Astro, a newcomer to the connected home space, is launching its first product today for apartment dwellers and renters in big cities. Twist is a wirelessly-controlled LED light bulb, with a built-in speaker, that can screw into any existing lamp.
The bulbs, which are controlled by a dimmer, are programmed to change from white light to yellow light depending on the time of day, location, season and weather. Each light bulb consumes 8 to 10 watts (compared to the generic 60-watt light bulb), and is designed to last for at least 12 years.
The speakers, made by Sonos and Bose manufacturer Tymphany, connect to Airplay from your iPhone or laptop and sync across all rooms in the house. When you set it up, there’s no pairing — your iPhone discovers the device and allows it to connect automatically to Wi-Fi.
Astro isn’t trying to be another hub for connected devices — it’s rolling out a line of simple products designed to fit into your existing routine. That’s why Twist is controlled by a circular dimmer, meant to sit on a bedside table or kitchen shelf, as opposed to a mobile app.
“Unlocking your phone, opening an app, and waiting to connect is an inferior experience to using your standard light switch,” Springer says. “For 100 years we’ve used a light switch to turn lights on and off, and that’s a behavior we don’t want to change.”
Astro has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures, with participation from Crosslink Capital, Winklevoss Capital, Zelkova Ventures, Rugged Ventures, and Maiden Lane, among others.
The connected home market is getting crowded, but many of the best-selling products are difficult for apartment dwellers and renters to integrate.
“The entry point into home automation is so expensive and time consuming that most people aren’t even eligible for it,” says Tyler Winklevoss, one of Astro’s early investors.
A Nest thermostat, for instance, can’t be installed in apartments that don’t have an HVAC system.
“The light bulb is the most obvious way to get to this automated apartment,” says Taylor Greene of Lerer Hippeau Ventures, who tells me he looked at five other smart bulb startups before investing in Astro.
“The most interesting play here is being an Internet of Things platform for the apartment, as opposed to just another light bulb,” Greene says. “There’s a tremendous opportunity in the smart apartment space right now.”
LHV was an early investor in SmartThings, the connected home platform that sold to Samsung last year for $200 million.
Twist is available for pre-order today for $249, which includes one speaker bulb, two LED bulbs, and a dimmer. Springer tells me Astro will be rolling out additional smart apartment products over the next couple of years.