Eric Adler of Flume: “Extremely valuable”

Our goal at Flume is to be firmly in the “extremely valuable” camp and based on the feedback of our customers I believe we have been successful at this mission. Most people don’t understand what is happening with their water outside of a monthly bill. By digitizing this resource, we empower our customers with insights […]

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Our goal at Flume is to be firmly in the “extremely valuable” camp and based on the feedback of our customers I believe we have been successful at this mission. Most people don’t understand what is happening with their water outside of a monthly bill. By digitizing this resource, we empower our customers with insights and knowledge into an essential element that, prior to Flume, they’ve had little engagement with. But the insights alone aren’t enough, with this technology we help our customers catch leaks, reduce their water bill, and save an important resource.

As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Adler, Co-Founder & CEO of Flume.

As a Central Oregon native, avid outdoorsman and an adventurer at heart, Eric has always been determined to use and support sustainable products and practices. Eric chose to study mechanical engineering in hopes of designing products that would have a positive environmental impact. Inspired by California’s 2014 record-breaking drought, Eric pursued the incubation of a senior engineering project focused on providing water usage and conservation data to homeowners into an IoT startup called Flume. Eric has since grown the team, raised capital and brought to market a leak detection and water conservation product that solves a complex problem across multiple industries. Eric has worked to pursue and secure venture capital funding as well as large agreements with major water utilities nationwide. Flume is currently the leading product in the consumer market and is growing quickly. Eric is focused on the continued growth of Flume’s business while pursuing strategic partners, additional investment and market development.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I moved to a small town in Central Oregon when I was thirteen. Among many other things, this move ignited my passion for business, entrepreneurship, and environmental stewardship. I was fortunate to go to a public high school that embraced outdoor education. Much of my time in high school was spent exploring the mountains and rivers around Central Oregon. I began to understand that in order to protect our environment, we must take action to preserve natural resources. I knew that whatever career I chose would be along this path.

However, I knew that I did not want a typical “career”. I worked as a lifeguard for a couple of summers before realizing that I could make a lot more than minimum wage on my own. Craigslist became an outlet for me to run my first “business” where I flipped all types of automobiles. It was there where I learned how to find and negotiate the best deals. At the time, I was just having fun, but in hindsight, this was an invaluable experience to have at a young age. It was around this time that I chose to pursue an education in business and mechanics.

I headed down to Cal Poly, SLO to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. During my senior year, the drought in California sparked the idea for Flume. I pulled together a couple of engineering friends and we chose to tackle the problem as a senior project. Since then, we have raised millions in investment, grown the team to 30+ employees, and have acquired tens of thousands of customers nationwide.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was invited by one of our current investors to pitch to a small group of angel investors. I didn’t know much about the group and figured it was more of a dinner party than a serious investment event. I approached the pitch as a casual conversation and enjoyed an hour of presenting and Q&A. At the end of the meeting, a member of the group approached me and asked how much was available in our current financing round. I said that we were still seeking 500k dollars in investment. He took out his checkbook, wrote out a check for 500k dollars, and handed it to me on the spot. In the following weeks, the group invested over one million dollars.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

With startups (especially IoT startups), there can be endless hours and millions of dollars invested in the development of the product before revenue is realized. Despite all of the market research that is done beforehand, it’s nerve-wracking to bet on the market accepting a product that took years to build. We are still an early-stage company, but for me, a major tipping point occurred when we launched sales on our website. The demand has been high and growing quickly, and, most importantly, our customers love Flume and our ratings/reviews are incredible (4.7 stars and 1,000+ reviews).

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are many advisors and investors that have helped me and our team get to where we are today. It is impossible to list them all. Of course, my two co-founders have been the MVPs since day one, but there are two additional individuals that are worth noting — Professor Thomas Katona and Joe Fazio.

Katona was our senior engineering advisor who went above and beyond with mentorship and support. He continued advising us for years after our project ended, spending countless hours of his time outside of the classroom. His goal has always been a selfless one, simply wanting us to succeed and to grow the entrepreneurial community in San Luis Obispo.

Joe Fazio joined Flume only about a year after we launched the company and has been paramount to our success. He is a serial entrepreneur and a jack of all trades who understands all aspects of the business and has an endless passion for the product and success of customers.

Both of these individuals and their unique perspectives have been extremely valuable since our inception and we have been fortunate to have them involved.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I don’t have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”, but I focus on three main philosophies in my life and career. They aren’t poetic, but they are simple. The first is to make your life meaningful by helping others. If your only goal is to help yourself, it is going to be difficult to feel like what you’re doing matters. The second philosophy is to create value, whether it be in business, relationships, or products. The third is cliche, but it may be the most important one — to have fun. It’s easy to work long hours and late nights if that time doesn’t feel like work. It’s extremely important to enjoy the people you’re around and work with, as well as take time to focus on fun outside of the office. I love to travel with friends and meet new friends along the way; I try to do both as much as possible and it is amazing to see how many business connections come from casual encounters.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future.

