Founder: Al Brennan
What products, services, solutions or technology have you developed?
We have created a range of smart environmental sensors which monitor a wide range of air quality metrics within the home, classroom or office setting. This includes temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide concentration, particulate matter (PM), formaldehyde, nitrous oxides, lighting and sound levels.
All Monkeytronics sensors are connected, and stream data to the cloud continuously. This data can be accessed anywhere, any time, through our web portal and mobile app.
Through the web portal, our users have full access to our powerful reporting and analytics features and customised notifications to alert them to specific events.
WHAT KEY CUSTOMER PROBLEMS OR CUSTOMER “WANTS” DOES YOUR SOLUTION SOLVE?
Every year, nearly 30,000 New Zealanders are admitted to hospital due to housing related conditions. Extensive research carried out across New Zealand over the past 20 years by He Kainga Oranga has shown that the simplest of things – temperature – is the key determinant of a healthy home.
Air quality is a wider problem. It has also been shown that it can significantly affect concentration and cognitive function. A Harvard study monitored students’ performance in a wide range of cognitive areas and found a decrease in performance by anywhere from 20% to 70%. In the context of our kid’s performance in school and exams, this could easily make the difference between an A grade and a C grade.
In the current context, carbon dioxide is also being used as a proxy to measure ventilation to reduce the spread of infectious diseases like Covid 19. There is a logical correlation between the amount of exhaled breath in a room and the carbon dioxide concentration. It cannot directly measure the presence of coronavirus, but it can tell you when a space is inadequately ventilated. This is particularly important in classrooms and other shared spaces such as workplaces, hospitality and events.
The first step in solving any problem is to understand it. Monkeytronics sensors shine a spotlight on these problems and allow families to identify cold and damp conditions in their homes.
WHO AND WHERE ARE YOUR TARGET CUSTOMERS?
Our customers are the amazing organisations with whom we collaborate. We are a very small cog in a much larger machine.
In the area of healthy homes, we are humbled to be working with the Community Energy Network and its many incredible partner organisations across New Zealand; and He Kainga Oranga, the Healthy Homes Research Group, based at Otago University, Wellington. These groups work tirelessly to improve the quality of homes across New Zealand.
We also work directly with the New Zealand Ministry of Education who are improving the quality of learning spaces across the country.
How and when did you first come up with the idea for your business?
Like all great ventures, it began in the pub. I was inspired after talking to a friend who has been working in this space for many years. He explained the challenges he faced in this work and what was at stake; I immediately wanted to get involved.
Having previously worked for the Department of Conservation monitoring the health of parrots on remote islands, the prospect of monitoring air quality in homes seemed a) even more worthwhile and b) probably easier, since parrots do not have WiFi.
What are three things about your business that you are proud of?
- Monkeytronics is for purpose. I find it very easy to get out of bed in the morning because I know that the work is in the interest of goals that I care about deeply. Working with groups like CEN is a real privilege. I am very fortunate to be able to do a job I enjoy for an organisation I admire.
- I am proud to have done things differently. Engineers don’t have to hide in cupboards. They should be allowed to talk directly to customers. Startups don’t have to take investment. Instead, the company has grown slowly, organically, on a shoestring but free of distraction. To my mind what we do is so obviously worthwhile that all that remains is to develop it.
- The question of healthy homes is intrinsically linked to the conversation about energy hardship, energy conservation and inextricably, the climate. I am proud that the work we do in this area will have a beneficial knock-on effect on energy efficiency within homes and schools, even though the part we play is small. Like the healthy homes question itself, it’s only through a massive collaborative effort that any of us can have an impact on an issue as huge as the climate crisis.
How do you market your business and what advice do you have for others around marketing?
Word of mouth and having a coffee with awesome people.
In New Zealand there is a strongly interconnected community of people and organisations who are passionate about healthy homes and energy conservation. As such, they are very easy to find and very easy to talk to.
In a nutshell, the Monkeytronics marketing plan goes like this: I reach out to awesome people on LinkedIn or through mutual acquaintances and see if they would like to have a coffee. We talk about what we are up to and see if there are ways in which we can help each other succeed.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building your business so far?
The biggest challenge by far was the transition from being a full-time employee to working for myself.
I started Monkeytronics in my early forties, with two kids and a mortgage. Which may seem like the dumbest possible time to embark on a venture which statistically is not likely to succeed. But the support I received along the way has been incredible. From my partner, who has never backed down from a challenge in her life; from Creative HQ, where I got nothing but the soundest of advice and from the healthy homes groups who opened their doors to me along the way.
What is the biggest entrepreneur lesson you would like to share with other Kiwis thinking of starting their own business?
Life is full of stresses and worries. Find a challenge that you care about deeply, and you’ll spend your energy worrying about something worthwhile.
Story created in partnership with Creative HQ.