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Chris Rill

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When software engineer Chris Rill came home from vacation to find his door replaced with plywood and a note from the local police, he decided it was time to build himself a security device. Now, as the co-founder of home security company Canary, he’s sharing his innovations, helping people around the world feel confident that their home is protected while they’re away.

After earning his BS in Computer Engineering from Union College in 2004, Rill took a position as a senior client support specialist at SunGuard. After three years at SunGuard, he embarked on a software engineering career that included work for Solidica, ASML, BidCactus, Honest, and Rockstar Games. Along the way, he co-founded his first start-up, Farehelper, a travel notification platform founded in 2011 with an aim towards disrupting the travel industry.

Rill had left Farehelper and was working as a software consultant when his friend Adam Sagar shared with him his ideas for a home security device. Sagar had returned home from vacation to the sudden realization that he had no way to know what had happened in his home while he was away. He began looking for home security products, but found only integrated security systems or overly simplistic solutions. Sagar, a long-time security system development professional, was inspired to create his own home security product.

Already interested in home security, in May 2012 Rill decided to joined Sagar as Canary’s co-founder. The pair spent months in a tiny Times Square office, building devices and developing software. By 2013, they had a product they felt ready to share with the world. Working with their third co-founder, designer Jon Troutman, they launched an IndieGoGo campaign featuring their ready-to-produce home security product. The campaign raised just under $2 million before closing, above-and-beyond the funding they required for their December 2014 launch. While Canary’s revenue figures remain undisclosed, Sagar has said that their first year saw sales bigger than Fitbit, GoPro, and Dropcam’s first years combined. In 2015, with a year of overwhelmingly positive reception behind them, Canary raised a $30 million funding round from Walden Riverwood Ventures. They continue to improve their product through constant software updates that offer improvements and new app features straight to users’ phones and cameras.

(Sources used in writing this profile include a September 2014 piece by the entrepreneur on Hakka Labs, a January 2016 Business Insider article, a November 2013 Blueprint article, a February 2016 Reading Eagle Business Weekly piece, an AdoptIdeas.com article, and the entrepreneur’s LinkedIn profile)

Companies and Investments

Canary (Co-founder, CTO), Rockstar Games (Consultant), Honest (Senior Software Engineering Consultant), Farehelper (Co-founder), BidCactus (Software Engineer), ASML/Advanced Decisions (Software Engineering Consultant), Solidica (Computer Engineer), SunGuard (Senior Client Support Specialist)

Lessons Learned

There’s an old saying that goes something like, “they call it hardware because it’s hard.” I couldn’t agree more. When I transitioned into my new role as Canary’s lead electrical engineer, I knew it was not because I was stellar at electrical engineering, but because my background in military embedded systems made me the team’s most qualified engineer at the time. I did my best to guide design and review schematics with our team of engineers in China, but I knew there was a better solution.

Luckily, that VentureBeat article and Canary’s growing public profile attracted the attention of some incredible electrical engineers. I was thrilled to bring that talent on board—and issue myself some more walking papers.

This was the second time I fired myself at Canary, and this time, it was to make room for someone who was just plain better at the job. It was an obvious decision.

These days, my role is to make sure the organization has what it needs to deliver an excellent product by unblocking the team and putting out fires. Soon, I’ll need to shift my focus toward crafting an architecture that supports a family of Canary products. And each time I entrust my former tasks to capable hands and embrace a new position, I feel more confident in my ability to bring Canary to where it deserves to be.

In my world, giving myself the axe has become the ultimate sign of positive forward motion. As you and your organization grow, I advise you to self-assess honestly, shed your former responsibilities, trust your team to execute, and allow yourself to embrace bigger-picture tasks. (Chris Rill on regularly re-inventing your role to best fill the needs of your company, in an article on Hakkalabs.co)

Inspiring Quotes

Chris Rill's Quotes

If you want to achieve real personal and professional success, fire yourself regularly.

Chris Rill

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