Friday, July 10, 2009
Cyber Rain: Water Conservation Driving Firm
Diane Schulz, CEO of Westlake Village-based Cyber-Rain, a venture backed developer of smart irrigation controllers, says that the recent increase in awareness of water conservation issues, plus increases in water rates are driving more customers to the firm. Schulz discussed the firm's recent $792K fund raise with socalTECH recently, saying that the round came from its existing investors, including Momentum Ventures, Funk Ventures, and the Tech Coast Angels, as well as a few other new investors. Schulz claimed that the firm has been doing "really well," explaining that the firm has seen lots of progress with landscape contractors and wholesale channels, not to mention lots of direct purchases by municipalities who are eager to reduce water usage of their biggest customers.
Cyber-Rain's smart irrigation controllers connect to a PC via wireless signals and a PC's USB port, allowing customers to control their water usage remotely. However, the controllers are a significant step up in complexity to the basic controllers used for sprinkler control. Has that complexity affected the firm's ability to sell its devices? Schulz said that fortunately, in the wholesale channel and landscape irrigation, its customers are familiar with smart controllers, and the firm's products are actually easier to use and install than offerings from its competitors. "Most of our competitors have monthly fees, and have very hard to install knobs and dials," she says, whereas the firm's product has a "really simple interface, is computer based, and has no monthly fees." The firm is now hoping that the awareness of water issues will help drive the firm's growth. Schulz says, "My belief is that water is really the next oil, and there will be an increasing focus on this area."