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Knocki founders Ohad Nezer and Jake Boshernitzan

Jake Boshernitzan knows The Clapper was “a crummy product, in that your dog would bark and it would turn the lights off.” But there’s a reason Time named it one of the top 100 gadgets of all time. “It was just so accessible,” he says. “Everyone could understand it.”

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Enter Swan Solutions Inc. From a ramshackle office tower in southwest Houston, Boshernitzan and co-founder Ohad Nezer have developed Knocki, a Clapper-like piece of hardware they consider “magically simple.” A battery-operated disc, Knocki transforms any hard surface into an interactive remote control, allowing users to power electronic devices through customizable “gestures”—in essence, tapping lightly at tables and walls. Tap once to turn on your Nest Thermostat, say, or twice to launch your Spotify playlist.

The sensor technology Knocki employs differs from the buzzy Google Home or Amazon Echo, both of which are voice-controlled and thus prone to human error and background interference. (“Siri! Turn on the lights!”) Installation is easy and wire-free. “Our vision is to make Knocki an entry point into the smart-home space,” Boshernitzan says.

At South by Southwest Interactive last year, Knocki won the One-Minute Pitch award, and subsequently secured $1 million in seed capital. Then the startup of seven employees brought home a startling $1,144,399 from 8,897 backers on Kickstarter. Demo models are scheduled to ship this month, with full production rolling out in June.

There’s an early prototype hanging on Boshernitzan’s wall at home, linked to a Philips Hue lightbulb. His young kids love playing with it. “It was actually a little annoying in the very beginning, because they just wouldn’t stop. But once the novelty wore off, it’s exciting for them to control something.”

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