Ecobee representatives touted the investment as the most ever raised by the Toronto-based company and the biggest investment yet from the $100 million Alexa Fund, but a dollar amount for Amazon’s portion of the funding was not disclosed.
The investment represents the next step in the relationship between ecobee and Amazon. The ecobee3 WiFi thermostat was the first thermostat to work with with Amazon Echo and other Alexa-powered products through the Alexa Smart Home Skill API. That skill allows people to control room temperatures with their voice.
“This funding round marks our largest single Alexa Fund investment to-date and builds on our existing relationship with ecobee, who was instrumental in helping us build the Alexa Smart Home Skill API,” Steve Rabuchin, vice president of Amazon’s Alexa division said in a statement. “We’ve been impressed with ecobee’s innovative smart home technologies and their ability to improve the everyday lives of homeowners. We’re excited to see what the future holds for this growing company and the new voice experiences they’ll bring to Amazon Alexa customers.”
Douglas Booms, vice president of corporate development for Amazon, said at a lunch event to announce the funding round Thursday that Amazon will continue investing in companies beyond the fund’s original $100 million budget. He would not say how much of the fund has been invested to date. Amazon could do future Alexa funds; it just comes down to finding the right companies working on voice-activated platforms.
“As long as there are great entrepreneurs with really interesting stuff to be invested in our ambition and our appetite will be there,” Booms said.
Ecobee uses room sensors to monitor temperatures throughout the house, rather than just keeping track of the area near the thermostat itself, typically the hallway. Ecobee says its products save people an average of 23 percent on utility bills.
Ecobee competes with some of the biggest companies in the world for smart home supremacy, including Google, which produces the Nest thermostat. The funding round will allow ecobee to continue developing more smart home technology.
When Amazon first announced Alexa’s skills, it also started the Alexa Fund to invest in companies that will push the boundaries of voice-based interaction. Ecobee marks the fund’s 16th startup investment, most of which are focused on smart home and wearable products. In the next year, the fund’s scope will expand to include areas like robotics, developer tools, healthcare and accessibility.
Last year Amazon opened up Alexa to developers, and Amazon said tens of thousands of them are now working on skills and projects for Alexa. Developers who want to add to Alexa’s abilities can write code that works with Alexa in the cloud, letting the smart assistant do the heavy lifting of understanding and deciphering spoken commands. Alexa has more than 2,000 skills.