After spending two years researching and building its new AC unit, Windmill announced its launch in June 2020, and within 24 hours had a waiting list of thousands.
To share more about this journey and the story behind the brand, we spoke with co-founder Mike Mayer.
Q&A with Mike Mayer, Co-Founder and CEO of Windmill
On starting Windmill...
In 2018 my brother Danny and I had that "a-ha!" moment during a brutal apartment move on a sweltering hot, New York summer day. Our love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with the AC had festered over decades of city living - countless moves, and hundreds of dollars spent on lackluster cooling products, from fans to window units.
Our love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with the AC had festered over decades of city living - countless moves, and hundreds of dollars spent on lackluster cooling products, from fans to window units.
Danny and I were in a jam during that move in 2018, so we called up our longtime friend (and now, co-founder) Ryan Figlia, whose family business, Figlia & Sons, has been manufacturing, installing, and servicing AC in New York City for decades. After he and his technicians came and hooked Danny up with new units, our wheels started turning. What if we could give everyone that same "I know a guy," five-star experience and reimagine the design of the machine itself? A couple months later, Ryan and I were boarding a plane to share our vision with our expert manufacturing partners. Almost two years in the making, Windmill combines 60+ years of industry experience with beautiful design, modern technology, and a convenience-first approach.
This product category hasn’t seen design innovation in decades and, until now, the market has been dominated by a handful of legacy incumbents that don't resonate with today's modern consumer. We're bringing some much needed "fresh air" (pun absolutely intended) to the industry that's making people say "finally!"
This product category hasn’t seen design innovation in decades and, until now, the market has been dominated by a handful of legacy incumbents that don't resonate with today's modern consumer.
We've completely reimagined not just the AC unit itself, but also the entire customer experience to solve the pain points that modern city dwellers face today. We interviewed hundreds of people before launch to better understand everything people hate about their ACs, and spent two years perfecting our product and business model to reflect genuine solutions.
On fixing existing problems...
The first “modern” window AC hit the market in 1931, and not much has changed since. The design and functions of that very first model are still widely used today. We were shocked, and wanted to raise the bar in every possible way. The three biggest pain points in the AC experience are product design, customer education (WTF is a BTU?), and installation.
Design was without a doubt the most common complaint. We believe that everyday products, even appliances like an air conditioner, can and should be beautiful. Reimagining the design of the machine was one of the most important factors in our process. We designed the AC from the inside out to create a superior machine that lives up to its beautiful facade. On the education and support front, we've created an automated digital guide and have live-chat with real people to answer *all* of your questions.
The next common complaint is “OK, I picked out my unit, how do I get it home, up my 5 flights of stairs, and into my window without it falling onto the sidewalk?” We're shipping nationwide for free, and to make installation foolproof, we've teamed up with TaskRabbit to provide customers with streamlined options (including responsible removal of your old unit) with Taskers in your hometown. Customers in NYC will be able to opt for same-day delivery, as well as premium, local-law-compliant installation and removals (including recycling) with Figlia & Sons.
We're shipping nationwide for free, and to make installation foolproof, we've teamed up with TaskRabbit to provide customers with streamlined options (including responsible removal of your old unit) with Taskers in your hometown.
Another pain point is maintenance. It's so important and no other AC company is making it a priority. From our interviews, we learned that about 75% of people don't know how to clean their unit or replace their filters. That's a problem! To bring this conversation to the forefront, we've built our unit to make filtration maintenance easier than ever. The front cover is magnetic, and pops right off to reveal a dual-filtration system that includes a premium antimicrobial-protected filter (for dust and large form air contaminants), which you can clean and remove, as well as a second carbon filter that helps trap odors, pollution, and other volatile organic compounds that undermine our air quality and overall health. The carbon filters are disposable, and we offer a subscription refill so our customers can replace them every 1-3 months depending on usage.
On finding a balance between function and beauty...
To echo the sentiment above, modern product design has been lacking in this category for ages but it's what people tend to care about the most. Our approach to design was entirely focused around minimalism. When you walk into your home, we don’t necessarily want you to notice the AC unit in your window, it should blend into your home decor and architecture. And when you do notice it, it should feel intentional and beautiful. Windmill is soft, curved, simple - a total contrast from the clunkers we're used to. The LED display fades after 60 seconds to eliminate distracting blue light and the machine itself runs smoothly in the background - every detail was considered to make the home feel more like a sanctuary.