Sutro began with a vision for safe water.
The founder and CEO, Ravi Kurani, came up with the idea for the company’s flagship product, the Sutro Smart Monitor, while working with First Light Ventures and Village Capital in India. His job included giving funds to companies focused on making products for populations earning less than $2 a day. While he noticed vast amounts of interest in creating products for water filtration, there was little emphasis on developing products that monitored water.
“Nobody was doing water sensing,” Kurani says. “We started looking at water sensors, and that’s where the first prototype for Sutro came about.”
A convenient and user-friendly tool, the Sutro Smart Monitor takes the hassle out of water chemistry management, simplifying the maintenance process for spas.
Kurani earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California–Riverside in 2009, and an MBA in international business and finance from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in 2011. Also that year, he earned a certificate from Stanford University related to sustainable energy conversion and storage.
In addition, Kurani’s father owned a chain of pool and spa supply stores in Southern California, and he grew up working for his dad.
“I’m basically an industry kid,” Kurani says. “I grew up behind the counter.”
As a youth, Kurani says he did everything from acid washes to installations, running pool routes to testing water. Kurani’s industry experience came in handy years later when he began designing Sutro’s innovative product after his 2011 experience in India.
Small enough for discretion but large enough to avoid a skimmer, the Sutro Smart Monitor floats unobtrusively in the hot tub or pool where it acts like a backyard scientist, testing pH, free chlorine, bromine, total alkalinity and temperature. The tests are performed on a microscopic level three times per day using a clear flow cell and a test cartridge full of reagents from LaMotte, a manufacturer of water quality testing products.
After each test, the monitor sends detailed but easy-to-read results directly to the Sutro App for review. Spa owners can check past and current test results on the app, receiving all data needed to optimize their spa’s water with the help of their chosen retailer.
Sutro benefits retailers with its Partners Portal. The water testing and management software connects to the customer’s Sutro App, helping dealers manage clients’ spas more efficiently. The Partners Portal also includes marketing features that aid retailers in creating outreach campaigns and advertisements.
Spa owners are not expected to be spa maintenance technicians, Kurani says: “They have day jobs. They live in this house, hoping to have a [backyard spa party] — not to be chemists, not to be biologists.”
With the app’s easily interpreted readings, spa owners know when something is off. The Sutro Partners Portal allows customers to contact a retailer directly through the Sutro App to buy the right products. The Sutro Partners Portal software is free for spa retailers.
“Once [results are] shown on the app, you now need to know…how many chemicals or what types of chemicals…to put in,” Kurani says. “And this is where Sutro really shines.”
The monitor suggests products to achieve safe chemical levels and offers advice on how much of each to add. It also recognizes when its test cartridge begins to run low, and a new one ships automatically to the user’s door.
Jim Conti, head of sales for Sutro, says the monitor is especially helpful for new hot tub owners.
“Water chemistry is one of the biggest barriers to entry for people buying a hot tub,” Conti says. “Ultimately, why did they buy the spa? They want to enjoy it, and you can’t enjoy it if your chemistry is all over the map.”
The chemistry in a hot tub can change quickly, even within the span of an hour, Conti says. However, Sutro makes adjustments simple, he adds, so first-time hot tub owners don’t have a huge learning curve: “The evolution is now. I think that’s what [Kurani] has brought to the table.”
For spa owners, the Sutro Smart Monitor costs $499 upfront. An additional subscription fee starts at $29 per month and covers access to the app, test cartridge replacements and other benefits. To save homeowners money during off-season months, they only pay for the plan when their monitor is in use.
Kurani says the process of developing and producing the Sutro Smart Monitor has been a long road. However, he doesn’t plan to stop at this juncture.
“The vision and mission of the company is always to go larger,” Kurani says. “The pool and spa industry is a niche industry in the grand scale vision of what we’re trying to build.”