When you buy a new car in 2020, you have certain expectations in regard to connectivity. Your phone, music, navigation, and the entire experience must be well integrated. There is a certain level of “intelligence” that is now expected. New home buyers (especially the millennial crowd) now have the same expectations. We want homes to be equally connected. Products must work together and in harmony. Most importantly, there is an expectation that products are not just “cool”, but provide significant utility to the customer. And it makes sense, this is a huge investment, for many, the biggest investment of their lives. Smart home technology offers important peace of mind and more control for the homeowner. With Flume, we enable people to catch leaks and manage water consumption, saving money and preventing potentially catastrophic damage.

We’re lucky to be in a burgeoning field. Tech startups have led the charge on designing and bringing to market advanced connected-home products that increase the intelligence of all aspects of the home. The smart home trend is continuing to grow, with some of the largest corporations in the world (Google and Amazon) continuing to push forward with innovative connected technologies, and we’re excited to be a growing influence in this space. .

Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?

Many companies are tackling energy efficiency in the home. LED light bulbs and efficient appliances are resulting in significant energy savings. Other companies are actively monitoring energy usage and notifying customers of electrical “leaks’’ or high-usage appliances. However, water presents a significant challenge and in many ways is considered “messy”. It’s a difficult resource to accurately monitor without requiring changes to a home’s plumbing. This has been our entire goal — create an engaging, valuable experience around a home’s water use and do so with a product that is affordable and easily self-installed, with no plumbing required. Flume identifies where and when water is being used and notifies customers of wasteful and damaging leaks immediately. This results in a significant increase in efficiency across our customers’ homes and huge savings.

There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?

There are extremely valuable smart home products and completely unnecessary ones. At their best, Smart Home technology enables us to engage with elements of our everyday life in new ways that make us smarter and give us more control. Unfortunately, I find many “smart” products to be more of a hindrance than a help.

Our goal at Flume is to be firmly in the “extremely valuable” camp and based on the feedback of our customers I believe we have been successful at this mission. Most people don’t understand what is happening with their water outside of a monthly bill. By digitizing this resource, we empower our customers with insights and knowledge into an essential element that, prior to Flume, they’ve had little engagement with. But the insights alone aren’t enough, with this technology we help our customers catch leaks, reduce their water bill, and save an important resource.

No matter what I consider valuable and invaluable, consumers and the homeowner market are on the winning end of the space. If you’re looking for a smart “something”, whether that be a connected doorbell, smart water, energy management, lightbulbs, connected toaster oven, etc. it can all be found with a few clicks online.

Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?

There have been some interesting developments lately with modular home design, specifically around pre-fab tiny homes. You can now go on Amazon and purchase a “tiny home in a box”. This makes building ADU’s extremely accessible and easy to do.

Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?

There are some fun connected products that are designed to make living spaces more pet friendly, especially when you are not home. One that I really like is Furbo, a connected dog treat feeder with a video cam on it so you can see your dog while you’re at work or away. Maybe not the most useful system, but a fun one!

How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?

Population growth in urban areas and changing demographics have prompted exponential new development across the United States. At the same time, many of these communities are working hard to integrate resiliency and sustainability planning into this growth to ensure they can absorb the impact of larger populations with a changing climate. This has prompted the growth of an incredible industry of smart and sustainable technology that is increasingly used in new home development to help mitigate this impact across energy, water, and other vital resources.

With water, a lot of this new technology is pretty simple, such as more efficient toilets and showerheads that use less water. It doesn’t sound exciting, but it makes a big impact. At the same time there’s incredible growth in the smart technology industry, such as smart sprinkler systems that can massively reduce outdoor water use — one of the biggest areas of water waste across the country — or smart home water monitoring like Flume. Flume can be installed in new construction sites so that homeowners can take advantage of the cost and water saving capacity of Flume. For many communities, the most reliable source of water for the future is efficiency and Flume can help communities achieve that across new development and older communities.

For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?

Despite growing populations in urban areas and changing demographics across the United States, increasingly, municipalities are cautious about green lighting new developments due to future water availability concerns. Again, this is a place with significant room for disruption (and investment) in the smart water market. Flume can help to decrease water use across service areas, increasing water sustainability and availability in the long-term for current but also future residents and enabling smarter and more sustainable growth. We’ve worked with a number of utilities across the United States and they are eager to learn about what we have developed and how they can implement our solution.

Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

There are many factors involved here, but I think that one of them is the success of the tech industry, which has driven up salaries at an accelerated rate for a significant portion of the population and pushed many people towards large cities that were not built to absorb such massive population growth. This has resulted in housing prices increasing dramatically as well and making it more difficult for non-tech workers to live in these major cities. This is an unintended consequence, but one that we should be aware of.

Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?

Housing density is important. As I mentioned before, there seems to be a movement around tiny homes and ADUs. If cities relax the requirements for ADUs, homeowners can easily add living spaces to their property and have another income stream by renting them out. As I mentioned before, smarter and more sustainable water use for current and future populations can better enable more density and growth in big cities in ways that may not be possible now.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would hope to inspire an environmentalist movement that encourages people to make small changes in their daily habits in order to drive long term change, which is what we encourage our customers to do as well.

How can our readers follow you online?

@flumewater on Twitter and Instagram

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