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Bonus: Blake joins Yuval Boger

Yuval Boger is the chief marketing officer of Wi-Charge, wireless charging products touted as “the future of power.” In this episode, Blake and Yuval recap some of Homebase’s most recent product news and discuss how wireless charging can fit into multifamily.



Blake Miller 0:03
Hello, everybody, and welcome back to the Future of Living podcast. This is season three. And I’m your host, Blake Miller.

I’m so excited to be back. And this time we’re going to change things up a little bit differently with this first episode. It’s actually an episode of me on somebody else’s podcast. This time we’re going to start with you Yuval Boger of Wi-Charge, I was on talking about how wireless charging could really affect the future. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Yuval Boger 0:29
Hello, Blake, and thanks for joining me today.

Blake Miller 0:31
Hey, thanks for having me. I’m excited to have a chat.

Yuval Boger 0:34
Great. So who are you in? What do you do?

Blake Miller 0:37
My name is Blake Miller I’m the founder of Homebase. And we work with apartment owners to help automate the management of their buildings using the Internet of Things. So what does that mean? It means giving resident amenities like unlocking their door, changing the thermostat, even getting connected to building Wi Fi, all from a smartphone app. And we provide a dashboard for the managers to be able to automate a lot of those tasks.

Yuval Boger 1:02
When I looked at your website, it looked like you offer three tiers of services to the managers of the buildings, could you explain what they are?

Blake Miller 1:10
Yeah, we kind of take our smart building approach and kind of break it into kind of three different tiers, as you said, and the first one being access control and smart locks. So this enables one fob or one app access to all the different doors of the building, controlled by you know, mobile apps for the property managers who can manage automatically the access of residents, you know, when at lease or their stay starts. But also it gives that control and access to the residence as well. that next step for us is really about connected infrastructure to have a smart building, you need to be able to connect all the things. So those locks and everything that we do, excuse me on that first level, they don’t actually require any connectivity in the building because we communicate to the locks via Bluetooth. But all other smart things require connectivity of some some kind. And so we use in deploy a community wide Wi Fi infrastructure that provides that connectivity for then all the other devices that might go in the building, which is really that kind of step three of things like thermostats, light switches, we’ve partnered with LG to do smart appliances, and a whole host of other types of sensors and video surveillance and all these different things that might be connected in a building. And and one added benefit that that Wi Fi infrastructure brings for the property owners is the ability to offer a new amenity to the residents, this multi use infrastructure can offer the Wi Fi connectivity to the residents, which is kind of like living in a hotel. And so the property owners are able to capture different share their residents wallet by offering this amenity that everybody really really, you know, enjoys, they don’t have to wait for the cable guy to show up after moving which is stressful time. And, you know, it all kind of just stays right within the building.

Yuval Boger 3:12
So let’s let’s go through the benefits are why would property owners care about this? And why would residents care about this? Let’s start with the property or literally saying I’m sorry, what are they saving by installing a smart lock?

Blake Miller 3:30
Absolutely. So by installing installing a smart lock, there’s a there’s obviously some enhanced security in terms of who has access into units, you don’t have master keys floating around, you can digitally revoke access or give access to both the residents but and guests, but also to staff and other vendors, you also don’t have to rekey locks at the end of stays. So more and more properties are also doing you know Airbnb type stays. So that creates a lot of extra management to change those locks or even change pin codes if they might be. And then you know, it also kind of what I alluded to with the master key gets rid of the key locker system that properties have to employ, where they’re checking keys out, and all of that. And that’s something that then you know, during maintenance service and things like that cost the maintenance staff time to have to go check out those keys to be able to gain access to units. So those are some big things that happen, you know, out of the gate for what they’re what they’re doing. You know, there’s other things where you’re trying to lease up and you need to be able to manage a lot of different vacant units. So being able to have you know, potential prospects, gain access to units or or other added benefits. But then there are the other kind of the future forward options. communities where these smart locks kind of Pun intended to unlock a whole host of services that buildings can offer to residents things like house cleaners and dog walkers and grocery delivery and all these different things that this simplified, but more secure access can grant.

Yuval Boger 5:21
So do you think that someone looking to lease an apartment is looking at a smart lock and these amenities, it’s a factor to decide which which building I should apply for?

