CEDIA 2015: Former VIA Integrators Launch Sympl, an Easy System Design and Budgeting Tool
A couple of VIA International veterans have created a new company called Sympl, providing simple software for integrators to design whole-house systems within the client’s budget constraints.
Julie Jacobson · September 8, 2015
A couple of VIA International veterans have created a new company called Sympl, providing simple software for integrators to design whole-house systems within the client’s budget constraints. (UPDATE 10/5/15: Sympl is now Slateplan.)
Debuting at CEDIA Expo 2015, the product is the brainchild of Scott Marchand and Jason Wright, both hailing from the prestigious California integration firm Engineered Environments. The duo left EE just before it merged with five other high-end integration firms to form VIA International in 2013.
At that time, they formed Marchand and Wright, a high-end home systems consulting and project management firm that helps clients navigate the process from initial budgeting and planning all the way through project completion using third-party integrators.
M&W so far has about 150 projects under its belt in only two years. Through those jobs, as well as years of experience specifying jobs at other integration companies, Marchand and Wright came to realize that it’s pretty darn difficult to translate client needs into a workable home systems integration plan.
How do you get started when clients have no real knowledge of products, processes and prices?
“Even coming up with a price is very painful,” Marchand says.
So he and Wright set about creating a software program that would help clients visualize a technology system for their home, and build a budget for a project.
As often happens when integrators build their own software tools, “A/V companies were seeing our software and they wanted it,” Marchand says.
And Sympl was born.
Sympl starts with a 27-inch “iPad” loaded with architectural floorplans of the client’s property. Alongside the plans is a palette of products such as speakers, cameras and TVs that are dragged onto the virtual blueprints, generating a budget in real time.
Simply drag the products on and off the floor plan to change the budget.
The kicker is this: The budget is not just the price of the speaker or camera or other object dragged onto the plans. Rather, each object has underlying costs – calculated by Sympl – that may include such things as wiring, back boxes, mounts and of course labor.
Marchand says that installers and clients alike don’t really understand what a “speaker” costs beyond the retail price of the item itself.
Sympl has the algorithms built into a range of product categories, but dealers themselves can revise any product or formula.
Used off-the-shelf, Sympl can provide a “really, really accurate budget range,” Marchand says.
In developing Sympl, Marchand says the company looked at all other integrator-related applications on the market and found, “They’re all engineering based.”
On the other hand, “ours is a client-facing product that sales people can bring into a meeting,” Marchand says. “Instead of making a circle for a speaker or a rectangle for a TV, it’s all done digitally.”
At the end of an introductory meeting, there’s a strong bond between the customer and salesperson – enough to “get them signed and get them on board, at least with a design retainer,” Marchand says.
Haste is critical in project planning and budgeting, as it’s easy to lose a client after a successful first meeting while designs and estimates are drawn up.
“We’ve done a $3.5 million budget in 60 minutes,” Marchand says. “That could [otherwise] take three to five months.”
At CEDIA Expo 2015, Sympl will have a working product to show dealers. The company plans to sell its service as a monthly subscription based on an annual license.
The company was self-funded until recently when it took outside funding to “reach our goals,” Marchand says.
Randy Stearns, the former CEO of VIA, is a consultant for the company.
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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