Minut started in 2014 when four Swedish engineers: Fredrik, Marcus, Martin and Nils, flew out to China to build an Airbnb monitor. Seven years and countless iterations later, Minut sensors now help over 25,000 hosts protect their homes in 100+ countries.
November 11, 2021
Minut started in 2014 when four Swedish engineers: Fredrik, Marcus, Martin and Nils, flew out to China to build an Airbnb monitor. Seven years and countless iterations later, Minut sensors now help over 25,000 hosts protect their homes in 100+ countries. And despite all the transformations that Minut underwent throughout the years, the mission still remains the same: making short-term rental work for everyone - hosts, guests and neighbors alike.
Here are the key moments that made Minut what it is today:
"When I was working at Apple, I saw a general opportunity in the space of IoT and edge computing. At the time, I had a lot of friends involved in startups, and I was pretty intrigued by that, especially by an acquaintance who was the first employee at Airbnb." - Nils Mattisson, Minut CEO and co-founder
In 2009 Nils Mattisson was living and working in San Francisco. Part of the exploratory design group at Apple, he was in the midst of the thriving startup scene that makes Silicon Valley so special. One day, he was having a beer with an acquaintance - who just happened to be Airbnb’s first employee - when the question struck: Is it possible to monitor a home without monitoring the people within it?
At the time, Airbnb was just getting off the ground, but the challenges of the sharing economy were already becoming apparent. Worried about guests abusing their trust, some hosts were turning to cameras to monitor their homes. Invasive and vulnerable to hackers, cameras hardly belong in private homes, let alone in shared homes. That’s how the idea for a privacy-safe monitor came to be.
"I left Apple in 2013, and started working on my own, just doing the feasibility side of it, and doing my research. I built the first prototype at that point… and it didn’t look very good." - Nils Mattisson, Minut CEO and co-founder
The 2009 meeting planted the seed in Nils’s mind, but the idea was still pretty far from fully formed. It took a lot of turns and iterations over the years, until in 2013 Nils decided to work on making it reality. That’s when he left Apple and dove right in. After 5 months of intensive research, he had a very first working prototype, but he also realized it was time to get some help from others.
Minut made its first public appearance in 2014 at the BETAPITCH competition in Berlin. The pitch resulted in second place, and a crucial investor introduction:
"In the audience was Zach Supalla, and he noticed that I built some of the prototypes with Particle, one of his products. He came up to me afterwards, and said: ‘this is great, how can I help?’ He introduced us to one of his investors, which was SOSV, and in a few months they ended up investing and inviting us into this accelerator program, HAX, in Shenzhen." - Nils Mattisson, Minut CEO and co-founder
Now that Minut was to be part of the HAX Accelerator program in Shenzhen, Nils needed to build a team. He was already working with Kristian Dupont, a friend who played a vital role in shaping the product in the first few months (before he moved on to other ventures), but it was clear they needed more hands on deck.
Nils reached out to the Computer Science Department at Lund University, where he used to work as a teaching assistant. That’s how he met Martin and Fredrik, who, without a moment of hesitation, flew to Shenzhen to join him. Marcus was introduced to the team by entrepreneur legend Hampus Jakobsson who just happened to be a mutual acquaintance. Marcus arrived in Shenzhen soon after and the four of them got to work immediately.
"Looking back, we got a really good start by going to Shenzhen. It allowed us to be really immersed in this project. We were in a new city, which is the de facto consumer electronics capital of the world, and somewhat isolated from the distractions of our lives back home. The atmosphere was electric, it was such a high-energy environment and we worked day and night, in total focus. Though of course you can only sustain this level of intensity for so long." - Fredrik Ahlberg, Minut’s Head of Research and co-founder
Later that year, the team was ready to launch their first Kickstarter campaign. When they raised $238k, several times their original goal, they knew they were building a product that struck a chord with a wide audience. In fact, the idea of Minut resonated so widely that it sparked the interest of not only Airbnb hosts, but also private consumers seeking a privacy-safe monitoring solution for their home. Even TechCrunch and CNN picked up the story - a remarkable feat given how reluctant media outlets usually are when it comes to reporting on Kickstarter products.
In 2015, the team spent all their time building the device, testing, re-building, testing again… Shenzhen proved to be a prime location for this process:
"I think a lot of people have an outdated view of what manufacturing in China is, it's often seen as a place you go to get things poorly and cheaply made. While that used to be true, during past decades manufacturing in Shenzhen has gotten to the point where the ecosystem and know-how has gotten so large that it has its own gravitational pull. Prototyping is not only affordable, but it's also so incredibly accessible and quick that it outperforms anything I have experienced in the West. Circuit boards that used to take weeks to prototype now take days. Components can be delivered within an hour, and plastic prints that take a week in Sweden can be delivered overnight. The buzz and hustle of the city is neverending. For a startup that is trying to iterate on its product and business model, that environment of weekly instead of monthly iterations is crucial." - Martin Lööf, Minut’s Head of Manufacturing and co-founder
Beta units were shipped in June, and after a few more months of intense iterations and debugging, the first fully finished units started to reach Kickstarter backers.
