Just over a week out, the excitement is palpable as the custom integration channel preps for CEDIA Expo. Ahead of the show, we sat down with Jason Turner, Vice President and co-founder of PowerShades, to talk about the show and the brand’s involvement in Nationwide’s Tiny Home, which will be on hand in Dallas.
Rob Stott: All right. We are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast and excited to… We’re gearing up for CEDIA Expo here in just a few days I believe by the time you’re listening to this, just about a week out as this episode’s dropping. But a lot of exciting things going on down there in Dallas. We’re excited, can’t use that word enough, I guess, to see our partners from all across the industry but today we get to focus in on a partner that helped pull together some pretty cool upgrades.
We got a new tiny home rolling into CEDIA Expo down there at Dallas. Excited to get that in front of the industry. Of course, PowerShades, Mr. Jason Turner, the VP and co-founder of PowerShades. Appreciate not only what you’ve done for the tiny home, but also coming on and doing a podcast with us ahead of the show.
Jason Turner: Yeah. Well, it’s my honor to be on here. I appreciate you guys thinking of us and, man, we’re excited to be part of the tiny home, CEDIA, just the whole works. We’re ready to get the world going again, man.
Rob Stott: I hear you.
Jason Turner: We’re excited to get to this show. We’re excited for a good turnout. That is our real big market, and, man, we’re excited to play again.
Rob Stott: Yeah. You’re excited too. You can’t use that word enough, but no. Before we dive into all that, I want to give you a chance, give our audience, our listeners, a little background on yourself and your path through the industry and then helping co-found PowerShades.
Jason Turner: Sure. Well, I guess thanks for the opportunity to bore everyone. I guess personally, I’m an electrical engineer. I started in aerospace actually-
Rob Stott: Wow.
Jason Turner: … and then worked in all sorts of automation, both commercial and residential, and ultimately got excited about doing big-scale automation in hotels and stuff like that. That’s what led us to PowerShades, myself and my co-founder, Ryan Chacon. We’ve been doing this for years together and this is our entry point into this kind of automation. We’ve been doing this now going on close to six years now and, man, we’re having a blast with it.
Rob Stott: Yeah. Well, that’s a crazy transition, aerospace to shading. Was it something in that industry that got you thinking about the automation space or what’s it like making that transition?
Jason Turner: Family.
Rob Stott: Yeah. There you go.
Jason Turner: Family has made a lot of the decisions of where I’ve landed in the country and quite honestly, the aerospace part of it was a lot of fun, but it was big stuff where we had our backpacks and lunch boxes checked by arm guards every day going in and out of work. As I transitioned in my career into industrial automation and machinery to make mattresses and furniture and bedding and all kinds of stuff like that, just the whole automation part of it really, really intrigued me and it’s just always been my first passion in my career.
I’ve always loved the automation part. What we’re doing now is a lot of fun because the CEDIA industry again is that whole home automation, home theater, smart lighting, speakers, all that. That’s always been my passion. Now we’re in that world again and life is good.
Rob Stott: Yeah. Now the elevator pitch, I guess. The name does it, but I know you guys are obviously more than just automated shades too, so talk about what PowerShades brings to the table and anyone that swings by and sees you at CEDIA, what they’d be seeing.
Jason Turner: Sure. We really pride ourselves, myself and Ryan and the team we’ve built here. We really consider ourselves an engineering company first. We have a lot of IP and patents around the technology that we have brought to this industry. When we started looking at the window shades world, we did see some deficiencies in some of the large scale automation so that’s what we started with and that’s what we developed first.
Then we partnered with really the industry leaders in hardware and fabrics and that kind of thing to bring the traditional window shade to the market that everyone’s used to, but with a new spin on some of the technology. That’s really our sweet spot.
Rob Stott: Yeah. Talk about that. The technology. Power over Ethernet, stuff like that to the standard retailer or consumer might not mean a lot but when you get into this integration community, those three little letters mean quite a bit-
Jason Turner: Those three little letters.
Rob Stott: … and they get excited about it for sure, right?
Jason Turner: Yep. For sure. Power over Ethernet, man, it’s really ubiquitous across the commercial industry and a lot of high-end residential stuff. It’s simple things like powering your Wi-Fi access point or maybe a touch screen in the wall or a phone, security cameras. There’s all these devices now that need a communication path, but they also need a little bit of power. Historically, you had to use a wall wart thing we would call it.
