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This week, we are excited to announce that Kurt Swanson, Don Pancoe and the whole team at Noria Technologies have won $50,000 in flash funds from Arrow Electronics. The Noria team has been working for four years to improve and modernize the air conditioner and these funds will give them the boost needed to bring this product to market. Their idea for reinventing the air conditioner came from a long career in engineering and industrial product design.
When Kurt left his job at Boeing to pursue a passion in product design, he teamed up with Don to start Likuma Labs, a product development firm. As Kurt and Don worked on client-based projects in industries including consumer products, medical devices, and industrial automation, they kept their eye out for an opportunity to venture out and create their own product.
“Some of our favorite design projects are when companies pick a space that is old and mature and no longer interesting, and they really just revitalize that,” says Don. They took this inspiration and ran with it. Kurt and Don began noticing, as winter approached, that a lot of the windows in older buildings in Philadelphia still had their air conditioner units in. They assumed this was because they were such a hassle to take out and re-install six months later.
One day, Kurt turned to Don and said, “How small do you think we can make an air conditioner?” And like that, the idea for the Noria was born.
Giving the traditional, clunky air conditioner a wild makeover allowed Don and Kurt to use their engineering skills and flex their design chops while addressing the many pain points that customers have with the older model. Window conditioners have traditionally been a terrible user experience: they’re big, ugly, loud and difficult to install.
The Noria team set out to fix all these pain points on a long three year journey of product development.
They used a local maker space in Philadelphia to begin the product design and prototyping. After long hours and even longer weeks, they realized they needed to find out if this product was worth building, and for this, the team turned to crowdfunding. “When you get so close to a project, you’re not really sure if it’s going to be something other people care about and this was one of the really powerful things for us about crowdfunding,” says Kurt.
They launched their crowdfunding campaign in April to gear up for the hot summer months. Their campaign was a success, raising close to $1.5 million before moving into InDemand. “To me, it’s a no brainer,” says Don about InDemand. “It allows people who may have discovered a blog post, a month after the fact, to still have the opportunity to participate.” The team had a surge of orders in the hot month of July, and although their standard campaign was over, Indemand allowed them to continue to take preorders.
As they raised a steady source of funds, they also received valuable feedback from their backers that allowed them to improve on the product. “When you get the same request a hundred and fifty times, you think wow, this is definitely a feature that we should consider adding. A small team of people may not have even thought of that,” says Don.
Adding features to their current model has been easier thanks to Arrow. Don says that going to a distributor website and realizing there are millions of choices for transistors or microprocessors can make the experience of building a product pretty daunting. As the sole in-house electrical designer on the project, it is much easier for him to ask Arrow for their expertise.
“I ask, ‘What have you guys seen?’ ‘What are the trends?’ ‘What parts have you placed into similar projects before?’” says Don. For him, the staff of field application engineers from Arrow have also been invaluable. They relay their experience on the availability and quality of certain parts while the Arrow sales rep puts him in touch with specific vendors that specialize in products like Noria. “It’s a huge help to wade through the morass of choices to get the best ones,” says Don.
Arrow not only assists with the part selection for the Noria, but, soon, they will support the team on manufacturing the window air conditioner. Don plans on taking advantage of the Arrow AMSS program, or Advanced Manufacturing Systems and Services. The benefit? “They will go to a dozen or more manufacturers that they partner with and find the one that’s best suited for our board, our size of production run and just make that whole process a lot easier too,” says Don, “This protects us from counterfeit components and ensures we get the best quality parts as well.”
In addition to the valuable advice and services, Arrow has also awarded the Noria team $50,000 to bring their product to market. “It’s a huge help. As we move into production, that $50,000 will most likely go towards buying parts from Arrow. We are transitioning from development into full production, where there’s a lot of prototyping going on. This will allow us to buy the parts needed for this transition,” Don says.
For a team that lives by the mantra, ‘to prototype early and often’ these funds will provide huge support. “The $50,000 will go a long way to allow us to have additional iterations to reduce risk further and allow us make the best product,” Kurt says.
Building multiple prototypes of the Noria would not have been possible without Arrow’s help, and, of course, the backers. As Don puts it, “They put their money on the line in the hopes that we deliver this thing. Not only do we really appreciate that, we do not take that lightly. We are working long hours, long weeks to make it happen and happen as quickly as we can. But at the same time, deliver the best product that we can.” And thanks to these backers and the flash funding from Arrow, these design gurus are a step closer to changing the air conditioning game.
Indiegogo and Arrow will be choosing two more flash funding recipients in the month of October. Sign up here for your shot at game-changing funds, engineering resources and tools, discounts, and personal guidance from experts.