Around the same time, Minut partially relocated from Shenzhen to Malmö in Sweden, with the founders splitting their time between the two cities. The team also started growing, and with that came new challenges:
"We now had to think about building a company, in addition to building the product. The sole focus used to be on development, bug fixes, shipping. Now it has extended to onboarding new colleagues, adding some structure and process, shaping the company." - Fredrik Ahlberg, Minut’s Head of Research and co-founder
2015 is also the year Minut became “Minut.” Formerly, the company was called “Form devices."
"Our first customers were really the true heroes. It's thanks to their generous feedback that we managed to get to where we are today." - Marcus Ljungblad, Minut’s Head of Operations and co-founder
By the spring of 2016, all Kickstarter units were shipped. As the sensors were being installed in homes all over the world, they exposed some weaknesses in the firmware. The team worked hard on fixing the bugs until Minut worked perfectly in every home.
2017 brought continued product improvements, including the development of sound recognition, which could detect glass break and the siren of other alarms, and notify the homeowner - making traditional smoke and CO detectors smart.
After a successful first Kickstarter campaign, it was also time to launch another one for the second generation of the sensor.
"The first generation was really the MVP (minimum viable product) so that we could test and develop the concept. It allowed us to move fast and get early feedback from a wide audience. We always intended to make a new version quite early. The 2nd generation is a significant improvement to the first generation." - Marcus Ljungblad, Minut’s Head of Operations and co-founder
The new Kickstarter campaign went live in November, and raised $312k.
By May 2018, the first batch of second-generation sensors was already in production. The team now had more experience, and was ready to build a sensor that would have the power to adapt to customers’ needs as time went on:
"We learned a lot from the work on the first generation. We discovered that the first time around, we were too focused on low unit cost. The goal for the second gen was to create a sensor that’s more powerful and flexible, and that’s what’s given it the longevity it has. Four years on, we are still releasing new features and adapting it to new market needs." - Fredrik Ahlberg, Minut’s Head of Research and co-founder
2018 also saw the release of improved versions of glass break and alarm recognition features, now employing a more advanced technology called machine learning. No other sensor on the market was this smart, while still being 100% privacy-safe.
The Minut team was growing fast too, and the company’s first London office opened that summer. In June, Minut reached the milestone of 10k units sold and was named one of Top 10 B2C Start-ups in Google and McKinsey’s The Digital Top 50 Awards. The founders also got to meet the Swedish king, and even made it onto the royal family’s instagram account.
2019 was a breakthrough year for Minut, as it brought $8M in Series A funding, and a collaboration with Airbnb. When the OTA giant promoted Minut to their hosts, more units were sold in a day than in the months prior. That meant there was now room for the team to grow:
"Up until 2019, we were almost exclusively engineers working at Minut. It's at this time where we really started to build out the Sales and Marketing teams. With the new hires came new experiences and perspectives, making us a much more well-rounded team, and improving the quality of our work." - Marcus Ljungblad, Minut’s Head of Operations and co-founder
It was also in 2019 that the Minut brand got a refreshed look, and could now be purchased from all major online retailers in the Nordics. Along with the branding came the renewed focus on short-term and vacation rental hosts’ needs. The product itself kept getting better too with motion graphs added to the app and reached new audiences when French and Dutch language support was introduced.
Emboldened by the Series A funding, Minut had huge growth plans for 2020, and even the outbreak of a global pandemic couldn’t stop them.
"From a workplace perspective, we handled the pandemic well, because we were already used to being distributed at the company level, and the team level. The only change is that my living room is now also an electronics lab." - Fredrik Ahlberg, Minut’s Head of Research and co-founder
Against all odds, this was the year when Minut transitioned to a recurring business model and grew the revenue several times over. The company also officially launched in the US, and expanded the female workforce by 400%, all while substantially widening the sensor’s feature set.
In March, Minut was awarded the Shortyz award for Best home automation solution or product. June saw the release of the Guest Connect feature. Now hosts no longer needed to be on call 24/7 or sleep with one eye open. Minut could handle the entire process of noise resolution for them, from beginning to end.
Also in June, Minut partnered with Zapier and Guesty, launching integrations that further streamlined property management, and minimized busy work. A new dashboard view that was optimized for short-term rental owners followed soon after, along with Automatic and Scheduled Alarms, long requested by private home customers.
2021’s not over yet, but it has already brought major new releases that substantially widened Minut’s functionality.
Perhaps most importantly for our customers, we’ve extended battery life to up to one year and launched occupancy monitoring. In addition to looking out for noise or excessive movement, Hosts could now also keep an eye on occupancy in their rental homes to better identify any large gatherings. Minut now offered a level of insight unrivalled on the market.
We’ve also added BookingSync, Smoobu, Hostfully and Hostaway to our ever-growing list of integrations, helping hosts and property managers all over the world grow while keeping their operations lean. Other releases included email notifications, an even more powerful version of Guest Connect and Autocall, which meant that Minut could now call guests to remind them about noise rules. Configurable grace period proved very popular amongst security alarm users, empowering them to customize it to their needs.
Throughout the years Minut has seen many changes, overcame many challenges and grown into what it is today. Looking back, we’re incredibly proud of our journey, but we’re not done quite yet. Our plans are as ambitious today as they were back in 2014 and so we can't wait to see what the future holds!