Peekeez Spies On!

by R.E.Curtice

Peekeez provides a simple way to view a webcam from anywhere, anytime. The technology enables home users and small businesses to setup a monitoring and security solution for a fraction of the cost of other systems. Peekeez is setup in coffeehouses, restaurants, and retail shops all over the country. It is a small company of which CEO Ben Holz has extensive experience as both a software engineer and small business owner. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon with a dual major in Computer Engineering and Computer Science, he was employed as a Software Development Engineer for five years at Microsoft.

He subsequently founded LiveWire Cafe with two locations on the island of Maui, Hawaii. The CTO Alan Pearson brings over 15 years of extensive experience in server software development, having developed data-mining and web services applications for both large and small companies. Prior to co-founding Peekeez, Alan held senior development positions at Microsoft as well as other notable technology startups such as OpenSpace, Paramark and Bocada. Alan is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in Computer Science. Recently we sat down to speak with them about their endeavor.

Can you give us a little background? Ben Holz: I started out as a software engineer at Microsoft where I worked on MSN Find which was their early version of what is now Bing, a search engine. This was in 1995 when Google didn't even exist. I worked for another firm and then I ended up in Hawaii where I went to do kite-boarding in 2000. I thought I would end up staying there for six weeks and ended up staying for six months. I came from Seattle which is the coffee mecca of the world and I decided that Hawaii needed a good café. It was then that I started an Internet café. It had great coffee and was called Livewire Café on the north shore of Maui. Being a technology guy I brought in computers and had the idea that I wanted to view my business remotely. I looked all around, got all the tools, web cams and some software. I got it all working and I thought -"This is fantastic stuff."

Next I started traveling, went to Ceylon and Egypt. I felt that I was still connected to my business because I could see it anywhere. That is how Peekeez came about because I knew I could see the business anywhere. Eventually I wondered why didn't all small businesses have monitoring systems. You can go to Costco and see these monitoring systems that cost five to six hundred dollars for the basic four camera system.

Can you tell us some or your more interesting endeavors?We have lots of stories. One of my first customers had the actual cameras set up, had wired them, nicely mounted in corners. "How do you like your camera system," I asked. "Well to be honest with you," he said, "I never plugged it in. I couldn't figure out how to get it working, much less getting it on the Web." When I looked at it I saw the stickers that covered the lens were still on. I told him that I had a Web cam right there and I would hook it up. Then hook it to his computer. Then asked him to let me know what he thought about the whole setup. He was so grateful that he asked me to call him if I ever left the islands so that he would know that he needed to find a replacement. Another time I set up a bike shop that within twenty-four hours the guy called and said, "We had an incident. Would you come and help us." I went over and showed him an irate customer punching one of the repairmen. They had the video which we gave to the police. Without Peekeez this wouldn't have happened.

You're a small company, right?I have a business partner, Alan Pierson, brilliant engineer. There are just the two of us in the company. He basically designed the system, which is pretty complicated. It is a cloud based system, and we're using Amazon cloud. He have about ten instances running which is a distributed system. We can scale as many cameras as we can get. Each person owns their cameras and has an account with us. We are very concerned about privacy and security. We're not going to set this up in your home so someone else can look at it. Our focus is on simplicity as well.

We now have the system working with an iPhone app. So if you're away from your business and can't get on a computer, which is the usual way to use the system using our site, you can use your iPhone. We have submitted a new app to Apple that will let you share your camera. It can be a "Nanny cam" of just a cam with which you can let the grandparents look at the kids. You'll invite them by their email address.

How are you making money on this company?The way we're making money is by recording. If you want to record your video we charge eight dollars a month. That provides fourteen days of video, a running history of fourteen days. That is twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It is all stored on the cloud. It is all very secure. The traditional system records on a DVR which means that if someone breaks in and takes the DVR you have lost everything. We're using a Logitech Pro Camera that cost eighty dollars. It is a two megapixel camera with a bright light technology.

The latest twist that Peekeez focusing on is Facebook. When you have a live cam and a Facebook page Peekeez provides social features that allow your fans to post comments that are shared with their friends. This brings new customers to your fan page. ||