Under The Shell: Sunflower Labs takes flight

Sunflower Labs co-founders CEO Alex Pachikov and CTO Chris Eheim

Home security hasn’t changed much in the past three decades. Sure, systems have gotten cheaper and more common, but they pretty much work the same way now as they did then. And to hear Alex Pachikov, CEO of Sunflower Labs, tell it, “that approach is totally broken.”

Between 94 and 99 percent of police calls set off by alarms are false positives, like when a homeowner forgets to disarm their system after walking in the door. Because of this, burglar alarms have fallen to the lowest tier of priority for police dispatchers. “Each false alarm makes the police less likely to respond and homeowners are often fined when it happens,” Pachikov says.

As true robotics and drone enthusiasts, the team behind Sunflower Labs wanted to a build a new type of home security system that they would be happy to use themselves.

Better security through better insight

Keeping a home safe is about more than sensors and alarms. True security comes from having full insight into what’s happening around a property, and that’s exactly what the Sunflower Home Awareness System is designed to do.

The center point of the Sunflower system is a flying camera (mounted to an autonomous quadcopter) that is triggered by a system of sensors that double as garden lights for your property. The lights are smart enough learn the normal activity around a home and deploy the flying camera to investigate when something unusual is detected — all without any human input. From the very first alert onwards, residents can use the Sunflower mobile app to monitor what’s going on in real time, from anywhere in the world.

Sunflower’s barroom beginnings

Security is a serious matter, but Sunflower Labs started out as a playful idea over a couple drinks. While brainstorming, Alex and his CTO co-founder Chris Eheim realized that recent advances in drone and sensor tech made it possible to a build a unique new type of drone security solution. The idea required both hardware/software expertise, which the two had, and as homeowners themselves they knew the headache of home security firsthand.

They casually took the idea to Phil Libin, then Managing Director at General Catalyst, whose initial hesitation over the notoriously challenging hardware space turned into enthusiasm over the large addressable market, the intriguing layers of AI inherent to the product, and how dated modern home security was beginning to look. With Libin’s and General Catalyst’s support, Pachikov and Eheim headed to a place known for security and robotics: Zurich.

Who says fun and security don’t mix?

They set up shop and began building their team. Nine months and several prototypes later, the two shared a demo with potential investors, including the world’s second largest security equipment provider, Stanley Black and Decker.

Stanley partnership: combining experience and innovation

Last month, Sunflower Labs and Stanley announced a strategic partnership to cooperate in several ways. As part of the deal, Stanley participated in an investment in Sunflower Labs and would be the primary distribution partner for the Sunflower Home Awareness System. While Sunflower Labs was primarily a consumer product, Stanley would be able to use their familiarity in the commercial security space to distribute the product to a new market. Beyond the capital and distribution benefits, Sunflower Labs will work with Stanley to co-develop future security products.

The Sunflower Labs team

With the ink still drying, Sunflower Labs’ main priority is to hire the team it needs for production. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to get from prototype to beta testing,“ says Pachikov. “So, we’re hiring for several key positions to help us get there.”

Live in or interested in working in Zurich? Check out the team’s openings and drop them a line.

Follow Sunflowers Labs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.