You’d have a network cable you’d plug into your device and you’d also have this wall wart that you had to find a plugin for to power it. Several years back, they came out with a standard of Power over Ethernet and it’s exactly what it sounds like, a very clever name, but it provides a little bit of power also over that network cable. To be perfectly honest, that was the stepping off point for us because when we started looking at this industry, we just expected that that was already out there.
Ryan and I were both pretty floored when we found out it wasn’t. That was our first real effort. We developed and patented the Power over Ethernet motor, still the only company in the industry making that motor and supplying it. It makes the install and the control so much easier. Every low voltage guy out there already has the crimpers to put the ends on that cable. Most of these guys already know how to do the networking very well so it’s just a natural extension.
They run that cable that they’re already running for all the voice and data in the building, the home. In our case, they just plug it into the motor when they mount the shade. There’s no extra boxes. There’s no converters. It’s very simple and almost as importantly, especially when you start getting into these big structures, they don’t have to hire a high voltage licensed electrician to do every one of those power drops. That’s a significant money saver right there.
Then the low voltage normal AV guys and network guys can all get in there and work on it and troubleshoot it. As I said, that was really our big stepping in point and toe in the water in this industry. Since then, we’ve of course developed a lot of connectivity, a lot of additional technology. We’ve got multiple other motors and I would say other product lines that are very quick to be launching. We’re like a duck on the water where we just are cruising along, but under the water, man, we’re just paddling away and trying to get all the stuff out there we can.
We’ve got a wonderful network of dealers, including all the nationwide people that are comfortable with the products we’re doing today, but we get these requests, “If you guys could also do this or also do that.” We’ve got a great engineering team here that we’re just cranking away in the lab, in the back room, trying to get that stuff out there.
Rob Stott: Also, you mentioned all the benefits of what you’ve been able to achieve with that Power over Ethernet. One thing that you can’t not mention or you’d be remiss to mention is the fact that it just looks better. You mentioned the fact that you don’t have the power, the plug that has to find another outlet to plug into. In a space that increasingly… It always has been the concern or wanting to make sure that this technology looks nice and fits into designs and things like that but the ability to not have to worry about a second plug or something that hangs off of the shades, off to the side, something like that, just looks better.
Jason Turner: It’s funny, and I think probably everybody does this depending on what industry you’re in, but being in the industry I’m in, every time I stay in a hotel that has motorized shades, if they’re not ours, I always have to go up there and look up in the window and see the rat’s nest of wires and how they’re connected. Again, insert your industry here and that’s what you notice when you go out to lunch or stay in a hotel or whatever.
Rob Stott: Well, a cool opportunity too because I know you guys talk about the things that we’re doing with our dealers. You guys are doing a lot on the commercial side as well. Talk about what you’ve been able to do. You mentioned a little bit with going to hotels and things like that, but talk about that commercial side of the business and the opportunity there.
Jason Turner: Oh, sure. Really today I would say probably better than 80% of our business is residential, high-end residential CEDIA world but we are really growing pretty fast in the commercial world. We’ve done a handful of really large-scale hotels. We do a lot of office buildings, schools, we’ve done hospitals, things like that. We just completed the install in Connecticut for the nation’s first net zero hotel called the Hotel Marcel. Really a cool project. It’s a striking-looking building. It’s this big concrete structure that it sits on the water there in Connecticut. We did close to a thousand of our PoE motors in that-
Rob Stott: Wow.
Jason Turner: … that building. The hotel itself’s beautiful and every one of the windows has dual shades in there of what we call day/night, where you go to bed at night, you can drop the blackouts, but during the day you can raise the blackouts and just have a light filtering thing in there that gives you some privacy, but blocks the real blaring sun coming in. That’s been a lot of fun.
With our technology and the way that… Not to go too deep, but how IP-based we are, how easy our stuff is to control and a lot of our product just sits on the local network in the building, it lends itself very well to some of these bigger, what they call building automation systems, which are typically different than your home automation guys, because they’re controlling HVAC and elevator systems and large-scale lighting and a lot of similarities between the two of course. But when we step off into that large-scale building automation stuff there just typically ends up being more, needs, more connection points, more data points and our system lends itself very well to that and can just hang on that network.
Rob Stott: Pretty cool to see that sort of… You mentioned they’re very similar, but also thinking about the fact that it’s more than just maybe a five-bedroom house. It’s a 35-floor hotel, so it’s a little bit more taxing.
Jason Turner: Exactly. They start doing a lot of really cool stuff where they know what rooms are of course rented, what rooms are rented and occupied, what rooms are rented and not occupied, because everybody does it. You go, you check into a hotel, you crank your air conditioner down, you open the windows, turn on the TV and then you go to the pool or the bar maybe, depending on how your day’s going.
