Friends follow a dream, launch ‘intelligent doorbell’

Dallas Morning NewsMay 14, 2014 

When Shaun Moore and Nezare Chafni graduated from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 2010, the friends had no idea what the future had in store for them.

Moore, 25, and Chafni, 26, always dreamed of starting their own business but instead went a different route after graduation. Moore, a Chicago native, got a job at Merrill Lynch, and Chafni moved back to Morocco, where at age 24 he became the youngest candidate for Parliament.

But finance and politics couldn’t satisfy their entrepreneurial spirits. Just two years later, the friends reunited and launched 214 Technologies, in March 2013.

Moore and Chafni both agreed that Dallas was a great place to launch their business, noting that the city is becoming a hub for startups.

“We decided to follow our dream of becoming entrepreneurs, and because of that, we got the freedom to work for ourselves and be creative,” said Moore.

Chafni is in charge of product development for 214 Technologies. Moore handles business development.

Through 214 Technologies, the two launched Chui – getchui.com – an “intelligent doorbell” that uses facial recognition technology to improve home security.

Facial recognition is used in a variety of markets, including law enforcement. Some smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy, use facial recognition so users can unlock their phones. Facebook uses the technology to suggest tags for photos.

Chui, named after the Swahili word for leopard, is a Wi-Fi-enabled device that lets homeowners know who is at their door.

Ringing the doorbell activates a camera that takes a picture of visitors and sends it to the homeowner’s cellphone with a time stamp, name and picture. The photos Chui takes are added to a Web application that houses a database of visitors.

A homeowner can program a Chui so that it plays personalized messages for certain visitors and allows them to communicate by two-way audio and one-way video. If the front door lock is connected to the Internet, Chui can unlock the door. The doorbell also has security features that allow the user to monitor the home and even call 911.

People People, a Swedish industrial design agency, designed the innovative doorbell. The first couple of batches of the device will be manufactured in the U.S.; the Chui prototypes were made in Dallas.

Right now Moore and Chafni are working with a hardware engineer from Argenox Technologies LLC and are hiring an additional engineer.

In January, Moore and Chafni unveiled Chui at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The two have raised money through family and friends and started a crowdfunding campaign that allows people to pre-order the doorbell. The two initially hoped to raise $30,000 and reserve 150 doorbells in one month, but more than 250 Chuis have been reserved and they have raised more than $50,000. The doorbell retails for $199.

“After we saw a lot of demand for the product, we decided to extend the campaign,” Chafni said.

Moore says Chui is now 160 percent funded.

The doorbells are expected to ship in the fall, and the team has filed two utility patents and one provisional patent on the technology.

In addition to getting support from the Dallas start-up community, the two entrepreneurs are participating in Boomtown, a 12-week start-up accelerator based in Boulder, Colo. They were one of six companies selected for the intensive program.

Through the accelerator, 214 Technologies received $20,000 in funding and the opportunity to work with mentors in their field.

“Participating in the accelerator has been an extremely helpful process,” Moore said. “We’ve been able to get more structure and prepare our prototype to be market-ready.”

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