- Thomas Walkley, CEO, Erin Living
- Jo Hall, Account Manager, Groundfloor
- Grant Fowler, CEO, Divvy Parking
Kylie Davis: (00:05)
My name is Kylie Davis and I am the founder and director of Proptech Association of Australia, and it’s really great to see you all today for this is actually our 12th proptech panel. We’re starting to really get a bit of a library of these things going. But before I begin, in the spirit of reconciliation, Proptech Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. And we pay our respects to elders, past and present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people joining us here today.
Kylie Davis: (00:40)
I’d especially like to thank the fabulous support of our sponsors, Stone & Chalk, who have made these past 12 events possible. And for those of you who don’t know Stone & Chalk, it was founded as a not-for-profit in Sydney in 2015 to help FinTech startups commercialise and grow, and from the 40 startups in 2015, we now have around 200 startups in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, covering all areas of emerging technology including proptech. There’s about 20 proptechs that call Stone & Chalk home, although I think that number might have grown since then.
Kylie Davis: (01:16)
I’d also like to thank you the Proptech Association sponsors. As we were saying before, Proptech Association Australia started the week before COVID hit the world. We’re very grateful for the support of our sponsored businesses, Real Estate Institute of WA, Macquarie Bank, Ashurst Lawyers, PEXA, Web IT, and Forbury. Now, it is estimated that there are more than two million apartment dwellings across Australia with one occupied apartment for every five houses. And in total, more than 38% of apartment stock are now high rise according to the ABS, but that number itself is from the 2016 census, and given the number of cranes that we’ve seen dotted across the skylines in our capitals, we can assume the proportion is now even higher.
Kylie Davis: (02:03)
Affordability, apartment design, and changes in lifestyle expectations mean apartments are no longer just something that you rent. They are forever homes and increasingly being selected as so. According to figures from Urbis quoted in the Urban Developer, 62% of all apartment sales over the past quarter were to owner occupiers, and that’s double the 31% figure of 2016. People are now increasingly choosing to buy and live in apartments. As a result, apartment residents are demanding more from their developers and developers are hungry to understand options that can improve the experiences of living in their buildings.
Kylie Davis: (02:42)
In our panel today, we’re meeting three disruptors whose proptechs are dramatically changing resident experiences in high rise apartments for the better. From the top, all the way down to the very bottom. Our first guest is Thomas Walkley, co-founder and CEO of Erin Living, which transforms buildings into vibrant and connected communities through the Erin Living app. Hey Thomas.
Thomas Walkley: (03:07)
How you doing, Kylie? Thanks for having me on here.
Kylie Davis: (03:08)
No worries. And next we have Jo Hall from Groundfloor which provides residential and commercial buildings with a software and parcel locker solution that allows parcel deliveries, mail, and laundry to be delivered securely and easily at anytime. Hey Jo.
Jo Hall: (03:25)
Hey. How are you?
Kylie Davis: (03:26)
Great to have you on. And last but certainly not least, we have Grant Fowler, CEO of DIVVY Parking, which provides contactless and cashless parking and turns parking into a more flexible asset for residents and building owners. Great to have you here, Grant.
Grant Fowler: (03:43)
Thanks, Kylie. Hi everybody.
Kylie Davis: (03:46)
Welcome everyone. It is really great to have you on the Proptech Panel. And look, just to let everyone on the call today know that we are recording today’s webinar. It will be available afterwards. We’ll be sending it out through the Proptech Association and through Stone & Chalk. And if you’ve got any questions at all, please drop a line in the chat section and we’ll try to ask them as we go along. Now, Deborah’s already asked can she get those initial stats again? I’ll share them out after the event, Deborah, if that’s okay. Thomas, let’s start with you. Because Erin Living is that whole of a building proptech. What is Erin Living and how does it work?
Thomas Walkley: (04:25)
Yeah. We actually refer to ourselves as a resident experience company, so the topic’s quite relevant for us. We’re a software provider essentially for people living and owning apartment buildings and we essentially unlock the full benefits of apartment living through our resident facing app being Erin. Erin essentially becomes a technology partner of a building for as I said, the owners and the residents and as we evolve, so does the building which is really important with our overall direction.
Thomas Walkley: (04:49)
We provide a number of functions and features to our users but we can’t do everything ourselves. We actually rely on integration companies such as DIVVY and Groundfloor to deliver a holistic view and service experience for our users.
Kylie Davis: (05:04)
So, what kind of resident experiences are available through the Erin Living app?
Thomas Walkley: (05:09)
Yeah, sure. Anything from moving into the building, connecting utilities, booking amenities, sorry, connecting your neighbours. Can even use your phone as a key to enter in and out of your apartment in the building. There’s a lot of features that we do ourselves and then obviously integration’s how the experience gets taken to the next level. Jo’s going to talk a bit more about Groundfloor who we already integrate with, but essentially your parcel deliveries, notifications comes through the Erin app and collecting that parcel is actually facilitated through the Erin app, too. As we like to say in buildings, two apps, too many. Customers in their experience, people living in a building should only be using one app and that app should do everything. That’s the venture we’re on at the moment and looking to further integrate and provide more functionality.
