The day Steve Trundle’s first home alarm system was installed, he was outside with garden shears in his hand. He realized that he could easily reach up and cut the phone lines that connected his system to the monitoring company. “Suddenly it didn’t seem so smart to pay a monthly bill for something anyone could disable in two seconds,” he recalls. His vision of wireless, internet-enabled home security was born.
Trundle, then an executive at public software company MicroStrategy, gathered product design and engineering talent to build a product that would become Alarm.com. It took three years to field a do-it-yourself kit for homeowners that debuted in 2003. That milestone was also the beginning of Alarm.com’s first pivot. “We saw that there was already a whole universe of local security service providers all over the country,” Trundle explains. “We decided that rather than battle with the industry, we would partner with it, accelerate it, and transform it.”
To establish a channel with the security industry, Alarm.com began developing partnerships with security panel manufacturers and service providers. Integrating Alarm.com’s proprietary cellular communications module with security panel equipment eliminated the vulnerable wire that anyone could cut and provided a reliable connection to Alarm.com’s cloud-based services. For the first time, customers could control their security panel — and monitor their home — from any remote interface. This great leap forward quickly helped Alarm.com to develop productive partnerships with thousands of local security service providers who could exclusively offer interactive security monitoring to their customers.
This audacious strategy succeeded because Alarm.com’s software architecture made it possible to add new services to a security system via the cloud rather than physically replacing the panel. By leveraging data from the security system and integrating connected devices into its services, Alarm.com enabled innovative and engaging new capabilities. Proactive security alerts and home automation solutions like energy management, access control and video monitoring, helped to make security systems more valued and customers less likely to cancel their service.
TCV began monitoring Alarm.com’s progress when the company’s installed base was close to half a million “roofs” – industry slang for buildings with a security system. Alarm.com was a striking fit with an investment thesis that TCV was developing for the next-generation connected home, led by Tim McAdam, Jake Reynolds, Kapil Venkatachalam, and Scott Kirk. The TCV team had spent significant time talking to security dealers and industry thought leaders at ISC West, an annual security conference, and realized the need for improving end customer retention, the most important metric for managing a security dealer’s business. All of these conversations pointed TCV again and again to one company with a leadership position and a team committed to success: Alarm.com.
Then, in 2011, Nest introduced a thermostat that could be managed wirelessly, and industry analysts began publishing predictions about the “Internet of Things” phenomenon – often called the IoT. The TCV team realized that if Alarm.com was going to maintain its early lead in connecting homes to the cloud, it had to accelerate its growth to millions of roofs – fast.
Trundle saw it, too. He had known Tim McAdam since college at Dartmouth, and they agreed that the time was ripe for Alarm.com to make another great leap forward.
“TCV understood everything we had done to that point, and they knew how to do the big things we needed. Other VCs thought we weren’t disruptive enough, but TCV focused on our business model. They got how durable it was, and how rapidly it could scale.”
– Steve Trundle, CEO of Alarm.com
TCV invested in Alarm.com in 2012, McAdam joined the board, and Alarm.com shifted into high gear. TCV helped strengthen Alarm.com’s management team and Board with the recruitment of new board members Don Clarke and Darius Nevin, as well as Jeff Bedell as Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Dan Kerzner as Chief Product Officer, and, more recently, Steve Valenzuela as Chief Financial Officer. In addition, Alarm.com moved quickly to acquire several adjacent companies that allowed it to broaden its product footprint, entered large new markets in Europe and Asia/Pacific, partnered with industry giant ADT, delivered new apps for mobile phones, televisions, and voice assistants, and extended its data analytics program into machine learning and AI.
“Alarm.com was the first company to provide a smart home security system with an easy-to-use interface primarily accessed on a smartphone. The security functionality quickly expanded to include lighting, energy management, and camera management,” McAdam relates. “Alarm.com was a pioneer in bringing all of these disparate services into the mass market in one app and ultimately has become the market leader in the connected home as well as the most under marketed example of a dominant IoT business.”
With a stronger team and investors who brought best practices for rapid growth, Trundle soon faced the question of when to go public. After starting the process for a 2014 offering, Alarm.com put it on ice until 2015. “The timing didn’t feel right,” Trundle recalls. “Sometimes as CEO you have to make tough calls based on your gut.” That instinct proved prescient, as the company successfully completed its IPO in 2015. TCV showed its commitment to the company and IoT by increasing its investment just prior to the IPO.
The company raised over $100 million in fresh capital with its IPO and moved quickly to invest it in new growth opportunities. Alarm.com acquired the Connect platform from iControl Networks, which serviced a different segment of the security and automation market, and grew its global installed base to more than five million roofs in 2017. The number of security dealers using Alarm.com to offer interactive services climbed to more than six thousand worldwide, and a group of super-dealers emerged to lead the way. The company’s standing in the connected home market has never been stronger.
These achievements are all the more remarkable considering that Alarm.com is headquartered in the Washington D.C. area – on the other side of the country from Silicon Valley. “We learned a long time ago that great companies can be founded and built anywhere,” TCV’s Kapil Venkatachalam says. Trundle says that he overcame any geographical disadvantage through smart hiring. “The Washington D.C. area offers a rich talent pool and we attracted many of the best engineers in our area because we’re one of the few market-leading tech companies here,” he points out, “and with TCV we’re also connected to the talent pipeline in Silicon Valley.”
Top talent remains a priority, because the connected home market is now eyed by all the major players in technology. Startups continue to form with dreams of disrupting the security industry. In a dynamic time and marketplace, Alarm.com must maintain its technology lead while strengthening its relationships with incumbent manufacturers, distributors, and installers. McAdam concludes: “When we look at global penetration rates for the connected home services that Alarm.com offers, the math suggests single-digit penetration. We have a lot of market to take over the next decade.”