fuselier, SmartAC.com's COO, in a news release. "It's time to digitize the AC ownership experience to solve a decades old problem. SmartAC.com was formed in stealth mode with feedback from thousands of homeowners, so we're thrilled to finally show the world what we've built."

In addition to working directly with consumers, SmartAC.com has teamed up with HVAC service providers.

"SmartAC.com is a total game-changer," says David Lewis of Mission AC in a news release. "Our clients love the additional transparency and the technology allows us to improve our service speed and quality because, for the first time, we have real-time data on the systems we service."

The data from the sensors is analyzed and sent to users via the smart phone app. Photo courtesy of SmartAC.com

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Building Houston

 
 

Koda Health, Houston, uses AI to help guide difficult conversations in health care, starting with end-of-life care planning. Image via kodahealthcare.com

A new Houston-based digital advanced care planning company is streamlining some of the most difficult conversations in the health care industry around palliative care.

Founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry, Koda Health uses AI to help patients create advance medical care directives and documents—such as a living will—through an easy to use web-based interface.

Koda Health uses a conversational platform where users can enter information about their values, living situations, quality of life wishes, and more while learning about different care options at their own speed. It also uses a proprietary machine learning approach that personalizes audio-video guided dialogue based on the patient's individual and cultural preferences.

The app then autogenerates legal and medical documents, which patients can notarize or electronically witness the forms through the app or on their own.

According to Fafanova, who earned her PhD in in Molecular Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and now acts as the company's CEO, what historically has been a time consuming and expensive process, through Koda Health, takes an average of 17 minutes and is completely free of charge to the end user.

"We hope to reduce any outstanding barriers to access that might exist," Fafanova says. "It is very frequently the oldest and the poorest that are the highest utilizers of health care that don't have access to these solutions."

The app is also projected to save health care systems roughly $9,500 per patient per year, as it allows for hospitals and organizations to better plan for what their patient population is seeking in end-of-life-care.

The B2B platform was born out of the TMC's Biodesign Fellowship, which tasked Koda's founding members with finding solutions to issues surrounding geriatric care in the medical center. In March 2020, Koda incorporated. Not long after ICU beds began to fill with COVID-19 patients, "galvanizing" the team's mission, Fafanova says.

"It was no longer this conceptual thing that we needed to address and write a report on. Now it was that people were winding up in the hospital at alarming rates and none of those individuals had advanced care planning in place," she says.

After accelerating the development of the product, Koda Health is now being used by health care systems in Houston, Texas, and Virginia.

The company recently received a Phase I grant of $256,000 from the National Science Foundation, which will allow Koda to deploy the platform at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and test it against phone conversations with 900 patients. Fafanova says the company will also use the funds to continue to develop personalization algorithms to improve Kona's interface for users.

"We want to make this a platform that mimics a high quality conversation," she says.

After Koda completes the Phase I pilot program it will then be eligible to apply for a Phase II award of up to $1 million in about a year.

Koda Health was founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry. Photos via kodahealthcare.com

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