Cloud-based building management platforms are growing in number, attempting to replace proprietary iBMS systems to create open source, ‘smart’ buildings. Site1001 recently raised US$5m Series A funding and is notable as a rare PropTech start up that began life inside a construction company, only to successfully spin out on its own. We talked to CEO Cleve Adams:
What’s behind the name?
Site 1001 began as a ‘skunkworks’ project inside of JE Dunn Construction, a leading general contractor based in Kansas City, Missouri. The company’s address is 1001 Locust Street, so we adopted the ‘Ten O One’ moniker as the company and product name.
Can you tell us a bit about the business model?
We believe that building operations is just beginning to undergo the same sort of technological disruption that industries like retail, transportation, travel and hospitality underwent in the past decade. Cheap sensors and new technologies are going to turn just about every building component from a boiler to a light bulb into a connected ‘thing.’ But since boilers and light bulbs still need to be managed, maintained and replaced, facilities managers, ready or not, are going to be taking on a quasi-IT role as well.
We also believe that facilities managers already have enough to do and adding ‘smart’ technology and IT troubleshooting to the list isn’t going to make the job any easier. So rather than forcing FM professionals to become IT guys, our business model is built on eliminating the IT altogether and letting them focus on facilities management. As such, Site 1001 is based on a ‘software as a service’ model – cloud-based and mobile first, so there’s nothing required beyond a mobile app or a web browser to use it. Moreover, because cloud technology lets us continuously update the platform, customers always have the latest and greatest features wherever they go and without any downtime. The Site 1001 pricing model is equally simple. One flat monthly fee gets every product feature and an unlimited number of users.
Your website says ‘No systems to setup, no special hardware, no IT guys’ – does that mean all building services like AHU, lifts, lighting, security can connect to the system regardless of their manufacturer?
Yes. The system is completely cloud-based and runs via an app or web-browser. We have technology partnerships with major building systems, MEP, and equipment manufacturers, as well as a growing stable of IoT and sensor manufacturers that lets us integrate it all into a single platform accessible from anywhere you and your smartphone go.
How many buildings is Site 1001 deployed on?
We have a dozen sites currently on the platform and we’re on track to be somewhere near 50 in 2017.
Given the emergence of building management platforms how does a building owner know what makes a good product?
Building owners should be focusing on a few key areas when deciding whether a product is right for them. First, does this make my job easier or more difficult? If a product is too complicated, difficult for people to use, or forces you to change the way you do business, it’s not a good product. Second, what’s the real cost of the system? That’s not just the base software cost, but setup and implementation costs and time frame, additional functionality, user licenses etc. If the real price isn’t clear, it’s almost impossible to know if you’re getting a decent return on your investment. Finally, building owners should ask will this system help my business be more profitable.
Most simply think of a building management system as a way to reduce total cost of ownership. But a well-designed, forward-looking system will also provide information that will help you uncover new business insights and revenue opportunities whether that’s through efficiencies that can be replicated in other locations, higher tenant lease rates and lower churn, or even the ability to generate new revenue sources via the building data you collect.
How have you approached the user interface side of the platform? Is this a place you have made a lot of effort?
When we first began designing the Site 1001 platform we understood facilities managers are constantly out and about doing their work, not parked at a desk looking at a computer. As such, we designed the product to be mobile first and desktop second, which is exactly the opposite of most other systems. If you look at our mobile interface you’ll see that it’s simple, with large buttons and text that’s easy to read, which makes it far simpler to use when you’re in a maintenance closet trying to pull up and read an O&M manual.
Further, we built the system around the concept of being location-based and combining visual elements like panoramic photos with hotspots and text-based elements like workorders and manuals to minimise the need to search for information. When a Site 1001 user walks into a room, the app on his phone knows where he is and brings up the asset information for that room. If he’s there to fix a drinking fountain, then he gets the information for that specific drinking fountain, not every drinking fountain in the building.
There’s literally hundreds of elements built into Site 1001 designed to leverage the sensors and systems built into smartphones and tablets – cameras, accelerometers, WiFi locationing, bluetooth proximity, and so on – to make it super simple to get the information a facilities manager needs when and where he needs it. That’s not something that FM systems originally designed for a computer and later ported to mobile can do.
Does the product allow for predictive building maintenance?
Site 1001 has features built in for predictive, preventative and corrective maintenance. That includes things like reminders for standard warranties and preventative maintenance, as well as alerting and real time notifications for unusual patterns or anomalous activity from building systems. So if, for example, you’ve got a chiller that’s operating normally but having unusual power cycling, you’ll get an alert regarding the cycling, a severity level and information on likely causes and proper corrective maintenance procedures. Some of the more interesting things we’re working on now leverage building sensors and IoT devices to perform some really cool smart building functions like autonomous activity such as a light bulb or air filter issuing its own replacement work order before it stops functioning.
When did you know you were ready to spin the business out of JE Dunn?
We began development back in 2011, but it wasn’t until our fourth or fifth customer a couple of years later that we realised Site 1001 was going to be much more than a system for managing the hand off from construction to building owner. As a general contractor, JE Dunn is involved with a building for the first couple of years of its life, but Site 1001 is going to be involved for the next 5, 10, or 20 years. Moreover, we were getting involved with other building and business systems like WiFi networks, ERP and real time asset locationing that was outside the JE Dunn wheelhouse. At that point we said “we need to spin out on our own.”
What was the capital raising process like? How was it dealing with funds compared to JE Dunn’s investment?
I’ve raised capital from Silicon Valley to Israel for half a dozen companies over the past 20 years and Site 1001’s was by far the best both in terms of investor interest and enthusiasm. JE Dunn actually led our Series A investment and we were able to bring in three other investment groups, all of whom are from the Kansas City area. As you may know, Kansas City, Missouri was the first city Google chose for its Google Fiber high speed internet project, and the city has a developed a vibrant investment and development community focused on technologies and innovations in smart cities, transportation, telecommunications and healthcare, as well as many others. There’s a lot of exciting startups coming out of KCMO.
What are your plans for growth?
Currently we’re focused on expanding our installed base here in North America. We just opened an office in Southern California and we are working on projects from Atlanta, Georgia to Portland, Oregon. We also just hired a new head of sales who came to us from IBM. Before landing with Site 1001, he headed Big Blue’s smarter cities and Watson IoT divisions for all of Europe, so once we’ve established our North American presence, we may be pursuing new opportunities over there.