SmartRG: Riding the technology wave of the connected home

Provider of managed broadband & home networking solutions enjoying “insatiable demand”

Jeff McInnis

Recently more than doubling their office space, from 2,600 square feet to almost 6,000 is just one sign that SmartRG Inc. is a rising star in Vancouver’s high-tech community. SmartRG designs and produces hardware and software solutions to help Internet service providers and broadband operators monitor, manage and monetize the connected home.

Before the expansion, Jeff McInnis, CEO, said they were three to an office. They’ll use the new space to house the sales, marketing and executive offices, while the engineering and software development teams will remain in the original space.

Jeff McInnisSmartRG has its roots in ClearAccess, a provider of TR-069-based software to service providers for the provisioning and management of residential and mobile devices, which was acquired by Cisco in May of 2012. While Cisco was interested in the software portion, the hardware portion spun off and became SmartRG.

“ClearAccess was acquisition #151 by Cisco, and it was the first and only that involved spinning out a company. We’ve been incredibly successful so far,” said McInnis, who moved to Vancouver from Toronto this past August.

Since its start in 2012 with 18 full-time employees (FTEs), three products and 46 customers, McInnis reported that company revenue has almost tripled, profits have increased and the company now has close to 50 FTEs in US, Canada, Columbia and Denmark, with over 350 customers and close to 1.4 million devices in operation.

Although SmartRG does build hardware, McInnis stressed that the company is “still very much a software company.”

“Unlike a lot of our competitors who just sell hardware, we’ve become a customer premises equipment (CPE) solutions provider with end-to-end solutions,” said McInnis. CPE solutions enable ISPs and broadband operators to provide remote management of in-home devices – anything from thermostats to cameras to lighting control to sending email – making all devices that have Internet access work together.

Up to now, this sort of home automation has been primarily an “enthusiast’s market” because homeowners must buy each piece of the solution separately and figure out how to make them work. However, with SmartRG products, service providers can deliver home automation as part of the bundle.

“There’s an insatiable demand from broadband customers, and it’s a great opportunity for us to embed home automation control hardware and software into our gateway,” said McInnis. “Remote management means you don’t have to do it yourself.”

McInnis explained that SmartRG’s products are highly customizable, even to the point of customizing the gateway’s case with the operator’s logo and the graphical user interface to match the operator’s branding (colors, layout, etc.).

“High-volume commodity manufacturing combined with a high degree of customization – this is increasingly what operators are looking for,” McInnis stated.

At first SmartRG primarily sold their products directly to service providers. However, in the last year they’ve expanded their distribution by adding key global distributer partners like Gentek in Canada, Walker & Associates in the United States, and Portland-based Anixter, which is a global distributor of communication and security products. In 2015 McInnis expects to add the company’s first strategic distribution partner in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa).

“We are continually expanding our list of ecosystem partners to help us better serve our customers,” said McInnis.

The company is also expanding its involvement in the technical community, having recently joined the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO).

“[The TAO] is a great opportunity for us to improve our profile, and participate in OR/WA technology initiatives,” McInnis said. “As we become larger and a bigger part of the tech community, we need to take our rightful spot in participating in the growth of the market.”

Becoming more visible in the labor market is one of the challenges SmartRG faces. Competitors, such as Portland-based Aruba Networks (reputed to be hiring 200 new engineers) and Janrain compete for the talent pool in the Vancouver/Portland metro area.

“It’s a tight market,” said McInnis. “The good news is that Silicon Forest is attracting a lot of people from California and Redmond. Companies are recognizing that and are coming here to set up shop.”

The company doesn’t focus on just hardware and software, however. McInnis stated that community involvement is an “important part of our culture.”

“We want to be known as a company that works hard, plays hard and gives back in a big way,” he said.

SmartRG employees recently volunteered at the Clark County Food Bank, and participated in Movember to help raise money for prostate cancer research. The company is also sponsoring a family for the holidays through the Clark County Share House.

McInnis said that his vision for his company for the next three to five years is to become the “premium provider of CPE solutions to forward-looking ISPs all over the world.” The company has set an objective to reach a $100 million valuation ($70-80 million from hardware, $10 million from software and services) within that time frame.

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Jodie Gilmore’s journalistic background includes more than 15 years of writing for the Vancouver Business Journal as well as other publications such as Northwest Women’s Journal, North Bank Magazine, American Builders Quarterly and The New American. A Master’s in Technical & Professional Writing and 20+ years in the trenches as a technical writer and online help developer round out her writing background. When not writing, she enjoys gardening and working on her small farm in the Cascade foothills.