Yasser Khattak was only 15 when he reinvented the common light switch. It may have been centuries old and tried-and-tested, but Khattak saw an opportunity to disrupt the way people interacted with electricity at home through automation. Inspired by James Dyson, Kattak built on his theory and launched his own business, Den, which is a home automation system that looks and functions like a standard light switch. Its unique proposition is that it is designed for efficiency, to drive down electricity bills and to keep users aware of devices that may be left on.
Now 21, the British tech entrepreneur has developed his proposition with an aim to go global. He turned to Seedrs to raise £2.5 million in equity crowdfunding, and within hours, has already exceeded £1 million this morning.
A passion for entrepreneurship
While his classmates idolised football stars and Harry Potter, Khattak was busy modelling himself from the biographies of Steve Jobs, Alan Sugar and James Dyson from the age of 13, enamoured by Dyson’s own ambition to identify problems in our daily lives and solving them with new inventions.
At 16, Khattak began to import electrical products from China and sold them to his friends through Facebook to raise enough money to found his business. Eventually, he had saved up £20,000 to start up.
His invention brings intelligent light switches and plug sockets to the home automation market, which will exceed £45 billion globally by the end of the year. These switches and sockets are easily swapped with existing fittings, and will save energy, monitor real time consumption in the home and send safety and inactivity notifications via the app.
Three years later, at 19, he raised Den’s first equity investment on Seedrs, hitting its target in 45 minutes. This funding allowed him to develop prototypes and build a scalable business.
Den is set to launch through global retailers in September this year, with an aim to save the UK economy £2 billion in wasted energy cost. The start-up hopes to hit £2 million worth of pre-orders by September, with products retailing between £20 and £60.
Khattak has already secured deals to have his products stocked in retail giants including Argos, Amazon, Sainsbury’s and Maplin. The light switches and sockets are currently integrating with Amazon Alexa and Nest, and according to Khattak, a number of major homebuilders are ready to power households around the UK with Den products.
Den’s key mission is to offer an eco-friendly home automation system that can let users know where they’re wasting electricity. According to a GoCompare energy report, the UK could save more than £1 billion a year by turning off “vampire” appliances that suck up energy even when left on standby, such as mobile phone chargers and televisions. The average home wastes up to 16 per cent of electricity by leaving these appliances on, says Khattak, which is why his focus when developing Den is to have a central system that can turn everything off from the touch of one button before going to bed or via the app after leaving the house.
“Most of us forget to turn the lights off when we leave a room, or to unplug our phone chargers when they are not in use. Unnecessary consumption amounts to over 16% of the UK’s annual energy usage, a figure that is large enough to power almost 2.5 million homes,” he adds. “At Den we believe our products could make a significant impact on unnecessary consumption, helping save our environment and reducing the cost of living and however bold it sounds, we aim to wipe out the existing standard of switches around the world over the next few years.”
The appliances will send users a notification via the Den app if a loved one has not been active in their home for a certain amount of time, for example if they haven’t turned on a light or switched on the kettle.
According to Khattak, its smart technology will also tell you if you forget to turn off your iron or hair straightener, and if you fail to respond to the warning, Den will take the initiative and turn the appliance off for you. If you’re on holiday, you’ll be told if there is unexplained activity in your home and Den’s light switches will automatically click themselves on and off to look like you’re home.
Hiring his hero
Khattak may be on the cusp of realising a life-long dream. Preparing for his worldwide launch, he hired his hero, former Amstrad CEO and Lord Sugar’s right hand, Bob Watkins as Den’s managing director. The goal is to bank on Watkins’ expertise to build Den into a global smart home brand.
“By creating user-friendly solutions that bring together the largely separated standard non-wireless switching market and the home automation market, Den is on a mission to power millions of homes around the world,” says Watkins. “The brand potential in a mass-international is limitless and we are delighted to bring a host of new investors into the fold. The plan is to to drive Den towards a £100 million valuation by the end of 2018 in preparation for a successful acquisition by 2020.”
Watkins’ vision for Den’s aggressive growth comes from his 25-year track record, working alongside Lord Sugar at Amstrad, having joined the company as a Draftsman and building his way up to MD and, later CEO before eventually joining the advisory board. He famously spearheaded the deal Amstrad had with Sky for 1 million satellites, and has since worked for leading consumer electronics and other companies around the world.