Kylie Davis: (05:49)
So, Erin Living’s almost like a remote control for how you live in your apartment with all of the different gadgets and different things that you’re going to be using as part of that building in one single app?
Thomas Walkley: (06:04)
Yeah. Absolutely. Through our account management process, we catch up with a building each year and we learn about the other things that we might be able to offer, and other things that they want from us. It’s all about just learning from them and advising them and teaching the other things that might be becoming available for them. Technology moves so quickly and as we like to say, the moment a building is thought of, by the time it’s completed the technology that was thought of originally is already outdated. It’s really important to stay relevant and keep evolving the building, as well as the technology.
Kylie Davis: (06:33)
So, by putting Erin Living into … This is a question without notice. By putting Erin Living app into a building, does that mean that you’re letting the developers off the hook a little bit for some of the tech that they’ll need to worry about? Because you guys are constantly adding new things to the app.
Thomas Walkley: (06:50)
Yes. We actually take that responsibility ourselves. A developer can think of as much as they like, but once they deliver it and they hand it over to the managers to look after it, it’s not their responsibility to look after the ongoing upkeep of the building. What is their responsibility during a design and construction phase of a project is to make sure they’re future proofing it for any changes and additions that you might be putting into a building. That’s a responsibility they all have, to make sure that their building can adapt to new changes and be flexible in the future, but we actually promote ourselves as taking the responsibility from the developer and it gets hand balled to us at settlement, and then technology partner of choice for building.
Kylie Davis: (07:23)
Okay, awesome. Who pays for that service? Is it the individual residents? Is it the building owner? Is it the strata? How does it work?
Thomas Walkley: (07:31)
We charge through the owner’s corporation. So the building essentially pays for Erin and it’s on a subscription, ongoing.
Kylie Davis: (07:37)
But it also includes locks and security access to the business, as well?
Thomas Walkley: (07:41)
Yeah. There’s a lot of different hardware choices that a developer and a builder can make and they go through that process I guess during a design and implementation stage of a building. A developer might choose to put the likes of DIVVY and Groundfloor in a building which they might pay upfront, and then we carry forward as an ongoing basis. However, it’s not to say that a building can’t retrospectively use either one of those two services in their building afterwards. Yeah, it’s a fine line between how much a developer wants to spend upfront and what the building decides to spend ongoing. But yeah, there’s no rule really. I understand the margins and the development costs associated with buildings is quite expensive. Where you draw the line, it’s a tough one, but we go through a value proposition of each item and look at the major pain points. Again, the likes of other partners in a building, they provide their own service and we try and plug in as much as we can.
Kylie Davis: (08:28)
Okay. Give us some examples of how developers have used the app to how they’ve positioned their apartments in the market?
Thomas Walkley: (08:36)
In terms of marketability?
Kylie Davis: (08:37)
Thomas Walkley: (08:38)
Yeah. I came from a real estate and sales background originally and it’s always a competition from a developer point of view to get a signature of a buyer, anyway that you can provide a point of difference will stand out from your competitors is a really important thing. You need an edge, so I guess marketing the ability to have a tech enabled building might separate you from your competitors. But buyers want to know that you’re thinking about the future and future proofing the building. Marketing yourself as a tech enabled building that’s future proofed I think is extremely paramount. But even the ability to bring in a few hardware items to a display suite that we integrate with, buyers can come in and see touch and feel how it all works, and again, I think that sort of experience they get from a buying off the plan perspective is something that will probably separate you from your competitors when you’re trying to get that signature.
Kylie Davis: (09:24)
Awesome. Has COVID and lockdowns, the mindset that that creates, that this property that I’m buying or this property that I’m living in, it could actually be my whole world for the next couple of months, has that changed how people are perceiving the value of things like Erin?
Thomas Walkley: (09:41)
Yeah, absolutely. Even just from a managerial point of view, we’re really high engagement when a notice needs to be put out regarding COVID or any alerts or hotspots. It can be done via the system. Managers are really like that, because of our high engagement, they’re able to communicate and they know that it’s getting to a really high proportion of people in the building. But obviously people are spending more time from home. They work from home now. An app for their living arrangements and experience becomes more and more relevant. Those points are really good, but even from a developer point of view, and we’re consulting to a lot of property developers at the moment, a contactless integrated solution is something that pops up all the time and it’s becoming more and more, we’re looking at these type of systems well and truly before COVID. But it’s funny how something that we thought would be a cool add-on is something that everyone seems-
Kylie Davis: (10:23)
Thomas Walkley: (10:24)
… to want in their building. Yeah. COVID’s actually helped our business and we’re helping people in those situations. I guess it’s a bit of a give and take from both perspectives.
