This feature is part of our 100 Most Dynamic Leaders of 2023. Check out the entire issue and listing by clicking on this link.
Imagine a world where your stove is as smart as your phone—capable of being controlled from anywhere, helping you multitask, and minimizing risks in one of the most hazard-prone areas of your home. Thanks to Akshita Iyer and her innovative product – Ome Smart Knobs, this is now a reality.
Inspired from personal experience, Ome Smart Knobs offer an unprecedented level of control and safety in your kitchen. Even more impressively, these smart knobs can automatically turn off your burner if you forget to, thereby preventing potential disasters and bringing peace of mind to millions of households. But according to Akshita, the mission goes beyond just preventing accidents.
“This isn’t just about preventing accidents—it’s about fostering a sense of security and control,” says Akshita. “Our ultimate aspiration extends beyond saving lives and preventing damage. We aim to encourage positive cooking practices that contribute to the overall well-being and vitality of those we love.”
Read this full interview to know more about the technology behind Ome Smart Knobs, Akshita’s journey and her vision going forward.
Talk to us about the challenges you had to face in building the Ome Smart Stove Knob.
Switching from a background in neuroscience to the tech industry as a first-time entrepreneur was not easy. Fortunately, being out of my comfort zone actually fueled my unyielding attitude. I tackled hurdles without fixating on what lies ahead. My strategy was to overcome one obstacle at a time, without worrying about how many might still be waiting.
Among the major hurdles, one stood out: figuring out how to raise capital. I had absolutely no experience in this world. Even though I had plenty of support from friends and family, I soon realized that fundraising was a whole new ballgame. Having a brilliant product and a solid idea didn’t cut it. I needed to dive deep into the psychology of raising money to really make it work.
For example, when I started pitching my idea to investors, I had no idea that each investor had a specific focus, like SaaS or Health Tech. I vividly remember pitching our consumer device to a manager who specialized in B2B software. By the end of my spiel, his face was a picture of complete confusion.
This experience taught me a crucial lesson: thorough preparation and understanding the venture capitalists’ perspective were essential. I made it a habit to research the people I was going to talk to well beforehand. This allowed me to adjust and adapt the conversation in a way that was relevant for them.
Even more, learning from other entrepreneurs who walked this path before was a game-changer. I soaked up as much as I could by listening to their journeys and taking the most useful advice for myself.
What makes Ome Smart Knobs a must have solution for kitchens and households?
Ome’s technology bridges a significant gap in the smart home by addressing the lack of connectivity with the most used major appliance — the stove. Unlike other smart kitchen gadgets that add to counter clutter, the Ome Smart Stove Knob is a retrofit solution that allows you to upgrade your primary cooking appliance without sacrificing valuable counter space.
Our device not only solves the leading cause of house fires — unattended cooking — but also sets the foundation for a comprehensive connected kitchen experience. By integrating auxiliary sensors with recipe content and grocery delivery, Ome will enable consumers to cook easily at home while saving time.
We stand alone in our category because our technology extends beyond the consumer market. Ome enhances safety in multi-unit buildings, such as dorms, condos, and retirement communities. Our centralized dashboard enables remote monitoring and proactive safety measures for property managers, reducing the occurrence of hazardous events and providing support to at-risk residents.
From being a Teaching Assistant in Neuroscience at Duke University to innovating a first-of-a-kind kitchen solution to appearing on Shark Tank. What has this journey been like for you?
Believe it or not, I never expected to know so much about kitchen appliances. After I finished my neuroscience undergrad at Duke, I decided to work at a hospital to gain some experience before applying to medical school. During that time, I got hooked on Shark Tank. It amazed me how entrepreneurs were creating businesses to solve big problems in the world — often because they faced those problems themselves.
What fascinated me the most was that many of these entrepreneurs didn’t have traditional engineering or business backgrounds. This got me curious about creating something myself, although I didn’t have a clear idea yet.
Around that same time, my mom accidentally left the stove on one too many times and started a kitchen fire. While looking for solutions, I realized how outdated kitchen appliances were, especially stoves (which we use a lot!). Smart appliances were expensive, and “dumb” ones didn’t do much — plus, they last for ages.
That’s when it hit me — my “aha moment.” I was determined to make a retrofit device (like the Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell) that is intuitive for the user and significantly cheaper than buying a whole new appliance. I thought, “how hard could it be to make a smart device?” I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I jumped right in. It turned out to be much trickier than I thought. Thankfully, I’ve had smart and capable people by my side throughout this journey. I wouldn’t have made it this far without that village.
What would be your advice for emerging women entrepreneurs in the tech space?
Speak with conviction, no matter what you’re saying. As someone venturing into the world of smart technology and as a woman, it’s been quite a journey. This field is male-dominated, and as a first-time founder, I’ve battled with feelings of imposter syndrome. Being in rooms with seasoned individuals who are older and more experienced used to overwhelm me. I’d undermine my own ideas or even hold back from contributing — even when I had valuable insights on the topic.
But over time, through trial and error, I’ve come to understand the significance of having confidence and conveying it through the things I say. I’ve learned to embrace my strengths, like my knack for storytelling, connecting with others, and nurturing relationships. Confidence, I’ve learned, has the power to change your game.
Finally, what is your vision going forward for Ome? What are you most excited about?
Our journey of growth and innovation continues as we dive into the development and launch of our Gen 2 Smart Knob. This upgraded version will be compatible with an even wider range of stoves, boast some much-requested feature upgrades, and be offered in delightful new colors, adding a touch of vibrancy to various kitchens.
Personally, I’m thrilled about our plans to introduce the Ome Smart Knob to senior living communities, aiming to provide valuable support for those who wish to age gracefully in their homes.
What truly excites me about our system is its potential to make a difference in the lives of older adults. Beyond just enhancing kitchen safety, we attempt to bring a holistic approach, empowering caregivers to assess the wellness of their residents.
This isn’t just about preventing accidents — it’s about fostering a sense of security and control. Our ultimate aspiration extends beyond saving lives and preventing damage. We aim to encourage positive cooking practices that contribute to the overall well-being and vitality of those we love.