Detroit Startup iRule Wants to Control Your Universe

About three years ago, two buddies who worked together at an automotive company were fed up with paying thousands of dollars for the universal remote controls required to manage their home theaters. Itai Ben-Gal, an engineer, lamented to Victor Nemirovsky, a computer programmer, that he wished he could just use his iPhone to control his gadgets. Nemirovsky pondered it for a moment.

“Do you think people would pay money for that?” he asked Ben-Gal.

“I don’t know,” Ben-Gal answered. “But at least I’ll have the remote control that I’ve always wanted.”

The two began working in their spare time on a universal television remote app for iPhones and iPads called iRule, which starts at $95. iRule’s online database stores codes for thousands of devices, as well as dozens of templates and layouts, by utilizing a cloud-based infrastructure, which also makes it infinitely updateable. Using the cloud, iRule’s customers can share new devices that they have programmed and the layouts they have created, Ben-Gal says.

“Victor, unlike most programmers, has a great ability to learn how end users will use a product,” Ben-Gal says. “When we started this, he invested a lot of time learning about the terminology and how similar products are used in the real world. It helps our customers to know we live and breathe this stuff.”

They launched the first version of their universal remote about a year after they began developing a prototype. Customer feedback was positive, and Ben-Gal and Nemirovsky were pleased, but neither had plans to quit their day jobs.

Then, Ben-Gal says, they started to get a lot of calls from professional home theater installers.

“We found out that programming the remote via the cloud changed everything,” Ben-Gal says. “Customers … Next Page »

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