Blake Miller 5:34
You know, I think some people definitely are, they’re looking for amenities that help them save time, help them feel a little bit more secure, they they’re able to see, you know, who comes and goes, if somebody gains access to their apartment or something, you know, maintenance staff, other while they’re away, they get notified. You know, but I also think that really quickly, these are becoming kind of the stuff the status quo in some areas, where, you know, I expect to have a smart thermostat, I expect to have some of these controls, but I want to know that my privacy is being taken care of, I want to know that, who has access and, and all those different things. But I do think that, you know, especially at the higher end of some properties, you know, more amenities are what people are looking for. And instead of just a bigger gym, or a bigger pool, or some of these things, I think, really, I think people really value their time, how they spend it, when they spend it. And I think that some of these services, you want to be able to move into a building that kind of, you know, helps you live a more efficient life, perhaps, and we call it living as a service sometimes, but you know, I just want to be able to move in and take care of all the things that I that I don’t want to take care of as an adult, you know, adulting, if you will, and be able to focus on, you know, my hobbies or my work or whatever it might be.

Yuval Boger 6:56
So it used to be that these amenities were granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances, and now they’re smart locks, and maybe Wi Fi as a service. What do you think the amenities that property owners might be able to offer in a couple of years to entice renters?

Blake Miller 7:17
Well, you know, I think, I think the times right now, you know, we’re recording this under lockdown. You know, we the times, I think, will definitely bring forward health and wellness. And I think you start to look at air purification type systems, I think you I think you start to look at how can you be even more efficient in the home. But then I think you start to look at how do I connect with services and the community around me and do that efficiently. And you know, probably for a while, either contactless, or remotely or whatever it might be. And I think that technology can really help us to enable that and, and support some of these new things that are new ways of, of cautious living, that we’re all gonna have to do for a little while.

Yuval Boger 8:11
Let’s go back to the locks for a second. These are battery operated, I assume?

Blake Miller 8:16
Yes. So we’ve partnered which Schlage you know, the parent company is a Allegion, and we work with the Schlage control series lock. And it’s a battery operated primarily Bluetooth lock, they have some versions that have some Wi Fi capabilities for more community door areas. But primarily the the locks for the units that we work with are all battery powered, you know, battery powered locks that we connect to via Bluetooth.

Yuval Boger 8:45
And battery powered locks are those that you could install either in new builds or so in retrofits. Right, you could go into an existing building, and help the property owner upgrade to your system.

Blake Miller 8:57
Yeah, absolutely. And in fact, you know, new buildings, obviously, I this is almost completely table stakes in new buildings. But in retrofits, you know, there’s a lot of opportunity where that first step that we talked about in home based access, you know, the Smart Lock really is kind of that, that that gateway to having a smarter and more efficient building. And so we’re really doing a lot of retrofits and and landing on that door. And as you start to see some of the cost savings as a as an owner, then you’re able to start recognizing and seeing, you know, benefits of other smart devices and kind of start adding to your your smart building.

Yuval Boger 9:40
How long did the batteries last you think?

Blake Miller 9:43
You know, typically we see them rated for a year and a half to two years, a couple thousand engages. But you know one of the things that we recommend and has become kind of practice, is they usually just get replaced at the turn. And you know, it’s kind of unfortunate, we enable all of these extra features, and great efficiencies, but we kind of had one problem where you have to actually replace batteries to make sure all this stuff works. And so, you know, figuring out ways to improve that figure out ways to come up with, you know, we like our battery replacement kits that we share with our owners, where we can just send them, you know, packs in new batteries, they send us the old ones overcharge them for them. But other than that, like, it’s a problem that has to be solved in if you forget to replace it or whatever, you have issues down the road.

Yuval Boger 10:38
And the issues would be I’m coming home Sunday night 11pm. And the door doesn’t open and then I got to get someone to open the door for me.

Blake Miller 10:48
Yeah, or, or you have to find a nine volt battery somewhere, to be able to jump that lock to be able to swipe your card or or, or do it to be able to get in. So we haven’t seen very many of those at all. But they definitely have happened.

Yuval Boger 11:04
So don’t leave home without the nine volt battery in your pocket.

Blake Miller 11:08
That’d be definitely both, you know, we detect, we detect the battery usage and can start to predict when batteries are running low and create maintenance tickets on our platform automatically, that, you know, can to detect all those things. So a lot of our system gets into that kind of automated management, preventive maintenance, sort of things.

Yuval Boger 11:32
So what would wireless power mean to you? If you were able to power the smart locks? I mean, is it just eliminating the cost of buying a couple of batteries every year? Or is it more than that?

Blake Miller 11:44
Well, I think it’s a couple layers for sure is you’re going to eliminate the battery costs, you’re going to eliminate the time that it takes to replace those batteries, you know, and you’re going to remove any risk in when those batteries are getting replaced, there’s any damage to the lock. Or maybe you know, something gets unplugged or something on the lock or something was exposed. If it’s not done properly, or somebody that’s been trained. And then you’ve been the other risk is just having really unhappy residents or getting somebody locked out at a time that you know those it’s never a good time when there’s a lockout, right? It’s always late at night, it’s always on the weekends. And you know, that’s why sometimes it costs people a lot of money to get that on, somebody come out and get it unlocked. We definitely don’t want anybody to be locked out on the systems, of course. So you know, we definitely take a lot of support there.

Yuval Boger 12:47
So if a system like the Wi-Charge system charged the locks, and it had additional capacity, what else would you want it to charge in an apartment for either the asset manager or the resident to get value?

Blake Miller 13:05
Yeah, so you know, I personally would love and I think it would be amazing to be able to have, you know, apartments especially, you know, we’re, we’re quarantined, in ours, a place called Two Light in Kansas City, beautiful place and got a great big open spot, I would love to be able to just leave our leave my phone on the kitchen island and have it have it be charged wirelessly. To me, that’s a cool, not just a cool amenity, it’s, I would probably not want to ever move out of a place that didn’t have that anymore. At that point because it would become so valuable to you know, my lifestyle, which is, you know, right, wrong or indifferent, always connected. And you know, as a CEO and founder, you always connected with a team and customers and all of that. So, yep, having a charge phone would always be valuable. So things like that would be really valuable. I think that, you know, other sorts of speakers and being able to play speakers in lots of different areas and create unique sound experiences with homes, having wireless charging would be really cool, as well. And then you get into some of the things within like the bathroom area and everything. And I think that I think back to some of that health and wellness stuff that we were talking about before. new buildings can start to have that focus on Wow, you’ve got such a beautiful, amazing bathroom and it’s like a spa experience. And that becomes really the amenity. And it’s not just in your penthouses, it’s in all of them. Because you can do things that you don’t have to run a bunch of wires to and everything you can wirelessly excuse me, wirelessly charged those those things and the faucet comes on automatically and the shower comes on when you need it to and know about it’s relatively affordable to create those experiences.

Yuval Boger 14:57
And I can see your video when we’re recording this. It looks like your place has these really large windows. So how about smart shades? Would you want them to automatically go up? But I don’t know when you when you get up in the morning.

Blake Miller 15:11
Yeah, I mean, that’s like the next level right and and, and there are some places that do that. But I know it’s incredibly expensive. It’s really cool. But it’s just expensive to do in apartment buildings. But being able to enable that creates not only an amazing living experience where shades rise in the morning, or you know, when you get home or how, however you want to automate the experience. But in buildings like these are getting more and more built with, you know, all glass buildings, exposed east west to the sunrise and sunsets, being able to have residents opt into an experience where the shades are automatically lowering or rising, based off the sunrises and sunsets to help the overall energy efficiency of the building can be incredibly valuable, and health conscious and climate conscious, and all these other things. So definitely huge opportunities. But if we’ve learned anything, it’s just it takes a lot of partnership, a lot of integration, a lot of ecosystem building, and some will from really innovative developers to be able to pull some of this stuff off.

Yuval Boger 16:20
And especially for retrofits, right to install a power chain and retrofit, it’s it’s always difficult to run power to the window. And so if that could be powered wirelessly that that might be a nice thing.

Blake Miller 16:32
Well, I think you got I think you’re at two different kind of cases, with retrofits, right, you’ve got kind of renovations, you know, after maybe a new company acquires a building, they’re gonna put 10 to $20,000 a door into the property. As you know, people’s leases expire, though, they’ll update each unit. And those are those areas where it’s definitely costly to try to run a bunch of wires and everything. So you got to figure out how you’re going to get the biggest impact, return on investment or for that. And then you got just regular old retrofits where there’s literally just they’re just people in there. But the property owner has a little bit of capex that they want to, you know, make that investment, and you got to be really wise. And that’s where we see like, we just start with that lock, so they can start seeing some return on investment there and then build from that.

Yuval Boger 17:25
And the benefits are, as you said, but go both ways, right? They go to the resident, they have a more modern feel they have smarter living, and then they also go to the property owner that can perhaps up charge for these amenities, or just command a higher value for renting there.

Blake Miller 17:45
Absolutely. Our goal is definitely for this to be a win, win, win. We don’t want this. We don’t want people to be, you know, experience or privacy or any of these things to be sacrificed because of technology. We want these things to be at the forefront and, you know, ultimately improve our lives or shouldn’t be creating more issues.

Yuval Boger 18:05
Excellent. So Blake, where can people get in touch with you to learn more about the work that you’re doing?

Blake Miller 18:11
So You can find us online. We’re also on all the social medias @homebaseai and I’m pretty easy to find with with Twitter at @imbmills. Yeah, happy to connect with anybody.

Yuval Boger 18:34
That’s great. Thanks for being my guest today.

Blake Miller 18:36
Hey, I really enjoyed it. Thanks for having me.

Lee Odess on the Access Industry

Lee Odess runs, a media platform focused on the physical access control industry, and Group337, a growth studio focused on business creation in the CRETech, PropTech and smart home markets for small to large companies in the security, access control, and IoT industry.

He has worked as an Entrepreneur and an Integrator (founded E+L+C), for a multinational billion-dollar manufacturer in the lock and access control industry (Allegion), as an Executive of a start-up who pioneered the IoT/smart lock/smart physical access control industry (UniKey), and as an Executive with the first cloud-based physical access control manufacturer (Brivo).

Labeled as an uber-networker by the Washington Post, Lee Odess has over 18 years starting, building, and leading businesses with an exceptional track record for sales growth and marketing effectiveness.


  1. Blake on the Inside Access Control podcast.
  2. Lee on the Future of Living podcast.



Blake Miller 0:00
Hey everybody, welcome back to the Future of Living podcast. I’m your host, Blake Miller. We’ve got another combined episode today, like we’ve been messing around with here on Season Three. I sat down with my friend Lee Odess on his podcast Inside Access Control, we had a great conversation about what was happening with Homebase. And I was able to flip the tables on Lee, and talk to him about his experience in the access control industry. He’s got a great knowledge across many different companies. And he really has a great perspective of what I’ve seen. And the disruption is that’s happening in the smart building space, and how access control can really lead the way.

Lee Odess 0:39
Very excited today to have my friend Blake, join me from Homebase. Blake, thanks for taking the time. We it’s good to be back, man. How are you surviving?

We’re making it work. You?

Blake Miller 0:49
Also making it work. It’s, you know, the craziest time of it. Everybody dealing with it, but you know, navigating through.

Lee Odess 0:56
Yeah, absolutely. I think he made the most of it. Right. So speaking of that. So before we jump into it, I just want to thank you, because you’re early on to the podcast when we first started doing this, and then you and I, you know, we’ve known each other before, but we’ve carried through it. So thank you for all your support. And glad to have you come back. You’re the first to come back on about that.

Blake Miller 1:16
Yes, yes. Now, it’s awesome, man. Like, we were talking before we got going on this. But it’s just been awesome to see what you’ve been creating. Because I think it’s something that, you know, the not only the access control industry, but you kind of look at smart buildings and how all this kind of rolls up. I think what you’ve been creating the content you’ve been putting out and frankly, the people have been kind of pulling together. It’s created a really great kind of discussion around the industry and has helped I think a lot of people start to figure out how to plug in and kind of contribute. So it’s been really cool to see watch you build this.

Lee Odess 1:45
Well, I appreciate that. Thank you. You don’t want to make me blush. But I appreciate the, no, so it’s it’s been fun. So…

Blake Miller 1:54
Too many conversations that we’ve had that has led to it right?

Lee Odess 1:57
It’s been a lot of them. So yeah it’s funny how this all kind of plays out. But so if we look at it, let’s so if we rewind about six months ago, you and I did this. And then since then, a lot of good news on your end from the T-Mobile side, which you could touch on. And then I thought what we you and I just discussed is let’s jump into some of the trend that you see going around, and really a move that you’re making you and I think we talked about it on LinkedIn, or there’s been a conversation. So bringing that to here. So why don’t you just give us an update on what’s happened over the past seven months? And then let’s jump into that.

Blake Miller 2:31
Yeah, so there is a thing that happened in the world called COVID. I don’t know if you’ve heard it, and, you know, yeah, it’s, you know, you know, tragic and crazy times for all, but, you know, it’s changed everything. And for us as a startup that was growing. You know, it definitely affected kind of how we approached everything, how we were building our company. You know, I’ve said this to numerous people, but we shut down the company, basically on March 13, you know, Friday the 13th. So finally, that was a day that lived up, you know, a lot of our retrofits and things like that, that we were doing across the country, we had to just put on pause, didn’t make sense sending somebody to somebody’s apartment. So really had to make adjustments really to figure that out. But after kind of, you know, April rolled around, things change, our clients started calling us saying, hey, how can we put this on more of our units? And how do we do it faster? How do we get at least locked, you know, landed on some of our retrofits, so that we can get remote management going and, and make sure not only our residents are safe, but our staff are safe, but we can keep the properties of wet weather going. And so you know, I’ve heard her and and even talk to some of our competitors that have seen some of the same things. And so all of us that have been kind of building this, this new category of smart apartment buildings have seen this kind of uptake of what I would say kind of the early adopters in the market that we’re looking for there for the advantage of being able to, you know, use smart technology to see an increase in our noi, while also giving a resident and then a like it’s really turned into painkiller people are looking for ways that they can manage their properties more remotely without losing the resin engagement. And so it’s really kind of exciting times, even in kind of tragic times for some, but it’s exciting times for our kind of industry, because I think our value proposition has now come to be a necessity. And we’re happy to be there to kind of support that.

Lee Odess 4:33
Yeah, no, I would agree on the, you know, tragic times. And that it’s I think it’s a classic example, though sort of innovation through tragedy, and I happen to believe the difference here for a lot of us is that, you know, instead of this being some of the other innovation that we see go around us, we’re actually in the middle of it that’s happening and it’s a direct impact, whether it’s the commercial side multifamily really doesn’t matter. Everyone seems to be busy because of the need of these types of technologies that we saw that phase change happening beforehand. But now this is just the accelerant on that. Yeah. So on that. So if you’re to continue on with some of the technology side of it, the message that you and I went back and forth on LinkedIn was really around the idea around hubless. So can you talk a little bit about hubs in hubless? Because that isn’t, that’s like a pivotal point, believe it or not, I know, you know, this, but like, from the multifamily side, a lot of what goes on is really boils down to hubs.

Blake Miller 5:31
Yeah, I mean, for everybody, right, whether it’s single family, whether it’s, you know, in just your own home to in the in the multifamily large building setting. Like it all comes down to hubs, right, whether you have to figure out how to connect all the things. And so there’s a lot of different ways to go about it. We had our own hub for a while, there’s kind of a Bluetooth based that plugged into our Wi Fi network. But we started realizing that, hey, with our integration, we’ve partnered with Schlag to be able to provide a phone as the gateway, you didn’t need a hub to actually control the lock, the way we were doing that. And with some of our further integrations, we can manage every door that you need to be able to manage through our slack integration. So you didn’t need a hub just for our access platform. So that was kind of one step. And then the next step that that happened was we joined the T Mobile accelerator. So we’ve always taken a Wi Fi infrastructure approach to a building to be able to connect all the other things. So that’s what kind of is a little bit different than us in the market is that Wi Fi infrastructure, then powers all the smart things, whether it’s the thermostats, the light switches, appliances, or whatever it might be, but it also gives the property owners the ability to resell access to the Wi Fi as an amenity to the residents. So it becomes a multi use platform. And in doing that, we were essentially hubless as it is we didn’t need our own hub that we were putting in for kind of future purposes. And what we’ve now done in addition to the Wi Fi partnered with T Mobile to be able to bring cellular infrastructure in for buildings that have issues being able to get connected because of RF glass or something like that. So we can layer that in. But we also are able to Now tap the 5g network or specifically the narrowband IoT, and now working with devices that have that connectivity, like thermostats or light switches to be able to deploy without having to have a Wi Fi infrastructure. So we’ve taken this approach to say, Hey, you know, we can be completely humbled without an extra piece of cost, that was always going to hit that budget, but we can still give you some of the same outcomes through new technologies. And these are things that are just coming to market.

Lee Odess 7:46
So let me ask you that. So if we break down just a little bit on the technical side, so it could connect all the dots here.

Blake Miller 7:51

Lee Odess 7:51
So the specific on the lock side, this comes down to your phone, more or less, you said being the gateway, so it, and then locally, you still have that local connection, whether it might be Bluetooth, or whatever, it might be right to the lock. But, um, as far as you need to have an added piece where you may still have a gateway for the lock, but you don’t have to have your gateway. So how do we understand the topography.

Blake Miller 8:17
So yeah, for the lock itself, the phone is always the gateway, you know, traditionally, you would deploy, whether like its Schlage’s gateway, or something like that, to be able to talk to the lock when no one’s there, we use just the concept of virtual keys. Basically, you always have to have the Homebase app to be able to interact with the Bluetooth lock. But the Homebase app allows you to do that. And whether you’re granted access automatically as a resident or a staff member that’s supposed to be there, or you’re a guest or a vendor, you would get a virtual key, you’re always going to use the phone to get access into the building or into that unit itself.

Lee Odess 8:56
Okay, and then as far as I, you mentioned, NB IoT, which again, is all under the umbrella of 5g, but probably my opinion, and from good to hear what you’re saying is that a practical use of it in the access control side is going to be the NB IoT and of it that you have. So if you look at that, the question that everyone always has is like, How far away are we from having that type of stuff deployed? You know, you hear about it in like Singapore and other places. You don’t hear about it as much here other than, you know, commercials that talk about it broadly about latency and big, big things that, you know, I don’t know if, like, the average person understands what it means. But yeah, How far away are we from actually seeing that this type of technology implemented on a small term, but then even on the larger term?

Blake Miller 9:42
Yeah, so we’ll be testing some new devices and partners that we’re working with later this year on the actual platform and on the T Mobile, t mobile network. But we plan to be rolling these out, and projects in 2021. So it’s actually pretty near the technology’s new But we have partners that are rolling out new things, which is exciting.

Lee Odess 10:03
That’s very exciting. And I’m thrilled to hear that you guys are on the forefront of doing that, because it’s definitely from everything I’ve read. And I’ve seen, it’s definitely the direction that that people are going to go into. And the added value is going to be immense on that side, especially multi family where there’s just so many things right on top, yeah, items

that you need to have that,

Blake Miller 10:24
when we see a lot of times that a lot of folks just really want to do a lock in a thermostat, especially for a retrofit, you know, they don’t have a bunch of money sitting around for a cap x budget to be able to, you know, drop that unless they were doing a value add anyway, but they do know and recognize if they’re gonna get a lot of value out of a lockout thermostat in the problem is just how you gonna connect that thermostat, we solved the lock issue, how do you do that without real connectivity in the building? And how do you do it without a hub or anything like that? That’s where you have to go with the thermostats and like

Lee Odess 10:54
that? No, that makes sense. Um, so what do you think this means to things like z wave and some of the other technologies? Yeah,

Blake Miller 11:01
I’m not really sure. Like, I think there’s a lot of there’s going to be a place for a lot of different types of technologies. But I think a lot of things are going to see like, kind of, I think a lot of people talked about this, but it’s like the beta versus VHS type of type of play. You know, I think that there’s always been a place for some of those technologies. And they’ve been a bridge to getting us there. But I don’t see a lot of ZigBee or z wave type radios getting put into phones, right, but we are leaning on Bluetooth and Wi Fi more and more. So I do just think that that type of infrastructure is a little bit more ubiquitous. We view primarily that Wi Fi is really the fifth utility, and it needs to be in the building to provide that infrastructure. It’s harder to get it in retrofits, it’s not impossible, we do it on a day to day basis. And that’s where almost every new building that we’re doing and starts with Wi Fi, but you got to figure out how to bridge that gap and how you connect it. So, you know, I think that there’s a place I think that one of them will probably went out one of them will probably you know, fold and it just depends on the ecosystem, I think at the end of the day.

Lee Odess 12:05
Yeah, it’s certainly becoming even blurrier. You can see different groups working with different groups and the rest of it and like you said, I do think a lot of it’s driven by the phone. And that’s usually a good indicator of you know, what, what people are doing on that side. So I’m excited to see that, I guess if people want to find out more information on home base, but then also what’s going on with T Mobile and the work that you’re doing? Um, where’s the best place to go?

Blake Miller 12:29
Yeah, you can always find us at home. And, you know, we’re pretty active there. We’re active on social media, you can find me in your comments, as well, usually. So,

Lee Odess 12:41
yeah, not done in a troll way. But yeah, my loving my dad is a classic stuff, my dog is in the room. Perfect. And that should depend to do with him. But anyways, but yeah, you’re not in a troll way. And value added way. So which is much appreciated, and always is so thank you, Blake, I really appreciate it. No, this is great. I’m excited to see the progress you all made. excited to see in 2021 when the service rolls out, and then we’ll see also just between now and the end of the year, you know, hopefully things in society turn a corner. And we can all sort of get back to work and, and learn from the stuff that’s gone on. But then also just, you know, try try to get through this. So

Blake Miller 13:20
try to get through it.

Lee Odess 13:21
I hear you so well. I appreciate it. Blake. Thanks. As always, it’s great to catch up and see.

Blake Miller 13:27
Lee, welcome to the Future Living podcast, man, I’m so glad to finally have you on how are you?

Lee Odess 13:32
I’m great. Thanks for the opportunity to be here. It’s I’m excited to do it. I’ve been a fan of it for for a while, even before we knew each other.

Blake Miller 13:39
Thank you, man, I really, really appreciate that. So since I obviously know who you are, and kind of a lot of your background, but our listeners don’t give everybody a little bit of your background. I love what you’re doing right now with inside access control and all of that. But you kind of you’ve seen how the entire access industry and really, really like the building industry has really come along over the year. So it really kind of introduce yourself and let everybody know who you are.

Lee Odess 14:08
Now, I appreciate the opportunity. So I’ll go in the, I guess, the Wayback Machine to about 20 years ago, man, I feel like an old man. But now for that I cut my teeth at a school at Lutron electronics and was into lighting control business and I bring it up because it’s sort of set me on a path I believe. I came into an industry that was dominated by electrical contractors, a lot of wired products, and I happen to join Lutron right when they they introduced a wireless lighting control system. And through that was taught, I would say the fundamentals of sort of, you know, where markets are going and a lot of ways and went out to an entire group of people that you know, didn’t necessarily want the technology but then users did so I was there for a while then did a bunch of stuff. Little startups here and there. Started My own. It’s called energy light control of my wife, which was an integration company. We did audio video lighting control, some solar system, some systems and some security. Sold that then I worked for brivo that’s how I got into the access control industry. Yeah. Was there through the sale, left there went down to uni key and Orlando tried to go hit a home run with a startup company and that

Blake Miller 15:25
we originally met, I think, Yeah,

Lee Odess 15:27
I think so. That might have been where it was. Yeah, cuz we

Blake Miller 15:30
were Andrew Thomas got us connected. Ah,

Lee Odess 15:33
yeah, yes, that is exactly yeah. That’s the guy. So it’s funny. I bet you he’s like Kevin Bacon of being

Blake Miller 15:42
one of the oh geez. He’s one of Oh, geez. For sure. Good, dude. Really great people. Good connector.

