Innovation marches on in property management as new tech enters the industry.
THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ‘Q’ – THE REGISTRY’S PRINT PUBLICATION – IN FEBRUARY OF 2017
After spending ten years in an industry full of inefficiencies, Riggs Kubiak saw an opportunity to turn an industry filled with burdensome processes into a test ground of innovation and opportunity. Hence Honest Buildings was formed, a company that Riggs created with the goal of helping real estate managers and construction teams works more efficiently across company and industry silos to bring a clear view into the inner workings of their assets.
THE REGISTRY: Who is Honest Buildings, and what do you do?
RIGGS KUBIAK: Every city in the world shares a common denominator: the buildings that we all live, work and play. These buildings have different use cases, and they all have improvement and repair projects taking place each year, either fitting out tenant space, renovating a lobby, replacing chillers, boilers, windows, HVAC, electric, or even hiring new vendors for security, cleaning, or window washing. These projects require significant capital spend on behalf of the building owners who are tasked with the challenge and opportunity to run projects efficiently. The tenants of every building are exposed to these projects and the execution of the jobs impacts their experience working, living, or using the space. At Honest Buildings, we are accelerating urban progress by bringing world-class project management and procurement technology for owners to create efficiency in all types of assets, in cities all over the world.
TR: How was the company founded?
RK: When I personally worked as an asset manager for a large portfolio owner in New York City, our team was constantly looking for updated information from property managers, construction managers, architects, engineers and general contractors to understand where we stood compared to budget and overall business plans at each asset. Allowing asset managers and their teams access to business intelligence on a project, building or portfolio basis in seconds replaces a process that previously entailed several calls, emails and visits to construction sites to understand where the projects stood.
From a project management perspective, all assets have capital, construction and service contract projects, whether they are within an office building, a warehouse, a store, a school, or a hospital. Today the ways those projects are tracked, using Excel or pen and paper, saved in local and shared drives or email inboxes, is holding back the efficiency of buildings – the places we as humans spend 90 percent of our time every single day. We see this as a systemic opportunity across every type of building to enhance the way that projects are being initiated, tracked and completed.
TR: Tell us a little bit about your successes to date.
RK: We built the Honest Buildings product not only specifically for, but in conjunction with large real estate owners to directly solve for the pain points around completing projects efficiently. Our platform brings value in four specific ways. First, it protects top line revenue by delivering projects faster. Second, it reduces overall project costs through increased collaboration, fewer change orders and more competitive vendor bids. Third, it makes project teams happier by saving them hours of time normally spent on administrative and reporting tasks. Lastly, the product increases asset value by enabling teams to make better decisions by leveraging historical data.
One of the biggest differentiators of Honest Buildings is our deep dedication to user experience and design. Our product team spends countless hours directly with our customers, watching them use our product. They look for ways to make this business software as intuitive, or even more so than many of the consumer applications that people rely upon in their personal lives.
This deeply rooted dedication to user experience is the reason that we have been able to embed hugely technical algorithms that help owners keep thousands of large and complicated projects on time and on budget in a way that they find is easy to use. This accomplishment is truly achievable only when the product design team works tirelessly alongside the engineering team to constantly iterate and add new functionality to the product for our customers.
TR: Who are some of Honest Buildings’ clients and in what markets are you present?
RK: Our customers include Vornado, SL Green, Beacon Capital, Rudin Management Company, JBG Companies, Parkway Properties, Invesco, Kushner Companies, Con Edison and many others. We are a national company, soon to be global. The Honest Buildings team is a hybrid of real estate veterans and innovative technology and design professionals. Our investors include many of the largest and most ingenious real estate owners and venture capital firms like Milstein Companies and Thrive Capital. The combination of these three elements (team, customers, investors) shape the DNA of our company.
TR: How is technology transforming the real estate industry today?
RK: The workflows that are being created by the CRE tech sector are changing the game for owners. Robust data streams are creating true business intelligence as a resource that never really existed in real time for owners. The evolution and development of visibility into data is already allowing them to make better decisions, and in real estate that means increasing asset value. Access to this intel is what’s going to enable the next generation of owners and set them apart.
TR: Where do you foresee this transformation going next and how will Honest Buildings participate in that?
RK: The transformation in technology leads directly to data-driven decision making. This sounds similar to what tech companies have been buzzing about for the last 5 years or so around this amorphous term “big data.” What we see happening is the move toward not only collecting, but leveraging “big data” and infusing it into current workflows to enable people to make much more informed decisions without having to call 3, 4, or 5 people for additional information. At Honest Buildings, we think you should be able to pull up your last 10 or 20 projects that are similar to the one you are about to undertake and allow your team to make real decisions on key aspects of budgeting, negotiating, and committing to a project with real data, structured for you in a smart way that makes it truly usable. The problem with “big data” is it got a lot of hype but real estate owners could never really use it for true decision making, because it never became part of their day-to-day workflow. We see this is the next great transformation for owners of real estate all over the world.
TR: What concerns you about the future ahead, and conversely, where do you see opportunities to evolve?
RK: My concern is one that I also see as an opportunity for evolution: the speed of adoption of technology for the real estate industry. It’s surprising to me how few building are leveraging technology to unlock data-driven decision making, but I think that it’s also one of the largest opportunities of our time. We are really focused on our mission of bringing technology to building owners all over the world to accelerate urban progress. As more and more owners deploy technology, buildings will improve and the people who spend 90 percent of their time in buildings (everyone) will see the benefits.
TR: What are your company’s strategic goals for the next 12 to 18 months?
RK: Honest Buildings has been in growth mode, and we have more than $2 billion in project value managed through the platform. We’ve announced partnerships with industry leaders like NAI Global, integrations with CRE accounting software like Yardi and MRI and enhanced value for real estate owners including collaborative contract and invoicing management. We have also recently expanded into the multifamily sector. Office owners on the platform began using the software successfully on their multifamily portfolios, making this the next logical and strategic step for us. While we have accomplished a great deal since our inception, we are still in the first innings of delivering value for real estate owners. In the next few months, we have big announcements going live including partnerships with some of the largest and most utilized platforms and organizations in our industry.