A newly launched direct-to-consumer startup wants to make buying and installing a window air-conditioner unit a breeze. That’s no small task, as anyone who has ever purchased an A/C will know. In their market research, July cofounders Erik Rauterkus and Muhammad Saigol discovered that most people put off buying a unit until it is so hot they have absolutely no choice but to trudge to the local hardware store to pick one up.
The product is built to fit into your home more effortlessly than traditional A/C units, which are covered in vents (though it’s certainly not the first attempt to create an aesthetically minded A/C). But the real selling point is that it’s easy to install. The unit is shipped directly to your door, then you just click it into your window. Forget inadvertently dropping it out your window on some poor unsuspecting pedestrian below.
The founders, twentysomethings who met while working for the Boston Consulting Group, both had unpleasant experiences with A/Cs. Saigol had to carry a heavy unit up a New York walkup and also cut his hand on the sharp edge of an A/C unit while installing it, blood gushing everywhere. Rauterkus’s parents dropped their unit out the window by accident and watched as it broke into pieces. “A/Cs are ugly and such a pain to install,” says Saigol. “They weren’t designed with user experience in mind.”
As they shared their horror stories with each other, they decided to work together to improve the design of the A/C. Saigol knows a lot about how one would do such a thing, since his family owns an A/C factory in his native Pakistan. Before designing their own A/C, they spent a summer installing 100 units for other people to gather customer insights. They discovered that the installation process wasn’t just time-consuming; it could be dangerous. People could slice their hand on the sharp edges on the back of the unit. They could hurt their fingers trying to insert the unit into the window. And at almost every single home, people complained about how ugly A/Cs are. They were an eyesore in their carefully designed homes.
Rauterkus and Saigol used this research to develop a better-looking A/C. The product comes in two sizes, a $349 small version that cools rooms up to 250 square feet, and a $399 medium size that cools rooms up to 350 square feet. Those are similar dimensions to what you’d find in other A/Cs, but the front part of the device, which faces the room, doesn’t have horizontal vents on it. Instead, there is flat panel that comes in different colors and textures—woven gray textured fabric, ash wood, and white plastic—to match the aesthetic of your room. And instead of the usual accordion side panel that sits on either side of an A/C, July has a smooth flat piece that gives the entire window a clean, minimal look.
As for the setup: I haven’t tested a unit in person, but Saigol demonstrated how to do it on a Zoom demo. With a traditional A/C, you have to hold the unit with one hand, and pull down the window with the other to hold the thing in place. July’s innovation is a lightweight bracket that you position in the window first. (You can drill it into the windowsill for additional security, if you want.) Then you pick up the A/C unit using grips at the bottom and stick it into the bracket until you hear a little click. That’s how you know it is securely in place. You can control the A/C through a phone app.
July hasn’t revolutionized the A/C, but it has some small, consumer-minded improvements, similar to what Warby Parker did with eyewear and Away did with luggage. The brand launched in late April and has more than 8,000 people on its wait list. Units are expected to ship in June: a whole month before the average A/C user decides it’s too darn hot to live without one.