Who are you?
My name is Raphael Oberholzer, co-founder and CEO of NEEO Inc.
What’s your company and where is it based?
At NEEO, we strongly believe that using technology in our homes should be fast, simple, and fun. That’s fundamentally why we have launched our start-up company, NEEO, which is based in Cupertino, California, and Switzerland. Give us a bit of an update of the history of your company and where it is now?
In 2014, three of us launched NEEO. With a small team, we started to work on a smart remote. Our goal was to truly replace the cumbersome mess of user interfaces, like the growing number of apps and all the remotes people have to manage today. We saw some early approaches from others in this direction in the home technology industry, but we felt that it was time to go much further. As an example, it was very clear to us that a smart remote needs a touch experience similar to what people were familiar with from their smart phones.
Once we had working prototypes, we launched a crowdfunding campaign where we raised well over $1 million. We then developed mass production facilities in China and started to deliver our first products in 2017. Today, we are a team of over 40 designers and engineers, bringing NEEO to over 30 countries.
How did you get into the industry?
I got started with Bang & Olufsen systems in 1998. This was really when I began to feel that technology can create magical experiences. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with making people smile with thoughtful tech experiences. This passion was certainly also what made me co-found a European custom installation company in 2005 (which was later successfully acquired by the largest infrastructure and energy company in Switzerland).
Which home technology do you consider the most important today and why?
I believe we should never focus on the actual tech, it should always be about the experience it provides. It is much easier to say this than actually understand and truly implement it. If I would have to pick one product though, I would choose the (still secret) prototype that I have installed at home…
How long have you been a CEDIA member?
We’ve been a CEDIA member since 2005, when we launched our installation company. What do you enjoy most about being a CEDIA member?
I believe work should be inspiring and fun. CEDIA has been exactly that in so many ways — every tradeshow, my time on the CEDIA Board, the training courses I have attended and the ones I have taught, all the friends I have made in the industry, and all the brainstorming around the “ideal” solution have been awesome experiences, and I keep learning from all these inspiring people.
What’s the best product that NEEO has launched into the home technology market in the last year?
Our first product, NEEO – The Thinking Remote, became available in November 2017. Being able to launch it, after all the hard work that went into it, was a very special moment. It’s beautiful to now see broad adoption among customers and professionals in Europe and the U.S. alike. NEEO is currently growing at a rapid speed.
What’s the next focus for NEEO?
This year, we will heavily invest in CI market specific developments. With our industry background and our deep understanding of the integrator’s pain, we believe we can provide a lot of tools that will help dealers grow their businesses and amaze their customers. If integrators want to see your products on display, where and when can they do this next?
Next up is CEDIA Expo 2018 in San Diego. We will unveil several of the developments we have been working on for many months now. If there was one thing you could change in the industry what would it be?
I would love to see more start-up companies. If you weren’t in the home technology sector, what would you like to be doing and why?
I would most likely be inventing and engineering magic tricks.