As someone who grew up in Pittsburgh, moved to Philadelphia, and then to New York, I have never lived in a home without a window A/C. For many of us who choose some of America’s oldest cities to call home, we have become accustomed to dealing with the quirks and joys of living in old buildings and houses. The window A/C is on the top of that list: an annual experience we accept as part of the package of living in a beautiful pre-war building in New York, a townhouse on cobblestoned street in Philadelphia, or a colonial house in Charleston or New Orleans.
The July story starts there: a personal understanding of the pains of the experience of the window A/C for both Muhammad, my co-founder, and me. Just as so many others ask themselves at the start of every summer, we wondered: why does the window A/C experience have to be so terrible? Why do I have to lug this heavy, unwieldy object from the floor of a big box store to my building, and up the stairs to my apartment?
As we talked about it more, it became apparent that we might actually be in a position to do something about it. Muhammad’s family produces appliances, including A/Cs of all types, and Muhammad had been thinking about how they could be different: a beautiful A/C that was more user-friendly, delivered and installed.
But before we set about designing our own A/C we needed to become experts in the product - not relying just on our own experiences with the A/C. But rather, we wanted to understand everybody else’s experiences too.
With that goal in mind, in 2019 we started a company called DON’T BE HOT, an A/C delivery and installation service in New York. We tried to keep it very simple, so we could learn as much as we possibly could in the shortest period of time. We bought regular window A/Cs from a wholesaler, built a website to allow New Yorkers to buy window A/Cs online, and seamlessly schedule their delivery and installation right at checkout.
Instead of the customer having to spend half the day getting their A/C into their window - including that terrifying moment where it’s dangling out of the window during installation - they could simply order online and we would deliver and install as soon as a few hours after the order was placed.
DON’T BE HOT worked, and exceeded even our own expectations.
In the first two weeks we had sold out and sold almost $50,000 worth of air conditioners to customers across the City.
Even more valuably, Muhammad and I delivered and installed many of these A/Cs ourselves. We met so many customers, saw the care they took to decorate their homes, and had the opportunity to understand their frustrations with the experience of the window A/C. And we got to install these A/Cs again and again - in wide windows, narrow windows, brownstones and high-rises. Each installation taught us a little bit about what was so wrong with the experience.
We took all those learnings - about our customers, about how they used their A/Cs, and what they were looking for - to redesign what would become the July air conditioner. We designed the July A/C for real customers, based on their real needs, and made to fit into their homes.
DON’T BE HOT was always meant to be temporary - a way for us to get smart on the world we were entering. While the name is gone, what we learned from the experience continues to live on.
- Erik Rauterkus, Co-founder