Boston-based HqO has been providing a software interface for tenants for some of the areas most prestigious property owners. Their motto is to “create places that people love” and they do this with a mobile application that connects building occupants with their landlord, the surrounding neighborhood, and each other. Turns out, they are also creating building operations that managers love. They are able to provide dense information on tenants to owners and operators that was never before possible since in the past the majority of interactions between tenants and landlords was when rent was paid.
The win-win nature of having tenant experience software is bringing a lot of attention from the investment community. Today HqO announced that it raised $6.6 million in seed round funding from PropTech heavy hitters like JLL Spark and Navitas Capital as well as some of its larger clients like DivcoWest. Mihir Shah, co-CEO at JLL Spark, explained why his investment arm was so interested in the tenant experience software space, “Software is a key layer in the way people experience physical space, and consequently, will play a huge role in how commercial real estate can attract and retain the most innovative, high-growth tenants.”
Obviously, this is a good sign not only for the HqO team but for the entire tenant experience software industry. These types of interfaces are relatively new to the majority of the real estate world so there is quite a bit of room for growth. To understand where he sees his company going I contacted HqO co-founder Chase Garbarino. He is no stranger to community engagement software, he founded VentureApp, a business community platform, and AmericanInno, a digital media and events business that connected the tech industry, which was acquired by American City Business Journals in 2012. When I asked where he sees his platform and the tenant engagement industry as a whole going he broke it down like someone that has this stuff written on a whiteboard in his office:
“Our platform is going to host rich experiences focused on the key daily habits and activities of tenants. We see these bucketed into 4 key pillars:
1) Transportation – how software can make getting to and from properties more seamless.
2) Smart building – how software can control physical elements of the property, such as integrating with access security systems, lighting, etc.
3) Commerce – how software can create great experiences around retail amenities and property vendors and ultimately allow the landlord to provide loyalty rewards and perks at the property or even portfolio level, providing both a great tenant experience and help retailers succeed.
4) Connectivity – how software can help facilitate communication to tenants and create meaningful connections between tenants.
He recognized that not every property type or owner will be interested equally in every category. He said, “each of these pillars is applicable to just about every property, though different landlords and property teams will have very different strategies within each of them.”
While the tenant is his end user, the property decision maker is the one that writes the checks. I wanted to know a little more about what kind of data a fully featured tenant engagement software could provide building managers. To this he replied, “Looking at the four main pillars of property experience, with the right adoption landlords will be able to see trends around property usage – transportation method usage, foot traffic, retail engagement, and interaction of tenants in their buildings (all aggregated and anonymized). They’ll also get a sense of amenity engagement by tenant company and ultimately cater to the needs of their tenants in order to better help them attract and retain talent.”
I am predicting that this big name investment will be the first of many. There is only so much improvement that can be done to a building physically but the ways that software can affect how a building is used and run are almost endless. This is another example of the physical and digital world colliding resulting in a better built environment for everyone involved.