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Deako co-founder and CEO Derek Richardson makes his pitch alongside GeekWire’s John Cook for “Inventions We Love” at the 2017 GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Seattle startup Deako raised $3.5 million to kick production of its “plug and play” smart light switches into high gear.

Founded in 2015, Deako sells a modular light switch that can function with either conventional or smart lights, allowing a homeowner to easily swap in high-tech, remotely controlled lighting. Its technology works off a home’s existing wiring and Deako says it lets homebuilders market their projects as smart homes, without a lot of upfront cost.

Deako is piloting its technology with more than a dozen national homebuilders, and the startup has targeted Dallas, Austin, Denver, Phoenix, Orlando and Atlanta as its main markets. Deako’s homebuilder partners construct more than 100,000 homes per year.

“The last 12 months have seen a dramatic shift from builders experimenting with smart technology in their homes to it being a mandated standard in every home built by most of the top national builders.” Deako COO Wes Nicol said in a statement. “This has been driven by changing demographics of homebuyers as well as reduced cost and standardization of major smart home voice control platforms such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.”

The new funding, which brings the company’s lifetime total to $20 million, will enable Deako to up production capacity to meet demand from its homebuilder partners. The company will also deploy the cash infusion to expand sales and marketing efforts and accelerate new product development.

Seattle-based Columbia Pacific Advisors funded the entire round. It has a fund that addresses “financing needs of business borrowers that are not met by traditional lenders or equity capital sources,” according to a Deako press release. The startup chose Columbia Pacific because it was willing to provide funds without significantly diluting Deako shareholder value.

(Deako Photo)

Today Deako has 20 employees, and it plans to hire five to eight more people in the coming months. CEO Derek Richardson was an early employee at BlackBerry and spent 12 years at Cypress Semiconductor. The inspiration to start Deako came from Richardson’s three daughters.

“They’re running around the house turning on lights,” Richardson told GeekWire last year. Before smart lights, that meant roaming room to room each evening, flipping switches. That has changed.

“Every night I hit one button,” he said, “and instantly all the lights are turned off.”

The larger smart home market is growing at a rapid clip as homeowners’ appetite for tech increases. The global market for smart home devices is expected to grow nearly 27 percent in 2019 to 832.7 million shipments, according to an International Data Corp. report in March.

There’s a flood of competitors selling smart light products — Lutron Caseta, Leviton Decora Smart, Wemo, GE Z-Wave, Legrand Adorne by Legrand. Even still, Deako — a Y-Combinator Alumni and GeekWire Summit “Invention We Love” — claims to offer a suite of features that the competition doesn’t match.

Deako says it is the only viable smart lighting option for large builders that want to install switches throughout the home. Other solutions, the company says, are only viable in one or two locations in a house.

“Smart lighting has always been the toughest challenge for builders to offer as there are dozens of switches in a home and costs make it prohibitive beyond one or two switches,” Nicol said. “Deako has solved this problem by enabling builders to pre-wire every switch in the home for smart lighting, for little to no added cost over their current solutions, giving their buyers the best experience with the maximum flexibility for the life of their homes.”

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