The hotels are doing a lot of really cool stuff now to know that. Not that they’re being creepy and spying or anything at all like that. They just, through motion sensing and some occupancy sensing, it radically helps them reduce energy cost, which that part is easy enough to do. The real magic and fun part of it is to make the room recover quick enough so that whenever the guest comes back to the room, they don’t know that the hotels try to save a few bucks on the air conditioning and stuff.
Rob Stott: No, that’s funny. Again, that’s something too that can be… Well, not that can be. That is being scaled down. You think of some of the smart thermostats and sensors that you have in rooms, they can tell when you’re there and when you’re not, whether a consumer recognizes it. Temperatures will be adjusted based on your schedules and what it learns over time. Hotel rooms, much the same.
Again, just that much larger scale of having the air raised a couple of degrees for a few hours across all of those rooms in the hotel is going to make a big difference on cost for them as well.
Jason Turner: It’s huge. It’s double digits. It’s 20/30% energy savings.
Rob Stott: Unbelievable.
Jason Turner: That’s absolutely one of those places where I feel like technology has made our lives better, for sure.
Rob Stott: Yeah. Really, really cool to see. To focus in on what’s coming up, we’ve got CEDIA, we mentioned it at the top and you guys are going to be playing a part of that in our tiny home. I want to ask you first, how did the tiny home come about for… When did you learn about it and the opportunity to possibly get in there and play a role in our tiny home?
Jason Turner: I would say Hank Alexander is very persuasive. No, no, honestly, man, we’re excited to do it. Hank called and asked about it and of course we jumped at it because that’s a cool little opportunity, no pun intended. It’s a cool little house. There’s going to be a bunch of people walking through it. We’re excited to just be one of the brands in there with some of the other big boys. It’s an honor for us to be included in that. We’re excited to be involved in it.
We hope to get some good exposure there and quite honestly, a lot of people… Part of our goal with that is a little more exposure in that motorized shades don’t just have to be a luxury. So many people think of them, you watch a movie and some penthouse in New York has them or something, but they don’t have to be expensive. You’re already going to put some window shades in your house anyway. It’s not that much of an upgrade to go ahead and motorize some of them.
We’re excited to be part of that and show people how easy they can be, how quiet they can be and not as expensive as a lot of people think. We’re going to have our own booth there as well. In fact, we’re going to be all over the show, we’ve got three different locations, we’ve got our own big booth, we’re in the tiny home and we’re part of the Powerhouse Alliance booth as well and we’ll be in all three places. We’re going to have our A team sales guys out there and gals, and man, we look forward to meeting everybody and just getting back in the sandbox.
Rob Stott: Yeah, for sure. Well, part of it, to talk about the tiny home I feel like all of the things Hank’s trying to do to that is because he wants to live in that, maybe. He’s out there in Wyoming. Maybe he just wants to just further get himself into that wilderness mindset and go on the road with the tiny home and have it be his home on the road. I don’t know. He’s just trying to get all his toys in it.
Jason Turner: There you go. It’s a little RV on a trailer.
Rob Stott: Exactly. No. Talk about products specifically. I know obviously the window treatments and the shades that are on there, but what did you guys put in there as those were being upgraded?
Jason Turner: Well, in the tiny home specifically, I believe we just got some shades in there and some controls, some wall controls, stuff like that. In our regular booth, we’re going to be showcasing some new stuff this year. One of the big things in our industry that’s on a lot of people’s mind is the light gaps. Meaning how much light comes through on either side of the shade. We’re going to be showcasing some stuff with much smaller light gaps, some new hardware.
We are going to be showcasing some of our new outdoor shades, which is really growing with all the outdoor living and people doing outdoor kitchens and living spaces outside, so doing the shades out there properly and inside channels can throughout the year really enhance the life. Keep bugs out, sun out, wind, rain, but just as importantly, in the colder months by lowering these guys and putting a little heater out there, you can really reclaim a lot of that patio area or outdoor area and use it year round.
Rob Stott: Yeah. It’s interesting. Never I guess thought about the idea. You’ve seen obviously over the last couple of years so much of this move to have more entertainment space outdoors and get outside, things like that. Outdoor shading, not something that would’ve come to mind, but cool to see you guys have been able to find a way to make it work.
Jason Turner: Yeah. We’ll be showing that. Like I said, there’s ways to seal the sides of it, the bottom of it, and really keep mosquitoes and everything at bay.
