Two years ago, Mike Myers was working as a freelance product designer out of an office building on Market Street in San Francisco.
“It’s not a great part of town,” Mike said, and nearly every time he received a shipment notification, the package would be gone by the time he got down to the lobby.
Mike tried to talk his landlord into installing a smart locker system for the building. But a little bit of research revealed a single system was going to cost $40,000, and be much larger than the lobby could hold.
HAVYN is Mike’s answer to stolen and lost packages. HAVYN provides “drama free delivery™” to property managers and residents. We caught up with Mike to learn how he decided to make the leap as a first-time founder, and how HAVYN can provide a service giant e-commerce companies struggle to get right.
First things first. How did you decide to take the leap to start HAVYN?
I had this feeling like I was always the bridesmaid, never the bride. As a freelancer, I was creating products for other people, and in this industry, hardware products especially have very high failure rates. It’s kind of frustrating to see all these great products that I’ve made not making it to market, even though some incredible effort went into them.
Around the same time, my dad passed away. He left me some money and I saw this opportunity, an underlying feeling that said, “Hey, let’s pull the trigger on this.” And we’re a year and a half into it. My background working with houses with him has given me a really deep insight about how to design products for the living space: How things are wired, how to install things and how to design products to a standard that will work well with existing infrastructure. Losing him was obviously very difficult, but this has been a great way to stay connected and continue the teachings.
Is there anybody handling the insane influx of package deliveries well?
The United States is the only first world country that doesn’t use these systems in bulk. In Europe, the governments subsidize the postal systems and set up automated kiosks all over the place. In China, there’s this company called Hive Box which collectively raised about $750 million dollars from the five largest shipping companies in China. Last time I checked, they had about 75,000 kiosks. They handle about 4 million packages a day. It completely changed the shipping landscape over in China and made it a lot more efficient.
Why has the US market been slower to adopt smart lockers?
We’re expected to have 15 billion package deliveries this year  and by 2020 it’s supposed to be 16 billion. And only 60% of packages are delivered right on the first try. Ecommerce companies and their customers waste a lot of money on the “last mile” of package shipment and it’s obvious we need better package solutions.
But look at it from the perspective of who pays for the systems. There are four parties that benefit from having efficient package delivery: e-commerce, delivery companies, consumers, and property owners. E-commerce giants like Amazon are doing Amazon lockers in WholeFoods stores, and Amazon hubs in apartment buildings. In talks with delivery companies like UPS and FedEx, they’ve said they’re never going to pay for these systems. I think they just haven’t seen the right combination of technology that can lower the cost enough to be economically viable.
How is your solution different from what’s already working in other markets?
It really comes down to — we’re solving the shipping problem for the consumer rather than the shipping company. Foreign smart locker systems were designed for high traffic areas like malls and train stations. Because of that, they’re typically very big. And 80% of apartment buildings were built before 2000, before the rise of online shopping and this crazy surge of packages. They just didn’t design the space in there to put these package lockers or package rooms.
Ours are a bit smaller: it’s about the size of a large refrigerator. The real big differentiator with us is we took out the touch screen, which is what we consider to be the Achilles heel of the smart locker system. You can’t just put an iPad-based system outside in a rough area of town; it’s going to get rained on, it’s going to get vandalized and packages may get stolen. Instead, we looked at machine vision for reading the text off of package labels and we have our own custom voice assistant built in here that’s faster than Alexa. To pick up a package, it’s really simple. You get a QR code text message, press the button on the front of the machine, scan the QR code and the locker bay with your item opens.
What’s been one of your biggest challenges so far?
I think one of the biggest issues facing the industry adoption of these types of devices isn’t that the technology isn’t there, it’s that property owners are stuck with trying to figure out which systems they should get and how to combine them with other devices that are already in the building. I see a really big opportunity to be an aggregator of services to offer, to take away that friction point in a single platform.
Havyn technology isn’t just for access control. I envision our devices operating a wide variety of amenities, potentially controlling access to things like hot tubs or fitness rooms. We can gain insight on what amenities residents use and ultimately what they value. Property managers want to get the most bang for their buck. They want to include things that allow them to increase the rents and the overall value of their property. What we’re hoping to do is, at scale be able to provide that information so they can make a more educated decision on what the best combination of technology is for their given property.
What’s your vision for the future of HAVYN?
Have you ever been to an apartment building that has one of those access control things out front, that’s got the keypad, you gotta dial the three-digit code, and it calls the person and that’s how you get into the building?
I was sitting out in front of a friend’s apartment building for about 15 minutes one day because the thing wasn’t working. And what I realized is like, “Hey, we can take our exact same tech stack from our locker systems and repackage it into a 2-gang electrical outlet box and that would solve this issue.” Rather than typing a three digit code, you would text a QR code to your dog walker, maintenance personnel, Airbnb guests, or friends that are coming over and they just scan the code and come right into the building.
The big vision is to have a single platform to control every access point (vehicle gates, garages, entry doors, elevators, smart lockers, laundry, laundry machines) with a single app. Doesn’t that sound like what you would want in your home?