Local startup hopes for big things from its ‘Glow’ tracker

Click here for the original story in the Athens News
By Fred Kight




Ben Lachman thinks 2018 will be a banner year.

“We’re hoping to make some big announcements in the new year,” promised Lachman, who is co-founder of Potential Labs, a hardware technology startup operating out of Athens.

The reason for Lachman’s optimism is Glow, a “smart” home-energy tracker developed by Potential Labs.

“We launched Glow for pre-sales starting in August via Kickstarter,” Lachman said. “It’s now available on IndieGoGo. We’re still in a pre-manufacturing stage.”

The Kickstarter crowd-sourcing goal was to raise $75,000 in capital. So far the campaign has brought in $92,000, according to Lachman.

Backers were promised delivery of Glow units once Potential Labs begins production in 2018.

Glow consists of a tabletop device, a wireless sensor that attaches to the homeowner’s electric meter box, and a smartphone app.

“Forty percent of the electricity your home uses goes to waste,” according to the company’s website. “Glow helps you see energy use as it happens so you can cut the waste and save money.”

“We’ve had a lot of interest from energy companies since our initial launch this summer,” said Lachman. “We’re pursuing these relationships with great interest.”

Homeowners and small businesses can use the device to understand their energy consumption in real time through Glow’s visual feedback and accompanying mobile application.

Lachman has called it a “Fitbit for your home energy use,” a reference to the personal health and fitness aid/app that has become so popular.

Potential Labs was founded in 2014 and according to the company website, it “plans to manufacture Glow in the USA with a focus on keeping manufacturing partners as local as possible. Their goal is to bring the maximum positive effect to their economically depressed region of Appalachian Ohio.”

Lachman said the company’s current manufacturing partners are located in Westerville, (Ohio) and Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

The plan is to manufacture 500 to 1,000 units initially. Where a production facility will be located is not yet clear.

 “We’re a distributed team based here in Athens,” Lachman said. “About half the team is local, with the other half working remotely. Our local office is housed at Athensworks, a co-working space uptown.”

Lachman, as CEO of Potential Labs, handles much of the day-to-day operation of the company. According to the company’s bio for Lachman, “Ben has been building software for Apple platforms for the past 15 years. He’s started two small software companies (Acacia Tree Software and Nice Mohawk Limited), and his apps have been used by millions worldwide.”

Potential Labs’ chief technology officer is Robin Kinney, who is the other co-founder. “Over the past 10 years, Robin has been active in the energy monitoring space, as well as doing energy-efficiency work with nonprofits in Southeast Ohio,” according to a company biography. Before relocating to the Athens area in the early 2000s, Robin worked in the medical device industry in Silicon Valley.

Lachman became interested in energy efficiency after having solar panels installed on his first home in 2009. That interest eventually led to the creation of Glow.

Along the way, he came up with the idea of Athensworks. The “co-working community” opened in 2012 at 29 E. Carpenter St. and was the subject of an article in The Athens NEWS at that time.

“We are a group of tech/creative professionals working in software, media, academia, IT and the arts,” according to the Athensworks website. There are currently 12 members, including Lachman.