Rob Stott: Oh, that’s awesome. How about just being back at… You mentioned a little bit, getting back into the sandbox as you call it, but being able to get back to getting face to face with this community and this industry. Obviously there was a CEDIA Expo last year, but it was around the time of the thing swinging back up with the pandemic and all, but really this being the first one and almost it feels like three years… I think it might be three years since we really got together as a group.
Jason Turner: Yeah. Man, we’re really excited about it. As I said, we’re bringing several of our team members. We are super excited to get out there. As we’ve been growing, of course we don’t get a chance to get out and meet all of our dealers and this is really going to be a good chance for us to put faces with names. We’re really excited about seeing all of our old friends that are in the industry and we’re equally as excited about meeting some new people and signing up some new dealers.
It’s just there’s an excitement at CEDIA that’s hard to duplicate. We have been thankful for the regional CEDIA shows that have been going on all over the country, and of course we attend most of those. But there’s just really no substitute for the big show. It’s the energy there. Inevitably you see some new cool stuff that you didn’t even know was in the industry. It always ends up planting some seeds and making us take a couple twists and turns as we get back home to think about new technologies, new things we could add, new partnerships, new opportunities. We’re excited. I guess that’s in a nutshell.
Rob Stott: That might be the headline of this episode, is PowerShades excited for CEDIA. No. But we are. I know everyone is, so you’re absolutely not alone in that, but before we let you go, I want to talk about… or give you the chance to talk about what it’s been like. You’ve been working with our HTSN members here for a little while now. What’s that been like? What have you learned from them and what’s been working in terms of getting out in front of these dealers for our community?
Jason Turner: Well, again, we’ve made some good friends in there. We’ve really met some great people and companies. I tell you the biggest thing we’ve learned is what an opportunity there is. Most of these HTSN dealers are extremely comfortable and doing great at selling all of the things that they’re used to selling. Motorized window shading is not something that most of these dealers or these retailers have been doing and so we’ve been seeing a lot of excitement in a new revenue stream for these guys.
That’s really the biggest thing I would say. This just isn’t a product line that most of these retailers are real comfortable with or have experience in. We’ve had a lot of opportunity and training and bringing people up to speed, teaching them the benefits of shading and in particular motorized window shading. It’s really a growth path for us that we’re excited to keep working on and growing and we see big things to come out of it.
Rob Stott: I have to imagine that thought of it’s not something that they’re used to, that’s got to go across the entire space. What’s it been like at getting dealers educated on this type of product and what are some of the things you’re saying as far as tips to work shades into a conversation that typically they’re used to talking about home theaters and speakers and video, that sort of stuff?
Jason Turner: Training, training, training, man. That’s been the big thing, is to get people up to speed. One of the maybe slight differences that we’ve done as a company as a philosophy is to make the onboarding and the training… And COVID to be quite honest, has played into that, in that we have tried to digitize as much of our training and material as we can. We’ve got a great sales team that just spends hours doing trainings and Zoom calls and all sorts of training with these dealers.
It’s getting the tools in their hands, which is I would say the most important thing where they have a fabric book. They have a hardware sample kit that they can take out to John Q. homeowner’s house and set on the table and let the wife pick these fabrics up and see what matches her couch or her walls. Because our dealer base is extremely competent in wiring and programming and mounting and all that.
What we do find is often they aren’t comfortable making interior design choices, and so getting the right materials in their hands to help that process. We honestly work quite a bit… A lot of our really successful dealers, audio-video integrator dealers, they work hand in hand with designers who get involved and help take our books into the homeowner’s homes. The end result there very often is much more pleasing where you’ve got truly a designer involved and that automation specialist involved.
Rob Stott: Yeah. I was going to say, that’s a nice segue to be able to talk to that community that I know has gotten a lot of interest and attention from the CEDIA space over the last couple of years.
Jason Turner: I guess a little segue there is I would say a lot of the HTSN members typically are maybe a little heavier on the design background, so that it really is a good complement.
Rob Stott: Yeah. It’s awesome to see and it’ll be cool to see it all come together at CEDIA here in just a little bit. Jason, we appreciate it. This was a lot of fun. A lot of fun getting to learn not only about the brand, but what you’ve been able to bring to our tiny home, or I guess Hank’s tiny home if we want to call it that.
Jason Turner: Yeah.
Rob Stott: No, but we’re looking forward to it and just to say it one more time, excited to see you down there in Dallas and have some fun as a full community for the first time in a long time.
Jason Turner: Likewise man. Thanks for having us on the show. It was great to meet you and thanks to your listeners. We’re really excited to get there and looking forward to what the rest of this year brings.
Rob Stott: Awesome. Appreciate it.
Jason Turner: Thank you.