Thrive Smart Systems is taking irrigation systems wireless
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If you’ve ever had the honor of installing an irrigation system, there’s one component that will reliably rank highly in overall headache inducement: wiring.
Even when you have a system with all the bells and whistles that allows for remote control from your phone, there will always be a bundle of wires running from that “smart” controller to your valves—housed beneath that green lid you see in yards. This is how every irrigation system operates.
The Thrive Smart Systems team met in the Crocker Innovation Fellowship during our time at Brigham Young University. We spoke to dozens of landscapers, and they shared the same concern: wires are a pain. They’re a hassle to install and even worse to maintain. If one of them cuts or is shorted—a common occurrence—you’re left to either retrench through existing landscape, or use last resort band-aid solutions that simply replace the current problems with a new set of problems.
We followed the innovation practices taught to us by our mentors: identifying problems through interviews, gauging the size of the problem through surveys, ideating solutions, converging on ideas, building smoke-and-mirror prototypes to show potential customers, garnering feedback, pivoting, new prototype, etc., etc., ad infinitum. After a year of following textbook startup guidance, we had struck gold.
We took our solution to the world-renowned Irrigation Association Show in Long Beach, California. Combining the words “irrigation” and “trade show” doesn’t typically conjure up images of an exhilarating experience. However, that’s exactly what it ended up being. Despite having a dinky little booth in the far back corner of the floor, we were approached by every major player in the industry about our product. Other companies and landscapers bombarded us with questions about our product and its capabilities. We had caused not just a ripple, but a splash.
When we arrived back home, our next major hurdle—as a hardware company with a working prototype—was funding.
We are forever grateful to have founded a startup during this time in this country in the state of Utah. Having lived in Cambodia and Uganda, I am forever in awe at the opportunities we have and at the mentors who helped us shape our visions to reality.
We turned to business competitions for initial funding. In our first big win, we came in as complete underdogs having barely made it to the semifinal round (we were initially rejected and only qualified after another team dropped out.) After a complete makeover to our pitch and gathering further traction, we ended up taking first place in the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, securing the $40,000 grand prize. We went on to win a total of $95,000 in competition earnings.
The following years were defined by an intense focus on development and design, supported by further angel investment. I often tell people that going from no idea at all to a solid prototype is an absolute cake walk compared to going from a solid prototype to a finalized, marketable product.
The most common word that landscapers cited when discussing product wishes was “reliable.” Waterproofness, distance, ease of installation, design, failsafes. Thousands of micro decisions and meticulous attention to detail was required to meet our customers’—and our own—product standards.
After extensive testing in below freezing temperatures, drop testing, range testing and everything in between, the product was complete.
We launched our first product, the Thrive EVO™, in September of 2022. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, and professional landscapers will call us out of the blue just to tell us how smooth an experience installing the product was.
When we envision the future, there will always be landscapes to create and nurture. But these systems will not be wired. The question isn’t if these systems will transition to wireless, but rather who will lead the way in making this a reality. And we’re honored to be the company that’s already taking it there.