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The “nerve cells” of building systems
April 9, 2023

Background and Context

Founded in 2019, Butlr is an MIT Media Lab spinout that developed the world’s first and only 100% wireless, anonymous people counting and occupancy sensing platform. Butlr has patented a new way to use thermal sensing technology. Butlr’s sensors and software platform provide data and insights on space occupancy, utilization and activity, while being physically incapable of collecting any personal information. The startup is currently working with two main sectors – commercial real estate and senior living facilities. For CRE, Butlr enables employers to have greater visibility with building operations and layout management. For senior living facilities, Butlr is being used primarily for frailty and fall detection based on movement patterns.


Q&A with co-founder Jiani Zeng 

Butlr co-founders Honghao Deng and Jiani Zeng

Why did you start Butlr?

Our mission is to create a smarter and more responsive world with privacy friendly technology. We had years of experience in smart cities and homes, and we recognized that the future of smart and responsive buildings should not solely rely on camera-based solutions. We believed that buildings need more “nerve cells” than “eyes” and that it is essential to accurately understand human movement and activity in indoor spaces.

We realized that providing actionable insights for business owners in commercial real estate and better care and health monitoring in senior living requires understanding human movement and activity in indoor spaces. However, we couldn’t find any suitable, real-time, privacy-preserving, and cost-effective sensors for this purpose, so we decided to build our own.


How did HAX help your startup?

As a technology startup in the 0 to 1 stage, we faced the challenge of having a great technology but not a fully scalable product or a well-defined go-to-market strategy. This is where HAX stepped in and provided us with tremendous support.

HAX’s expertise in hardware development and production was instrumental in shaping our first-generation product. Their knowledge and experience helped us transform our technology into a market-ready product that was scalable and met the needs of our customers. We benefited from their deep understanding of the manufacturing process, quality control, and supply chain management. 

In addition to their expertise, HAX also helped us build an incredible team for hardware prototyping and production in Shenzhen, China. This team was essential to our success and allowed us to iterate quickly, improve our production processes, and deliver high-quality products to our customers.

How did your recent round come together?

Butler raised 20M in Series A funding. The round was led by Tiger Global, Ray Stata, and Primetime Partners, with participation from existing investors E14, Union Labs, Hyperplane Venture Capital, Tectonic Ventures, and Carrier Global Corporation.

Investors in the Series A round were excited about the unique capabilities of Butlr’s technology and the company’s potential to transform the way people experience built environments. Butlr’s innovative approach to thermal-sensing technology and commitment to privacy and sustainability made the company an attractive investment opportunity for a range of investors in the tech and real estate industries.

Our technology can transform the way people experience built environments


How are you thinking about your impact on building systems and people occupancy?

At Butlr, we strive to be the “nerve cells” of building systems, increasing spatial understanding while preserving privacy and promoting sustainability. Our technology can transform the way people experience built environments, and we’re committed to innovation, privacy, and sustainability in everything we do.

What is the future of Butlr?

Being present in every building and space, while always prioritizing privacy.