Alex Capecelatro is co-founder and CEO at Josh.ai, the voice-controlled automation system for the luxury home. He previously founded startups Yeti and At The Pool. He sits on the boards of UCLA’s Engineering Alumni Association and Cedia’s Technology Council, and has also been a fellow with the LA Coalition for Jobs and the Economy. Alex holds a BS in Materials Science and Engineering from UCLA. Follow him on LinkedIn here and Twitter here.
From a young age, Alex had an entrepreneurial side and a keen interest in science and engineering. He got an early start in technology and bioengineering projects for organizations like the Naval Research Lab, Harvard, Sandia National Lab, NASA and UCLA before, driven by a desire to turn innovative technology into products that transform people’s lives, he entered the private sector.
In 2015, after a stint at Fisker Automotive and founding two additional start-ups, Alex once again found himself at a crossroads. Eager to get back into hardware, and building his own house, he co-founded Josh.ai to change the way people interact with their homes.
Josh.ai builds voice-controlled home automation systems. Its room-aware virtual assistant, Josh, integrates with TVs, speakers, lights, thermostats and more to allow homeowners to control their home with simple voice commands, like “turn the lights on,” “close the garage door,” or “start playing music in the kitchen at 5:00.” Josh can also implement ongoing automations and routines. Alex’s system, for example, reminds him each evening to feed the dog, and is programmed with conditional commands for when it rains or snows.
But Josh’s role as the “brains” of the home goes beyond enacting voice commands and routines to create a truly intelligent system. For example, Josh can notify a homeowner that an unused device is consuming unnecessary energy, or that the garage door has been left slightly ajar, posing a security threat.
In the last couple of years, the idea of the “digital nomad” has been popular—Airbnbs instead of homeownership, Ubering instead of purchasing a personal vehicle. Now, Alex says, things have completely changed. As people spend more time at home, they’re once again thinking of it as a sanctuary—and Josh.ai is thinking about how technology can help.
Amid this shift, Josh.ai has not only seen unprecedented demand—even raising an additional $11 million in funding—but also interest in new features focused on health and wellness. In response, Josh.ai recently rolled out new wellness features and is now exploring new partnerships with companies designed to improve sleep and air quality, like companies that provide circadian lighting products.
Alex cites voice control as the most natural way to interact with a home—short of automation, which only works on a very limited number of tasks, like motion-sensored lights. This straightforward control system, with everything managed by a single user interface, makes it easy for anyone to operate—even without a knack for technology.
When Josh.ai first began, the founders believed their target audience would be 35-55-year-old, iPhone-owning, Tesla-driving, wealthy technophiles. But that’s not what happened. Instead, they find that many of their clients tend to be over 65 or 70 years old, and fairly resistant to technology. This, Alex believes, is the crux of transformational technologies catching on.
From the beginning, the Josh.ai team was hyper-aware that their product would be in the home, helping owners with their most personal needs and routines. To that end, they’ve always been concerned with protecting privacy and ensuring consumer comfort. Even its name and logo, a dog, were selected because they were considered unalarming and unassuming.
Other players in the smart home space, namely Amazon and Google, have at times come under fire for their privacy practices, making some consumers uneasy about having the largest technology companies in the world listening in on their home. Josh.ai took a distinctly different approach by adopting a business model that doesn’t include monetizing customer data. In practice, this commitment to privacy means keeping data local to the home, when possible, rather than sending it out to the Cloud, and giving users total control over what data is stored and leveraged. In Alex’s own words, “the product is the product—your data and your personal information is not the product.”