Earlier this year, we caught up with Chris Jones, CEO & co-founder of HomeLINK, to learn more about their mission to accelerate the uptake of advanced technology in social housing and in turn help to solve some of society’s most serious challenges.

Empowering landlords and tenants to create safer homes

HomeLINK – as featured in our People & Community Tech for Good list – is a prime example of how Industry 4.0’s applications can create a positive impact on today’s society. Health tech may not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about the Internet of Things (IoT), but that illustrates the lengths we have come to integrating Industry 4.0.

Chris tells us, “We primarily started to try and solve problems in social housing.

“The challenges from fuel poverty to retrofitting homes to Net Zero and increasing cost efficiency, whilst at the same time maintaining affordable rent, is very difficult.

“We saw this great technology being developed in smart homes and IoT in other sectors, but no one was really targeting housing, so we tried to build a platform that would enable that.”

A number of accelerators and seed funding rounds later, HomeLINK developed their niche around indoor air quality. Essentially, the health of the property and how this affects the health of people. 

HomeLINK achieves this through integrating and analysing sensor data which enables landlords to take a scalable and future-proof approach to their IoT strategy. 

Their two products are Temperature, Humidity and CO2 Sensors & Connected Smoke and CO Alarms. Amalgamated with their analytics platform, this tech utilises data science and software integration to provide users with actionable insights. 

Unforeseen outcomes of 2020 for HomeLINK

Watch the full interview with Chris here

Last year, HomeLINK was acquired by Aico – one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of smoke alarms in Europe with a 90% market share. “That partnership has led us to a very rapid scale of our journey over the past four months,” explains Chris. 

This has been paramount in facilitating exponential growth for the company, as Chris illustrates: “We’ve really focused on platform stability in preparing it for onboarding millions of homes, rather than thinking, well it’s OK if it can only support 1000 or 2000.”

Perhaps more surprisingly though, Covid-19 put the importance of ventilation under the microscope and therefore brought HomeLINK’s tech to the forefront of the conversation. 

Chris reflects, “There’s now a requirement for businesses, office spaces, schools, hospitals etc. to make sure they’re well ventilated. And CO2 is the perfect technology for that.” 

Facing the challenges of scaling up

We asked Chris what he felt was the great challenge during the transition to scaling up, to which he simply said, “saying no.” 

This is a problem the majority of founders will be familiar with. When you’re starting out, listening to demand is essential, but can leave your resources feeling spread thin. 

Chris elaborates, “So what happens is, after a few years, you end up with lots of different ideas going on and all are at different levels of product market fit almost. The challenge is that at some point you’ve got to find what is the best product market fit you’ve got there and hone in on this area of expertise.”

Creating your desired company culture is another aspect of scaling up to navigate. Chris tells us this was a learning process for HomeLINK: “We try to avoid creating frameworks or policies until they’re absolutely essential. At first we found we were being too rigid with the way we did things.”

Aico’s acquisition helped the team focus on the importance of sharing information and giving feedback: “It really does feel like the company, as a result, has a lot of trust between people, which is really nice.”

Looking ahead

Chris tells us he’s excited to watch HomeLINK continue to grow over the next 12 months. He says, “In many ways we’re creating a new industry.

“Smart homes for consumers have been around for a while, but often the IoT has been associated with gimmicky features such as a light bulb changing colours. What we’re creating is something that non-technical people are going to need because it provides useful information, like is there smoke carbon monoxide in my home, is our living enviornment healthy?

“There’s also a growing number of different legislations for landlords that will be very difficult to meet unless you have these kinds of technology.”

And Chris says the South West is the ideal region to grow HomeLINK from. 

“It’s one of the best places for people, and people are basically the most important thing,” he says, “You’ve also got this great ecosystem with a range of support, including accelerators like SETsquared, who pointed us in the right direction for advisors, mentors and promotion, which was huge for us.”

Thanks so much to Chris for taking the time to chat to us about HomeLINK’s journey! Make sure to watch the full interview here. 

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.