Kylie Davis: (10:35)
You’re still a startup so you’re still pretty new, but how many buildings is Erin in now?
Thomas Walkley: (10:40)
Yeah. We’ve been on this journey for such a long time and it feels like we’ve been live for so much longer, but we only went live officially in November, 2020. It’s only been seven or eight months now.
Kylie Davis: (10:50)
We’ve been living in dog years, it’s okay.
Thomas Walkley: (10:52)
That’s right. We’ve also been working at this since 2017, researching and strategizing and the execution of it. It’s been a long time in the works but we’ve only been live for eight months now. We have 14 buildings in our portfolio. We actually go live in four buildings next month. We’re ticking along nicely and have a decent pipeline of buildings coming. It’s really interesting, it’s great to see the market adopting such new technologies and options as well, which is a bit slower than I thought originally, but yeah, now it’s being taken up really well.
Kylie Davis: (11:21)
Yeah. Sometimes you have to go slow before you go fast, though, don’t you?
Thomas Walkley: (11:24)
Kylie Davis: (11:26)
Yeah. Look, Jo Hall from Groundfloor, let’s move onto you now, and I love this idea that all three apps are working together, all three of you proptechs are integrating together. First of all, congratulations to Groundfloor on being a winner in the Proptech Awards for Facility Management. That was awesome.
Jo Hall: (11:42)
Yeah, thank you. We’re really pleased with that. Worked really hard to get there.
Kylie Davis: (11:45)
I especially loved your artwork on your website with the award sitting in a cupboard. Sorry, in one of your lockers. Sadly with the awards we weren’t able to host our Melbourne event. We were hoping to do that, I think last week, but of course that never happened either. Anyway. Groundfloor provides a parcel and delivery solution to large buildings. To me, that sounds really niche, but then I live in a house. Can you give us an idea of how big that is as a problem and why it needs solving?
Jo Hall: (12:17)
Yeah. Last year we actually delivered about a billion parcels in Australia.
Kylie Davis: (12:23)
Jo Hall: (12:24)
COVID helped. December was one of the busiest months for Australia Post so they alone delivered about 40 plus millions parcels in just the one month. You can imagine how many parcels are being sent around and how big the problem could potentially be in a high rise building with people having to get and collect their parcels. Every really urban precinct has quite a big problem with this. In residential apartments, it’s about getting the couriers in and delivering and obviously COVID has made an impact in terms of the contactless aspect of the delivery.
Jo Hall: (13:01)
And it also has a huge impact on all of our cities in terms of all the couriers having to deliver to both residential precincts, but also commercial. And if they don’t make that delivery successfully the first time, then obviously they have to put it back into the truck and drive it around and then try again. It’s not just the fact that we’re making the delivery process more convenient, we’re actually helping cities to become less congested, as well.
Kylie Davis: (13:27)
Awesome. How is Groundfloor different? I’m just thinking, before Groundfloor existed, there was really, what? The letterboxes out the front of the apartment building or just inside the reception and you would then need to leave the security door open in order to access them and hope no one pinches your parcel?
Jo Hall: (13:46)
Yeah. That’s exactly it. That’s a big problem at the moment with parcel theft. A lot of people come to us and say that is the main motivator, aside from the fact that they’re trying to find a contactless solution. But I guess the difference between us and let’s say Australia Post, it’s the fact that we optimise the delivery process rather than the logistics side of it. We take all couriers into our lockers and anybody can become a courier and deliver to their lockers. We solve the problem for the building rather than just focusing on getting the logistics of the delivery companies. I guess that’s the main point of difference there.
Kylie Davis: (14:27)
Okay. Tell me a little bit about Groundfloor. How big are you? How long have you been around for?
Jo Hall: (14:34)
Yeah, so officially we’ve been around since 2018. Since then we’ve made around 200,000 deliveries and collections in that time through our systems. We’ve become a leader in the student accommodation sector, and we’ve got systems across Australia. That’s Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide. We’re really growing at the moment. Our team’s growing, as well. And we’ve now got in market support across all those cities, as well. With COVID, there’s been a big shift from deliveries to commercial to more everyone’s at home, so you get deliveries to your residential buildings.
Jo Hall: (15:15)
But interestingly the overall volume, that’s risen really. It’s become more deliveries. People are shopping online more, even the people that perhaps weren’t that inclined beforehand. They’ve had no choice really but to use the online and a lot of those people will continue to do so in the future. Yes, contactless deliveries is what’s I suppose helped us in the shorter term. But also in terms of once people start going back, it’s about managing the flow of people. With Groundfloor, we’ve become experts in courier and parcel flow. When we go into a building, we actually look at everything building by building, which is I think great help, and it’s been helpful for other people that we work with and buildings, both commercial, residential, but also students, to get that whole view of their problem, not just plonk our system in the foyer.
