For years, real estate agents and property managers hid keys under flower pots or doormats. Then came electronic lockboxes that could be opened only with the proper combination of numbers or letters.
Now, pre-revenue Seattle startup Lubn has created what it says is the world’s first 4G/LTE key lockbox, which uses an embedded camera to recognize mobile QR codes issued to a visitor. The five-employee company, which works out of WeWork Labs in downtown Seattle, launched the product last November and plans to begin selling to a wider audience this summer.
Founded in 2016 by former Microsoft user experience designer YC Chung and Autumn Li, the company recently won the Consumer Electronics Show Innovation Award in the competitive Smart Home Product category.
“I have some properties in other countries, which I found extremely difficult for me to manage remotely from Seattle,” says Chung, who spent nine years at Microsoft. “I was thinking, what if I could use technology to solve this problem? So, I built my first prototype. You either watch it happen or make it happen, so I took the latter approach.”
Lubn’s product — called loT Smart Lock — photographs visitors to a property as they check in. An image is then sent to a property manager’s phone via the 4G/LTE network to confirm the visitor’s identity. The manager can then use a phone to unlock a building remotely. The company is marketing the product mainly to property managers who manage multiple sites, but also to service providers, retail store owners and Airbnb hosts.
The company raised $500,000 in a seed round last year. Chung and Li kicked in an additional $166,000.
“We are determined to democratize autonomous property management,” says Chung, who notes that the company is probably a few years away from leasing permanent space. “We see a lot of opportunities, not just from the housing perspective but also the software perspective.”