On June 8, MaRS welcomed Stuart Lombard, Founder, President & CEO of ecobee, to the last MaRS Mornings of the season.

“A journey to greatness is not about what would be great, but what is really really great…” Stuart started his journey by quitting his job in the early Internet days—when no one believed him when he said that one day everyone would have an email address on their business cards. He was looking for ways to reduce his family’s environmental footprint, but found that installing solar panels and purchasing hybrid-electric vehicles was costly and difficult to do. Realizing that heating and cooling represented 40%–70% of home energy use, he thought that he could have a huge impact by being able to program his thermostat.

The challenge was that his thermostat was complicated and wasn’t very smart. Coming home to a house that was 10°C when you had three young children was not ideal. This sparked the idea of ecobee. Stuart recognized that there was a smarter way to conserve energy and be comfortable. Since then, the impact has been huge—a $250 ecobee thermostat has the same amount of energy savings as a $26K solar panel. The company has been highly successful. ecobee has a 24% market share, strategic partnerships with Amazon and Apple, and is the second-best-selling smart thermostat.

Stuart highlighted some key points that all entrepreneurs should keep in mind as they embark on their own journey:

  • Why do you do what you do? Understand your “personal why” so you can focus, stay driven and deliver impact.
  • Who is your customer? Know and understand your customer segments. Listen to them and build on your value-add.
  • It’s the whole journey. To be successful, you need to think about the entire customer journey. The customer experience can be horrible if one aspect is not done right. For ecobee, reviewing its NPS (Net Promoter Score) has been critical in helping them understand what customers think about the company.
  • Have key pillars that distinguish you from your competitors. This can help you focus and frame where to spend your development dollars.
  • Identify the hero flows. These are the key user interactions that you just have to get right—the ones where you will win or lose with your customer.
  • Act fast and slow. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. Take time to think through your processes and risks.
  • What would be great? Set the bar high. Don’t talk yourself down. Go for “great.” Keep in mind that customer satisfaction is not linear, so the difference between great and mediocre is significant.
  • Test and iterate. Shipping a product is not the end. Continue the cycle. Keep honing your skills and making it better.
  • Be awesome. You have the power and opportunity to do something awesome.

Irene Lam

Irene is an Associate at the Advanced Energy Centre (AEC) at MaRS. As part of the AEC, she works with partners and energy sector stakeholders to address the barriers to energy innovation adoption and build capacity as the sector undergoes significant changes. See more…