Seattle-Based Birdhouse Maker Appears on The Shark Tank

February 16, 2024 at 4:13 p.m.
(left) Steve Gray, creator of The Peep Show innovative birdhouse design, and his father Chuck Gray, the inspiration for the new product that is featured on ABC's "The Shark Tank"
(left) Steve Gray, creator of The Peep Show innovative birdhouse design, and his father Chuck Gray, the inspiration for the new product that is featured on ABC's "The Shark Tank"

There is a new Peep Show in town.

Seattle-based birdhouse maker, self-described 'Bird Nerd' Steve Gray, actually made it on ABC's The Shark Tank to pitch his passion project, a birdhouse that allows owners to watch baby birds hatch and grow. Less than one percent of applicants make it on the show, so this alone is a major accomplishment.

But Steve Gray's achievement goes well beyond making it to the hit television series. His sustainably-produced, scientifically-developed and award-winning birdhouse is touted as being the most environmentally and bird-friendly birdhouse around. The patent-pending smart birdhouse, called "The Peep Show," allows users to stream video to their phones.

Steve Gray
58-year-old Steve Gray was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and arrived in Seattle right after college. The summer after graduation, he took a job with Seattle-based Holland America Line as a tour director, showing visitors his home state and occasionally pointing out a bird or two along the way. The job required him to be in Seattle, and after having survived his first 22 years of arctic winters, it was easy to fall in love with a perpetually green place like Seattle. He eventually left Holland America for a career in advertisingand was in the process of beginning an early retirement when he founded The Peep Show.

Steve never started out to be a birder. He had a true appreciation for birds from growing up in Alaska, but never studied them seriously. He could identify maybe ten birds by sight and even fewer by sound. Now he has books, bird apps, feeders and binoculars stationed by the kitchen window. The Peep Show has forever changed the way he looks at birds. He has turned the corner from casual to an enthusiast! Three decades since leaving Alaska, Steve is still in Seattle, restoring a 100-year-old craftsman home and, as you guessed it, you will likely find a few of The Peep Show birdhouses in his backyard.

Chuck Gray
The Peep Show was inspired by Steve's 95-year-old father, Chuck Gray, who grew up about 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Chuck always yearned to see inside the bird houses outside his family's home. It was a thrilling activity for the entire family to watch the birds dart across the sky in the near 24-hours of daylight.

"In Alaska, the arrival of birds to the far north is nothing short of an EVENT," exclaims Steve. "Not only is it a harbinger that spring has arrived, it is also a chance to see bird species from as far away as Central and South America. You don't have to be a professional birder to know how special this is."

One spring, and no one really remembers why, Steve's Dad wanted to see inside one of the bird houses. He really wanted to see inside a birdhouse. The solution was simple, at least to him. 

"Our original prototype—created by Dad—included a sewer inspection camera, coaxial cable, a hole drilled through our kitchen wall (much to the chagrin of my mom), and a used black-and-white monitor bought from the local high school auction, which was placed on the kitchen counter," explains Steve.

The first Peep Show was born! "It was crude. It was unsophisticated. But it worked—and it was fascinating!"

Steve remembers his 16-year-old niece coming over to Grandpa's house just to watch "his birds," as the family called them. "Watching baby birds hatch became a much-anticipated annual event," says Steve.

"At age 16, I am sure she had other places to be, but for her, hanging out with Grandpa and his birds was the best possible way to spend a day. 

It wasn't just the niece. It was the neighbors, friends and other family members. "No one seemed able to resist the new way of watching birds!"

The Brothers Gray
Steve continues, "I come from a family of over-thinkers. Both my brothers are engineers: one is an electrical engineer and the other a mechanical engineer who currently works on NASA’s crew transporter—literally as a rocket scientist. So you can imagine that family dinner conversations had less to do with football scores and more to do with topics (truly) like the thermal benefits of triple pane windows verses double pane in extreme arctic conditions. When the subject of birdhouses surfaced during one family gathering, saying the discussion was in-depth was an understatement!”

The Peep Show's current design was a true family affair—in a fishing cabin with his two engineer brothers—where the trio sketched out the general design. Steve mandated that the product had to be easy-to-use and maintain while adhering to all ornithological requirements.

This conversation with his brothers took place just around the same time that small, battery-powered security cameras appeared on the consumer market, and Steve thought they could be adapted to use in a birdhouse. When chatting about the focal length needed with these cameras, Steve began sketching shapes that would accommodate a camera… and it just so happened that an egg shape—narrow at top for a camera, wider at the bottom—was a perfect solution.

“I jokingly have said ‘technology is for the birds,’” says Steve. “There were some concerns that the app-based cameras required with The Peep Show may not be for everyone—such as those who didn’t grow up around technology—so in stepped Dad to prove me wrong again.”
Back to Chuck
Chuck, at nearly 96, is still thriving in Fairbanks, living independently in the family home. He had arrived in Alaska at age 16 and took a part-time job at the local newspaper. 52 years later he retired as Publisher at that same newspaper! Chuck is a "stick with it" kind of guy whether it came to a job—or building a better birdhouse.

Although Chuck never had a computer as part of his work at the newspaper—he retired just as computers were becoming standard fare at the workplace—at age 90 his kids bought him an iPad for his birthday. The hope was that he may find the technology at least interesting or use it as a way to email friends and keep contact with grandkids. Not only did he embrace the technology, he wrote, and subsequently self-published a 200-page book on the family history—all from his iPad.

“I guess once a publisher, always a publisher, even 25 years after you retire!” says Steve. “Seeing Dad embrace technology really was an eye opener and was a clear indication that bird watching from your iPad may truly be one of those rare cross-generational activities that could be shared and enjoyed by all ages—young, old and in between."

image courtesy of The Peep Show


The Peep Show
Steve drew upon his background in design to create the egg shape for The Peep Show that serves not only as a whimsical nod to what the product is and does—but also as the ideal shape for camera mounting at the perfect focal length for capturing nesting activity.

"My focus was on ensuring that form and function became one and the same," Steve adds. The Peep Show recently won an international design award, Red Dot Award for Excellence in Product Design. With that award, The Peep Show joined the likes of past winners such as Apple, Maserati and Porsche Design Studio.

The versatile camera mount accommodates off-the-shelf wireless cameras with at least six months of battery life, ensuring there are never disruptions to an active nest. Additional thoughtful features include a climbing wall to help fledglings find their way to first flight, top-to-bottom ventilation to keep the nest cooler, and an elevated platform to keep the nest dryer. It is made from eco-friendly wood panels and bio-plastic, is efficiently manufactured and uses recyclable packaging. The design and manufacture follows the company's motto, 'what's good for the environment is good for the birds!'

"As a potential home to more than 20 species, from songbirds and swallows to owls and—my personal favorite, the Black-Capped Chickadee—Mother Nature is the real star of The Peep Show," adds Steve.

The Shark Tank episode featuring Steve and his Peep Show aired February 16. You can catch up on the birdhouse maker and his family at

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