[THE INVESTOR] SINGAPORE -- Singapore-based Igloohome made its Korean debut in December 2017 by winning the US$40,000 prize for second place at K-Startup Grand Challenge, a startup accelerator program backed by the government here.
Igloohome is a digital lock company born out of the frustration with physical keys. In early 2015 Anthony Chow and two other founders -- all of whom were Airbnb hosts -- created Igloohome to build an alternative to the keys they had to hand out to guests.
Igloohome founder and CEO Anthony Chow (left) and Co-founder Kelvin Ho pose with their products.
The team eventually developed an IoT product allowing homeowners to grant access to visitors remotely via a mobile app and a PIN code or Bluetooth key. “Our product is the world’s first smart lock that works offline and is 30 percent cheaper than our competitors, but with a much longer battery life,” said Chow in a recent interview with The Investor.
Despite its savvy technology, not to mention its stellar beginning in Korea, the local market has been tough for Igloohome. This is because the digital key market is already quite mature, and Airbnb, which was what got Igloohome started, has not yet fully taken off.
So far, Igloohome’s biggest portfolio in Korea is the Gangwon municipal government following a partnership where it provides digital smart locks to local guesthouses in farmlands and rural areas. Igloohome also plans to tap into the hospitality industry as well as residential use by tech-savvy Korean customers.
It is currently talking with a local hotel chain and also a hotel booking site. In other countries, the startup has joined forces with coworking spaces, real-estate developers and insurance companies.
For Igloohome, the partnership with Airbnb was a significant turning point; in November 2015, it was designated as the preferred key vendor by Airbnb. Since then, the startup has grown into a team of 18 people with its sales network spanning 60 countries.
The startup now sees more opportunities beyond Airbnb and envisions a life without the hassle of physical keys. “So many things are outsourced these days what with the sharing economy and on-demand economy -- homes, cars, housekeepers, tutors and delivery services,” said Chow. “All of these need access to your house, and we want to make digital solutions for all of these services which are convenient without compromising on security.”
By Park Ga-young and Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)(email@example.com)
This story was sponsored by the Samsung Press Foundation. - Ed.