KITCHENER — When Ruth Casselman first saw the new 7,500-square foot space that she and her colleagues would soon move into, she wondered how they'd fill it.
Well, the team at Alert Labs is still unpacking, and they're already looking for more room.
"We're already working on our lease for 2,000 more square feet," says Casselman, who co-founded Alert Labs in 2015 with George Tsintzouras and Kevin Wright. "Growth problems are the kind of problems we like to have."
From its origins as a three-desk startup in Waterloo to a 25-strong firm settling in to its new home in a former garage in downtown Kitchener, Alert's upward trajectory has been consistent.
The company designs and manufactures products that monitor building systems such as plumbing.
Its initial products, the Flowie and Floodie sensors, measure water use and alert customers to problems such as floods, leaks, high or continual water use, freezing pipes and power outages, in commercial or residential properties.
The latest product, the Sumpie sensor for sump pumps, is in pre-sales.
Future applications and products could focus on other energy uses such as heating and cooling.
"There's a pretty full road map of products we're working on," says Tsintzouras. "At the end of the day, Alert Labs looks at all the things that cost people money."
Alert's new digs in the former Schlichter's Automotive garage on Queen Street are bright and open, with space dedicated to manufacturing, engineering and testing.
There's a boardroom, a small kitchen, and a nearly four metre-long "community table" crafted from a sugar maple that originally stood a short distance away.
"Downtown was definitely important to us," Casselman says. "We wanted to be a part of the downtown culture."
The Queen Street location, near Charles Street, is central and close to transit. There's parking on-site, and a large bicycle storage room was included in Alert's design for the new space.
Vanguard Developments and Woodhouse Group transformed the century-old building, which housed Schlichter's for decades until its closure in 2016. Along with Alert Labs, tech firm Majik Systems is a tenant, and there's additional space for lease.
As the Alert team outgrew their nearby facility at the Accelerator Centre's hardware innovation lab on Gaukel Street, they searched for months for a new home.
Catalyst137, a massive, redeveloped warehouse on Glasgow Street that's now filling up with tenants including anchor Miovision Technologies, was high on the list, but the timing didn't work out.
Still, Tsintzouras is quick to express his interest in the project, and hints that Catalyst137 could be in Alert's future.
"It's really nice to know there is a place like Catalyst in the region," he says. "I want people to understand how excited we are about Catalyst."
For now, they're still unpacking on Queen in the wake of a move that saw staff carrying over what they could on foot from Gaukel Street; a furniture assembly "hootenanny," as Wright calls it, followed.
Along with the extra space they're eyeing at their new building, the founders expect to grow their staff as well. Tsintzouras says Alert could add 10 to 15 more people in the next year.
The company is looking to expand its product range, markets and their geographical reach, beyond the six provinces and seven U.S. states it sells to now. Global domination may follow, the founders say with a smile, but all in good time.
"We're very aware of how we can expand the company in the future," Casselman says. "We have made the decision to stay focused," she adds. "To do a really good job on the first products and then expand out."
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In an interview on The Agenda, Blair Feltmate of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation (ICCA) dropped a number of bombshells about the flooding we've experienced in Canada and the major water damage to come: