Poor tenant engagement costs the commercial real estate industry $2.7 billion per year in the United States, according to the latest data from Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB). Furthermore, a Gallup report claims that 68% of the workforce is not engaged, costing companies $550 billion ($4,400 per employee) per year in lost productivity. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their workplace and work. Similarly discouraging stats can be found in cities throughout the world.
To help address this dilemma, Toronto, Ontario-based tech entrepreneurs Clinton Robinson and Kofi Gyekye built Lane, a SaaS software platform that enables building managers, tenants, office workers and local retailers to communicate and engage with each other using their mobile devices.
Robinson began writing software as a child on a Commodore 64 home computer. He launched his first internet startup in 1996 at the age of 15 – a software solution to help people gain access to the internet. He sold his second startup, a web based e-health solution in 2008, shortly after graduating from Queen’s University with a MSc Computer Science.
His business partner, Gyekye, was born in Africa, raised in Europe, and settled in North America by the age of 20. He has lead the creation of web and mobile technology products for companies such as Rogers, New York Times, Thomson Reuters, Hudson’s Bay Company, as a cofounder of Little Room, a design agency he and Robinson co-founded. In 2013, Gyekye was recognized as one of the top 30 Canadians under the age of 30 for his work creating a product to lower infant mortality in Ghana.
Robinson and Gyekye believe that Lane will revolutionize employee engagement, and Toronto landlords appear to agree. In less than one-year, about 20% of downtown Toronto office space is using the product. Landlords can create a profile online and then use a drag and drop interface to set-up their building’s services and amenities. They can then connect everyone in the building by inviting them to download the app.
“For the end-user, the person who shows up everyday, it connects you to the building you work at, the company you work for, the services and amenities that are at that location, and then vendors and services around you,” explained Robinson. The cost to building owners is currently just $0.01 per square-foot per year.
Lane’s biggest client to date is Brookfield Office Properties, which is using the platform at Bay Adelaide Centre and Brookfield Place, two of Toronto’s premier office complexes. Together the properties comprise about six million square-feet of office and retail space. Brookfield’s white-labeled version of the software is called MyBrookfield. “Brookfield has an exceptional level of service already so they really understood that tenant engagement is very important,” said Robinson.
Before MyBrookfield, the landlord was spending a lot of time trying to reach out to its building occupants but had no idea how effective its efforts were. “MyBrookfield increased communication from 5 per cent to 40 per cent and engagement from 2 per cent to 15 per cent,” attested Ian Yorston, general manager at Bay Adelaide Centre.
Lane claims to be effective at raising awareness and integrating tenants into programs such as health and wellness, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability. The platform also distinguishes itself from other workplace apps by featuring exclusive content from local retailers. In addition, businesses within a building can use the app to privately communicate with their own employees. Office workers can can filter notifications to receive only what they want — public notices, event invites, or offers. They can also specify messaging preferences such as email or push notifications.
While Lane continues to expand throughout Toronto, the company is also setting its sites on the U.S. market. “Our platform brings meaningful engagement to the lives of everyday professionals,” said Robinson. “Every workplace ecosystem operates differently. Being able to tailor content and track what your audience interacts with truly differentiates Lane from other platforms.”