Kylie Davis: (16:09)
Tell me, when you go into a building and you give them advice and you look at that, like you just explained, what are some of the outcomes that might come from that? Like, how does that work?
Jo Hall: (16:19)
Yeah. We tend to look at how the building operates right now and what the after … What they want to solve. It may be that they want to solve parcel theft, or they want to remove couriers from the lift or lobbies. It it could also be that a lot of parcels can’t be delivered because it’s a locked gate. It could be a lot of congestion just outside, and there’s nowhere to park. We’re really looking at that whole … We try to walk through the building and understand what’s going on right now, and what is the number one problem that the building is trying to solve. And then start to thinking about how we’re going to solve it.
Jo Hall: (16:55)
If it’s the parcel theft, then obviously where are we going? How are the couriers going to access the building? And how are we going to make that happen and reduce it? Or, if it’s where are the couriers coming from? How can we redirect them? Where is the ultimate position for this system? So that it’s convenient for couriers, but also for the residents or the people that work in that building.
Kylie Davis: (17:19)
Okay. Who are some of the clients that you’re already working with? It sounds like you’re pretty, you’re very broad already.
Jo Hall: (17:26)
Yeah. Absolutely. We are. We have a lot of different sectors that we work with. We work with architects, we work with developers and designers. That’s that initial stage where building is being planned. We do a lot of CPD training courses, as well. We try to catch people at that first, when they start thinking about a building and bringing that up as I guess adding it to the agenda, to their checklist, to be mindful of that. We’re, for example, we’re in the tallest residential building in Adelaide. It’s those sort of buildings, but we’re also in [inaudible 00:18:05]. I have no idea. I know it’s the tallest, the bragging rights are there.
Kylie Davis: (18:08)
If you’re from Adelaide, drop us a line. Let us know.
Jo Hall: (18:12)
Yeah. It’s all those really high density to boutique developments in Melbourne. We’re also in build to rent communities in Queensland. But we’re also dealing with buildings that are finding it an issue, and they’re trying to retrofit the system into their existing buildings. We are quite a wide and varied … We have a varied client base in that perspective. It’s never a dull moment.
Kylie Davis: (18:39)
Have you had any body corporates basically want to introduce you guys to solve some of their problems? I know we’ve got a few strata people on the panel.
Jo Hall: (18:49)
Yeah, no that’s [crosstalk 00:18:51]. We do get a lot of calls direct through or email inquiries. It’s typically the parcel theft issue but it’s also optimising the team. If they do have a concierge on team. I guess you don’t think of it when you’re not dealing with mail and parcels, but it is very, very time consuming. You can imagine if there’s one building manager or a concierge type role onsite, or a facilities manager, they already have that role. They need to look after the building. Then on top of that, to be the one that collects parcels, has to notify the resident of the parcel arriving, then having to store it. There’s really not that much space in the back of house, so to speak, of a building. Yeah, it’s a big problem and it takes up a lot of space of the people onsite.
Kylie Davis: (19:37)
Do you find that developers are now starting to use you as a feature when they’re talking, when they’re selling their properties?
Jo Hall: (19:48)
Yeah. They are. Because it’s become quite a … I guess like with anything, in the beginning there’s always that educational phase where we’re talking to a lot of people and we’re telling them about the system and they may or may not have seen it on their travels. We get a lot of calls where they know that this is going to become a problem in a building, because the build to rent sector is growing in Australia, as well. They’re looking to optimise that and so it’s already a known that’s a problem. We do get a lot of people asking us, “How much do you think we’ll need? How much space shall I provision? How does it work? Can we add to it? What if it’s in a parcel room? Will the couriers access it?” There’s a lot of those types of questions, but yes, it is definitely growing and I think we’ll see a lot of new developments especially that will have this as an amenity already.
Kylie Davis: (20:41)
Okay. What does the future for Groundfloor look like? What’s on your roadmap in terms of product development, scaling?
Jo Hall: (20:49)
Yeah. I guess immediately from now, like I said in the past, it’s been more about educating the market and trying to get our systems out there and now we’ll turn to the experience, the customer experience. We want to provide ultimate customer experience for both tenants and residents. And that’s where that piece of being the expert in the courier flows and people flow management comes in. But we also want to focus on operational cost savings. Like I said, the build to rent teams are going to go live soon and they really need that help so that they don’t have to spend all day managing their incoming mail. All of our features and our roadmap now really revolve around those two, to get that customer experience convenience. And then optimise the management teams.
Kylie Davis: (21:41)
Okay. And so Groundfloor’s actually collaborating with Erin Living, so I’ve got the option, if I’ve already got an Erin Living app, I can see my Groundfloor access or I can see all my notifications from Groundfloor through that, but otherwise you have your own app that’s notifying? Tell me how the collaboration works.
Jo Hall: (21:58)
Yeah. Yes, we are collaborating. We love collaborations. That’s something that we really always try to do where possible in a building, and with Erin, we even have a video, our very own collaboration video going from the system and showing how Erin and Groundfloor work together. I don’t know whether Thomas, you want to elaborate on that collaboration.
Thomas Walkley: (22:26)
Yeah, sure. Again, the Groundfloor app would be used in isolation to many other apps in a building. Essentially with Erin being the motherboard of the building and the interface for the customers, essentially the integration works from a point where Groundfloor, when a parcel is delivered by a courier that they’ve onboarded to their system, the notification comes straight through the Erin app saying, “Hey, you’ve got a parcel. Here’s your QR code. Go and scan it on the Groundfloor lockers and your locker will magically open up your parcel inside.” That’s quite seamless as my co-founder would say, a beautiful resident experience.
Kylie Davis: (23:02)
Fantastic. I love that.
Jo Hall: (23:03)
It just brings it all together and it gives the building that one point of focus for all the residents and also the management companies.
Kylie Davis: (23:11)
Fantastic. Grant, let’s move over to you now and talk about DIVVY Parking, as this third part of a resident experience. One of my favourite questions that I like to ask is how is parking a proptech?
Grant Fowler: (23:27)
Because it’s space management, space utilisation. Obviously if people weren’t using property, there’d be no need to park. We form part of property, so if you look at an office building, normally the basements in an office building is a parking lot. If you look at high rise apartment blocks, exactly the same sort of thing. But residential property brings with it a whole bunch of reactions that are generated differently to what they are in an office building. In an office building, such things as visitor access is generally managed by a central location and it’s not to use one of the phrases that’s been used in this conversation, it’s not a pain point of every person. It’s a pain point of a [inaudible 00:24:14] management location.
Grant Fowler: (24:15)
Whereas in a residential facility, visitor management and visitor parking is a pain point shared in the experience by everybody. And we effectively are a proptech for the same reasons irrespective of the type of property, but the way the need for us is generated, is different depending on the type of property. That’s the way we fit in that category.
Kylie Davis: (24:38)
Yeah, no, fair enough. You’ve convinced me. How does DIVVY solve those pain points? Every resident in the building, and I love that that explanation, yes, when you live in a vertical village the pain points that cause the most friction are things getting nicked, things that you’re waiting for to get delivered being nicked, arguments over the residential parking and people parking in the wrong spots, and then I’m guessing maintenance and management of shared spaces and shared utilities. Tell me how you guys resolve some of those pain points around the parking issues.
Grant Fowler: (25:11)
Sure. There’s another one that I’d add to that, and that’s the one that we all try to avoid and that is who pays?
Kylie Davis: (25:16)
Grant Fowler: (25:18)
That’s always an issue that everybody brings up. How do we go about solving those things? To be perfectly honest with you, as embarrassed as I am that DIVVY does not integrate with Erin Living at this particular [crosstalk 00:25:30]-
Kylie Davis: (25:28)
Oh yeah, I’m sure it’ll happen afterwards, though, Grant.
Thomas Walkley: (25:28)
Not yet. Not yet, Grant.
Kylie Davis: (25:33)
After this panel. You two need to talk.
Grant Fowler: (25:35)
Yeah, yeah. Since I took over as CEO at DIVVY in 2018, one of the drums that I constantly bang and not only in the office, virtual and real, but also in the marketplace in general, is that proptech provides value whether it’s parking or lockers or whole of building concierge type services or management services, we provide value by how much we generate the best possible customer experience. Whilst to specifically answer your question, there are parking specific issues, access, getting the most out of each space, what we call utilisation, making sure that the access and utilisation of those spaces is free … Well, not sorry, free, but is fair for all and charged at a rate that keeps all parties happy which is quite often quite a juggling exercise.
Grant Fowler: (26:25)
Because the developer/owner, the building manager, the parking company, and the actual person paying for the car space at the end of it all want to make sure they’re getting a painful purchase at the best possible price. And parking is a painful purchase. Nobody likes to do it. One of the challenges for in the proptech space is to make sure that we manage each one of those stakeholders in the parking experience and then ultimately our management and the quality of our management and those stakeholders delivers the best possible experience for the end user.
Grant Fowler: (27:01)
It’s a challenge, but it’s exactly the same challenge that Jo would find in her business because she’s in space rental as well, and ultimately that’s what it all boils down to. We’re in space … And it’s about being the best you possibly can about delivering the best customer experience in your side of the space rental marketplace.
Kylie Davis: (27:21)
What do some of those solutions look like? What are modern parking solutions using DIVVY look like in residential buildings?
Grant Fowler: (27:29)
Yeah. So, it’s an interesting thing, right? And Thomas brought up a really relevant point. One, another drum that I bang all the time, and that is from the day you invent the idea of how you’re going to use a technological advantage, to the time you deliver it into the marketplace, it’s out of date. That’s just a simple fact of life. I’m only going to be talking about QR codes. When DIVVY burst onto the market, we developed our own access control systems and we did that purely and simply because the barrier to entry for us when we started, and we were one of the very first in our side of the industry, when we started the barrier to entry was that there was a couple of very major parking companies who spent a lot of money on paid leases and deliver very expensive equipment.
Grant Fowler: (28:21)
By developing our own, we only needed to seek permission to instal that equipment by the owner and then we were no longer controlled by that market, those market dominators. We were able to access the building ourselves and bring along our cohort, which is no in excess of 100,000 people. So, access control was something that we delivered and that’s something that DIVVY’s very proud of and it’s a separate side of our business. We would actually onsell that to other people. And we’ve grown that from a QR code, access control system, which we placed the traditional pull ticket type parking experience, we went to a QR code.
Grant Fowler: (28:56)
And then as more people came into that space behind us, because when you sit down and think I’m going to develop an app, what will I develop? I’ll develop a space rental app? Which section of the space rental market will I go into? Parking. It’s easy. But often it isn’t. But a lot of people have come into it now and they’re use Bluetooth access control systems. Something that DIVVY played with years and years ago and we’ve found that it’s a problem and has issues with interference and signal strength and needing to leave your locations on your app all the time, that sort of thing.
Grant Fowler: (29:25)
[inaudible 00:29:25] by example, you’re a visitor in an apartment block, you come through a boom gate by being given access through your Bluetooth system. You jump out of the car and you’re immediately faced with two choices. You go up and see your friend in the apartment block, or you sneakily run across the road and grab a coffee. You run across the road and grab the coffee, come back, walk through the driveway, 20 metres from your car but close to the boom gate, and all of a sudden the boom gate’s doing this again, because it’s reading the Bluetooth control. That presents a security and a utilisation problem for that little carpark, because the boom gate’s going up. It has a delay on it, it stays up for a while, people can …
Grant Fowler: (30:03)
We stopped playing with that and we’ve gone to … We moved our platform into the [inaudible 00:30:09] space and we’ve developed our own IoT controls and we’re now able to control just by bringing that device into the Internet of Things. We can replace that Bluetooth experience with a push button IoT experience.
Kylie Davis: (30:23)
Grant, sorry, just to get clear, if I am … If I have a residential high rise building, what does an amazing parking experience look like for me using … What could I be offering my residents?
Grant Fowler: (30:37)
A totally seamless experience. Effectively to take charge of the access control initially, and to provide a touchless, seamless, access control experience. That example I’ve just given you, utilising the … Potentially we can use such things as LPR licence plate recognition systems, so that you don’t actually have to do it and gates just magically open for you.
Kylie Davis: (30:57)
I love that.
Grant Fowler: (30:57)
Again, all controlled in the Internet of Things.
Kylie Davis: (31:02)
Because I’m sure, I can never lean out the window to touch the thing on the button. I’m also-
Grant Fowler: (31:08)
And living in Sydney now, Kylie, you wouldn’t want to do that anyway.
Kylie Davis: (31:11)
And I touched the button. Keep going, sorry.
Grant Fowler: (31:13)
And ultimately removing barriers where it’s possible. We’re working now in the sphere of having what we call magic barriers, where there are no physical barriers but we’re totally in control of managing the space by constantly watching and monitoring it. Not necessarily by having the human visibly looking at everything 24 hours, but by having sensors that can tell us when a certain act is taking place that should or shouldn’t take place.
Kylie Davis: (31:38)
How do you solve the visitor parking issue? That’s always a big one, in multi-level residences.
Grant Fowler: (31:46)
The visitor parking issue’s broken down into two categories for us. There’s the physicality of it, and we can do that. We have all the right equipment to manage access control. The secondary part of it is discipline. And that is that there has to be process and procedure to allow for a seamless visitor experience. With us, if you’re going to have a visitor cohort in a residential building and you can identify them in some way, it could be mobile number or a licence plate or something like that, then put that into the system. Enter it in and give people access. You can set up your terms on which they access, but theoretically they shouldn’t be able to access if the carpark is pre-booked.
Grant Fowler: (32:29)
Or if we position a certain number of spaces for just instant bookings, where people just turn up, then we need to integrate with other services, intercom services and things that can speak through from a gateway, for argument’s sake, through to the residents and get permission to let people in. There’s a discipline that needs to be applied.
Kylie Davis: (32:51)
Okay. How big is DIVVY now?
Grant Fowler: (32:54)
75 buildings. We’re about 20 people. Spread across two countries, and in Australia we have offices in Sydney and Melbourne. We opened 73,430 gates or doors every single solitary month.
Kylie Davis: (33:10)
Awesome. Excellent. What are your future plans? Apart from Australia, where are you?
Grant Fowler: (33:17)
Well, we don’t have operations in another country, but we support and monitoring solutions are delivered from Cebu in the Philippines. We have our own DIVVY team there. We don’t send that out. For the future, it’s integration, aggregation, bringing a whole bunch of services and systems together. Not dissimilar to what Thomas is talking about. DIVVY’s not as such an integration or aggregation platform such as Erin Living, when you bring all those services together. But making sure we’re part of always working with others and reducing … I think both Jo and Thomas will agree with me, that the only way the four of us are going to sit here in two years’ time and have exactly this same conversation with us still existing is if we learn to be seamless and the way that we do that is Jo and Thomas have already spoken about the way they work together, that you call up the Erin Living app because it’s the dominant existence inside the building.
Grant Fowler: (34:14)
It’s the concierge if you like, and from that there’s either total integration or Erin Living utilise and consume an APIN point or from Jo’s company, or alternatively they just mask with a push button that sends you direct into the DIVVY app, or the Groundfloor app. There’s a lot of ways to do it, but we’re all going to have to work together. We can’t just have thousands and thousands of apps. I look at it that way.
Kylie Davis: (34:41)
Sorry, Grant. I think something very exciting is happening in the Olympics and my husband is shouting very loudly in the background. So, go Australia. Look, let’s open up the conversation. Thank you so much, Grant. That was really great. Let’s open up the conversation. If anyone’s got any questions, please pop them into the chat, but how open are developers to the proptech solutions that the three of you are offering? What’s the response been? Who wants to go? Jo, you go.
Jo Hall: (35:09)
Yeah. From our experience, they are very open and they’re learning more and more. They see the value of it. Obviously if it can help you sell the apartments, it’s going to help us get into the building, as well. Yeah, we can demonstrate the value for them and they are, they’re very open towards it.
Kylie Davis: (35:26)
Tom, what have you … Sorry, I had promised to call you Thomas. What’s the response been from developers that you’ve been talking to? Are they open to the idea? Do they embrace you? Do they go, “Thank God you’re here?” What’s the reaction been?
Thomas Walkley: (35:39)
I think the majority are open. The majority know that they need to do something and obviously technology’s such a relevant thing in today’s society. I think the majority are open. I think there’s a really small group of people that just don’t care and they just want to make money in their project, and I think there’s also another small group of people that just choose, know that they need to put an app and they’ll just put a cheaper, nastier solution in there, too. But I think the majority are open to looking at the best result for their users, which are the tenants and their owners.
Kylie Davis: (36:09)
Yeah. What should developers be doing? I imagine that the sales cycle is really long and slow, though. What could developers be doing to be encouraging innovation in this space, or make life for you guys easier to work with? Grant, do you want to take that?
Grant Fowler: (36:29)
Yeah. We’ve only just started working with developers and architects and planners just in the last 12 months. And we’ve now got a rush on it, a bit like the other guys, same thing they said. We’ve got several projects onboard. The thing that we’ve noticed from the people that we’re working with now is a move from seeing us, seeing the three of us and other apps and technology suppliers as a necessary evil, to sales tool and a benefit, and a move to the next generation. There’s a swing to that, and it’s really interesting.
Grant Fowler: (37:01)
I had one phone call just earlier this morning where two weeks ago I was working with one of the very, very senior, therefore older like myself guys, in the development company, and he’s now handed that across to a senior developer who’s much younger. And she was on the phone this morning, “Can we do this? Can we do that?” And coming up with all these really great ideas that we’re going to provide a much better user experience. Fully embracing technology. That was her thing. She was going, “How do I do this? How do I do that?” I think we’re going to see more of that as younger people flow through now, and the technology generation start to move into those specifying developing fields.
Kylie Davis: (37:39)
Do you think we’re going to get to a point, or how far into the future do you think we’re going to get before buyers of off the plan apartments, asking or demanding from their developers, “What’s my tech support for this building?” Thomas, what do you reckon?
Thomas Walkley: (37:54)
Yeah, I think we’re getting there. I think it’s a generational thing, as well. In Australia we’re actually pretty slow to adopt new technologies. If you look at the likes of America and Asia, they’re so advanced in their technologies and what they offer. I think with a lot of Asia migration into the country, it’s probably leading that, especially with a lot of the prominent Asian developers that have seen certain trends and markets overseas that they’re bringing here. Yeah, it’s really interesting. But just going back to your question with regard to what we can do with developers, I think education is a really, really relevant thing to be discussing. A lot of developers need to look at these trends of what people are doing overseas and where the market’s heading, and I think probably one of the biggest things that we go through with each developer is everything that we’re offering is new.
Thomas Walkley: (38:33)
You’re hitting them from all these different angles about things that they should be doing, and it’s just got to be a gradual improvement or step up to their knowledge, as opposed to just dumping all these new, exciting opportunities on their plate at once. Because they’re all thinking straight away, cost, cost. I think education’s a really important thing and we do a lot of things with educating our clients. We do it slowly over time. Obviously they’re not going to build a new building tomorrow, so you do have time to work with them on it, but yeah, also if you think about new buildings that are yet to be … They don’t have any problems.
