Interview: Control4 hires Charlie Kindel, former director of Amazon Alexa Smart Home
At the close of April Charlie Kindel left his five-year stint at Amazon as director of Amazon Alexa Smart Home – three months on, he has now announced that his next move will be in the CI sector, after accepting the position of senior vice president of products and services at Control4.
Kindel, an instrumental figure in bolstering Amazon Alexa to the position of being the voice assistant of choice for consumers everywhere and building partnerships with third parties in the CEDIA channel for five years, joined Amazon following a long-term stint at Microsoft.
During his 21-year tenure at Microsoft, Charlie helped create Internet Explorer, Windows home networking, Windows Media Center, Windows Home Server, and Windows Phone 7, amongst other products.
When Kindel left Amazon in April he cited a desire to “catch his breath” and dedicate time to bolstering his own smart home system with the help of a dedicated CEDIA professional as the reason for leaving, and was open to a return.
Earlier this week, Kindel told HiddenWires that the retrofit to his 17-year-old system is nearing completion and is “in the final stages” – and his new home automation provider of choice is Control4 (noting its “comprehensive and reliable” Alexa skill) … coincidentally, his new employer as of this week.
A series of tweets in response to Control4 after leaving Amazon has fortuitously culminated in full-time employment to the manufacturer, a company much smaller in both size and target audience (for now). Why? Kindel says the opportunity was the right one.
“I actually had an opportunity to work at a similar type of company that was starting up in the early 2000s and I could have left Microsoft to go do that. I have always been passionate about really nailing the scenario where the people in the home don’t have to think about the technology infrastructure at all,” he says. “I decided that I was going to go all with Control4 products in my home and it’s very serendipitous that this has happened.”
He expands: “The other reason is that frankly it’s really interesting to me to be able to work at a company that’s smaller – C4 is a public company and its certainly a lot smaller that the companies I’ve worked at before – and that’s a particular career challenge for me; to be able to then take and help Control4 get to that next level.”
Since going public in 2013 Control4 continues to grow and be profitable, and its compound annual growth rate sits at around 16% for those five years. Why Control4 over another home automation manufacturer in the pro space for Kindel? “It’s about customer choice more than anything – whether homeowners are interested in multi-room audio, a home theatre or multi-room video, intelligent lighting – they have lots of options there.” He expands that the sheer amount of 3rd party support (with up to 13,000 drivers) differentiates Control4 as “customers can have a highly refined, reliable complete smart home system and know that it’s going to work with whatever products they choose to have, or already have.”
“1 in 100,000” hire
“We’ve got 370,000 homes under management today. We did about 60,000 homes in the last 12 months. We think that there are 100,000s of more customers to go get – or even millions depending how long into the future we want to look, and in order to get there we want to strengthen our team, and we looked for someone who understood this space,” says Martin Plaehn, CEO and chairman of the board at Control4.
In his role as SVP of product and services, Kindel will be the executive responsible for over 200 engineers and specialists that define, create and test and refine and maintain products. He succeeds Eric Anderson, who retires after over five years in the role.
Plaehn says recruiting Kindel to the manufacturer’s team was a no-brainer. “The top of the criteria was a technologist, product-orientated, build-it executive with the axiom of customer and channel-centricity, so it’s a high order bid. You need someone who understands all the different types of technology we have to embrace and has a passion to build great projects.”
“Charlie’s experience at Microsoft provided a huge foundation of experiences and technologies that help his judgement going forward, then his time at Amazon on the cloud and consumer and voice and partners, and his personal voyage and passion for the connected home in his own experiment all brings that together. This sort of makes him like 1 in 100,000, or maybe even 1 in a million – when I saw the hand go up, it didn’t have to leave his side very far before I was pouncing on it.”
“I fundamentally believe that there’s always going to be the need and desire from consumers for technology in the home to be taken care of by a professional.”
In his new position as SVP of product and services, Kindel says it well definitely not be a case of reinventing the wheel. “The company is extraordinarily well-run and this is not an opportunity for me to come in and change and fix things,” he explains. “There’s an opportunity to double-down on things the company is already great at – so being a very customer-focused company and I’m excited about being able to continue to drive that further across both end users and our dealer partners.” He continues that making it “extremely easy” for dealers to install, configure and acquire products that allow them to create “seamless” experiences for users of Control4 technology is his priority.
He concludes: “What I’m really excited about when it comes to Control4 is that I fundamentally believe that there’s always going to be the need and desire from consumers for technology in the home to be taken care of by a professional.”
“There’s no way that real human beings (who aren’t nerds like myself) are going to want to be regularly managing and programming the systems in their house – just like they generally don’t want to take care of the plumbing or electrical systems, or even paint their own rooms – some people will want to do that, but not the masses.”
Kindel will attend CEDIA 2018 as part of the Control4 team and is immediately looking to fill numerous positions across hardware and software development in Utah.