On the surface, the story behind the much-buzzed-about home networking start-up company Soap, Inc. seems like the story of a lot of tech start-ups. Someone discovered a new way for technology to solve a problem and, more specifically, recognized the potential of helping millions of frustrated home owners simplify home networking.
But below the surface, the story of Soap, Inc., a company now poised to revolutionize the way consumers interact with home networking, is as much about the someone behind it as it is about the start-up itself.
So how does an idea go from a pipe dream to collaborative relationships with the leading hardware manufacturers?
Turns out, sometimes the journey truly is more interesting than the destination.
Soap CTO Alex Jones’ journey to start-up success began in childhood. Always a tinkerer, Jones displayed an uncanny prowess at a young age for taking things apart, figuring out how they work, and putting them back together again, and found a true passion for computer science that continued to develop in to high school.
“My family nicknamed me Magneto,” Jones said with a smile. “I used to spend any extra time I had in high school in the computer lab trying to learn as much as I could.”
As a young adult, Jones started suffering severe migraines and was eventually prescribed Vicodin.
In the years since Jones suffered his first migraine, the medical community has reconsidered how they treat patients with narcotics. But by the time he was taken off the Vicodin, it was too late. Jones was addicted.
“This is when all hell broke loose, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t even know I was addicted,” Jones said. “The spiral began when I realized I liked this drug and it did something for me it doesn’t do for everyone. I now know this is a disease. At that time I had no idea of the danger of what I was doing so I kept going back for more.”
During this same time Jones worked with his father in a tech business. On Jones’ 21st birthday, his father was suddenly diagnosed with leukemia. Within a week, his father was put into a medically induced coma due to complications from the chemo treatment. Two weeks later he passed away from those complications.
Jones and his brother found themselves in charge of a company they joined because of a man who was now gone. His brother was left with liabilities that forced him to file for bankruptcy later that year.
“At that point the drugs were my emotional support system and crutch,” Jones said. “I realize now that I was mad at God and the world. For the next five years, my life continued to get worse. I was in a dark place and made many of the mistakes that most addicts do while stuck in the disease of addiction including arrests and legal problems.”
Sick with addiction, Jones made a decision in 2012 that he has regretted since: he bought a plane ticket and left the country. But, before long, he found himself on a return flight back stateside… with nothing but 8 hours of self-reflection and the Atlantic Ocean between him and the justice he had evaded.
“The desire to get better and to be where I am today was always inside but I couldn’t get to it because I didn’t know how,” Jones continues. “I have learned the importance of hope. If you lose hope you give up on your life and you become ready to die. I was at this point. Then out of some miracle, I found myself placed in a court program designed to help people turn it around.”
He entered this HEALS Program in 2013, which was specifically developed to rehabilitate addicts through intensive behavioral counseling.
“It’s a program that just gets your life back together. And I needed it. I totally needed it,” Jones said. “I volunteered. I went to counseling. I got the tools I needed to really stay sober.”
And in his sobriety, Jones noticed the trouble his parents were having managing all the tech devices in their home. Soon, Jones started to develop the ideas that would lead to Soap, Inc.: a way to monitor and control all the devices in their home, including parental content controls and device timers, home automation devices, with one intuitive and easy-to-use interface.
But Jones soon found that although his idea had legs, he could (and should) not outrun the consequences of past mistakes. On the heels of a successful initial crowd funding campaign for Soap, Inc. on Kickstarter featuring a hardware component of the technology, Jones filed bankruptcy to begin the process of moving on from rehab costs and medical bills, a step that allowed him to focus more attention and resources on developing Soap.
After recognizing a shift in the marketplace, Soap has evolved from concentrating on hardware to developing software that is universal across many routers and home automation platforms, enabling the company to potentially serve a larger market.
And like the company he founded, Jones has evolved. He has evolved from an addict at rock bottom to an advocate for the HEALS program, even sponsoring a bed in a sober house with a monthly donation.
“I realized that in order for me to stay healthy from the disease of addiction I have to give back,” Jones said. “So I look for opportunities to be service to anyone I can. I go help the homeless with money and care packages. I give rides to people that need to get to appointments in our court program. I volunteer wherever I can. The amazing thing about service is that I get more out of it then the people I try help. The service has made me so grateful for life and where I am now.”
“I’m grateful for all those bad experiences because it makes me who I am today,” Jones said. “And who I am today tries to do as much good as I can.”
Jones has found a way to weave that sense of gratitude in to every aspect of Soap, Inc.’s company culture.
“It’s a great product that will give many people the ability to download an app and simply manage the complexities and potential dangers that come with more people using more technology at home,” Jones said.
Although the path to innovation isn’t always pretty, it typically isn’t as lined with adversity as the path that has led to the truly revolutionary technology behind Soap, Inc. But who doesn’t love a good comeback story?
Soap plans to launch in March on the Apple App Store and Google Play, thus giving consumers a new home networking solutions app. For more information on Soap, go to www.soapapp.us.