Kylie Davis: (39:01)
No clients, no problems, right?
Thomas Walkley: (39:03)
Right. Well, you don’t have people using anything in a building. You don’t have residents, you don’t have managers, you don’t have people delivering parcels, you don’t have people that need-
Kylie Davis: (39:10)
Parking spots in the basement.
Thomas Walkley: (39:11)
Exactly. You don’t have those yet, so you need to educate them on what the established market and what buildings, the issues that they’re facing at the moment and try and convince them to look at these new technologies to solve problems that exist today. Yeah, and I think there’s been a big shift towards the overall experience. Gone are the days where a developer just wants to make money from their project. They really want to know what their residents want. They really want to deliver a great experience and the world on reviews, they want great reviews. They want a great reputation, a great legacy. I think we’re seeing a big shift with developers now focusing on that experience with their legacy and a really good name for their building, which comes down to experience, not so much the name on the door.
Kylie Davis: (39:51)
Awesome. Yeah, after Opal Towers especially, we’re now seeing developers wanting to be recognised as a builder of choice and having a great reputation for delivering quality product.
Thomas Walkley: (40:02)
Kylie Davis: (40:03)
Yeah. Guys, what would your … I’ll just go to each of you to finish up because I’m conscious of the time, but what advice would you give to new proptechs starting out in the high rise residential space? Grant, let’s start with you. Have a long runway, cash flow.
Grant Fowler: (40:21)
Start off understanding with whom you can integrate or work. Because my experience, because I’m not the founder of the business, I came in as manager, and one of the experiences I’ve had in dealing with a lot of other founders has been a very protective, “We’re the only people that can do what we do.” And that’s not necessarily the case. Other people can do what you do. [inaudible 00:40:47] competitive advantage is how you work with others, how you plan in the sandpit with others. Have a look at that. I made the point before and I say it again, I’m always going to stand by it. Standalone apps are going to be a thing of the past very soon. Unless we’re all working together, people are going to … How many apps have you got on your phone right now that you don’t use?
Grant Fowler: (41:05)
People just get sick of that, and if you don’t have more utilisation than one single, you’re a one trick pony. You’ve got to have more. Figure out who you can work with. Who do you fit with that together you can go on that journey and together you’re stronger, and together you can present and deliver? That’s the thing I would say to people, that just make that part of your founding of the business.
Kylie Davis: (41:29)
Inch wide, mile deep, and play nice with other children, right? Jo, what’s your advice?
Jo Hall: (41:36)
Yeah, I guess just to speak to that, relationship building is huge. It takes a very long time to build good relationships. You need to understand your clients’ needs. You need to put yourself in their shoes, and ultimately you just need to make sure you have thick skin and you’re in it for the long haul basically. It takes a long time to understand what people need and how you can solve their issues. You need to ask a lot of questions along the way.
Kylie Davis: (42:05)
Awesome. And Thomas, what’s your advice?
Thomas Walkley: (42:08)
Grant made a great point. You can’t solve the world problems just by yourself. It’s impossible. And we take a very high level view at our company to that overall experience and we rely on the DIVVYs and the Groundfloors to look at those specific issues in buildings and together we provide a holistic, complete, great experience for the residents. But yeah, you can’t solve everything. I guess my advice to anyone coming in the space is there is so much opportunity out there and there’s so many problems. The property industry, the strata industry, it’s so old, it’s ripe for disruption and there’s so many big issues as well as small ones that you can solve, and then integrate and join the ecosystem of apps that deliver a complete solution to a building. Just got to back yourself in, dig deep and just hit the ground running.
Kylie Davis: (42:54)
Yeah, awesome. Don’t get me started on strata. We are going to be doing a Proptech Panel on strata very shortly, because it’s a topic close to my heart. Look, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for your fabulous insights today on our Proptech Panel on high rise resident experiences. We could discuss this all day, but we are just going to have to wrap it up in the interests of time. Look, thank you to our panellists, Jo Hall, Thomas Walkley, and Grant Fowler, for your time today. It’s been a great discussion.
Kylie Davis: (43:23)
I’d also like to thank the Proptech Association committee, Jennifer Harrison, Marie-Anne Lampotang, Simon Hayes, AJ Chand, Scott Wilson, John Minns and Kylie Dillon, for all their help. They are an awesome committee. I’ll see you this afternoon at 4:00 for our committee meeting, and very big thank you to Stone & Chalk for getting behind this event and 11 others of it, and their support for Australian proptech. We will be sending out links to the panel from our YouTube channel. You’ll also be able to hear it as a podcast as a bonus episode of the Proptech Podcast, and follow the Proptech Association on LinkedIn. Or if you’d like to join the Proptech Association, go to ProptechAssociation.com.au. We’d love to have you onboard. Thanks so much everyone for your time. Thanks again to our panellists. See you next month.