Lee Odess 15:47
Yeah. So did the Unity thing then wanted to move back to the DC area where I’m at now and joined the Legion was there for a couple years did their partnership programs and had a team and then so I’m going quick on it because now it’s all good. I bopped around a handful here and there. But uh, and then lately, the one I did now is January started, what is a consulting company called group 337. We’re working with companies that are looking for growth, initiatives in the access control smartlock space. And then at the same time, I was doing a newsletter that I just write about sort of where I think things are going and trying to have a point of view. And then a was interesting was started interviewing people I knew but like mics and lights and did the whole thing was like, Hey, I’m gonna give this a shot. Then COVID happens. Industry show shuts down next, you know? Yeah. And you were one of the early guys. I had 25 or so podcast interviews, and I started putting them out daily, and it got sponsored by the security industry. Fast forward a little bit there. We have three websites now. We’re doing about six podcasts. We’ve got two newsletters and in our creating content, so it’s like a media platform.

Blake Miller 17:08
Yeah, it’s great. But yeah,

Lee Odess 17:09
so that’s our focus. The idea, we have our niches of the industry around access control and security that somewhat overlap, but are still enough, if you took like the Seth Godin belief of the tribe, where you have like 1000 people, you have a brace, I looked at the industry and thought, I don’t think this is going to be like millions of people. But I do think it’s very passionate group of like a cottage industry of people that if you create some good content, good information, I also think there needs to be a platform and a place for voices of the industry versus just manufacturers. And you know, call it a good perfect storm of a, you know, a bad situation where something came out. Um, that’s where I think I’m at currently right now.

Blake Miller 17:53
Well, I love it. And this, I want to dig in there and really kind of unbundle that, if you will. And I’m going to use that a couple times pun intended. But like what I love so much around what you’re doing is what I’ve recognized is there’s like a generational shift happening and you are like bridging the gap with this kind of immediate empires I was giving you crap on your on your podcast, but you know, you are kind of breaking it down for everybody. Here’s this whole access control industry, which if you have been no idea coming into it hits across many different divisions and things and getting a building connected and different, whether it’s multifamily or commercial, or all these different things. And what you’ve kind of done with inside access control start to kind of break it out or unbundle all these different verticals or features within and so what are you hitting and how you see these different and why is it? Sure?

Lee Odess 18:45
And yeah, I mean, it’s really based off of some basic fundamentals. And at least where I’m at is a big heavy appetite for curiosity, of, you know, like, like these inspirations on our piano run and be like, Oh, these things come together. Let me let’s talk about it and create a, a conversation really around some of these ideas. And I do believe like you said, there’s phase changes were already happening in the industry where things are going more mobile technology based, human centric design, you pick your topic, ai big data, all right, yeah. And then it gets escalated because of what was happening with the COVID impacts, which really accelerated a lot of those face changes. And then now you have an industry, whether it’s commercial real estate multifamily, that are starting to pay more attention to it. So you have these two bridges, right, and then put on top of that, you’ve got a bunch of startups and money coming into space, you have people that are questioning the common practices of our industry. And that ability, like you said, the bridge the old and the new and it’s not like a I try to do it in a way that’s not saying you know, the old socks and the new is good? No, it’s like, there’s a lot of really good nield there’s an evolution that needs to happen. And I think through good storytelling and conversation and having point of views, I think that we can actually help push this along farther and better than it would be if people came in. Like, I always joke about, you know, if it’s a startup, it’s like, how many Stanford grads? Can you throw at it? And like, they, you know, they, they bought, they walk into like, Man, this channel’s difficult, you’re like, yeah, you didn’t need to waste a year to figure that out. And then you have the guide, which is like, Hey, I don’t tell me, I’m not a Stanford Graduate, I figure that out. I shouldn’t do an air quotes. But, um, and then you have a whole industry that, you know, I would say, in some cases, either feels challenged, or not appreciated, or, frankly, kind of wants to keep it cottage, and controlled. And, and you get, you get friction that’s created. So I’m trying to eliminate the friction and say, let’s all talk, let’s think about things maybe a little bit different. And I think we can move it along a lot faster.

Blake Miller 21:09
What’s so interesting to me, I think you’re the one that told me this, but you know, access control is basically a database, right? Like, you’re trying to figure this out. But what’s become so fast, or it’s been thought that way for so long, is now is the end user experience, and how that relates to who’s coming and going, like, how does this become like I’ve always looked at access. And it’s surprising to me that people haven’t really seen this within the industry, it seems like some maybe do is access is literally like, it’s the building operating system, and everything’s built around it. Why is that becoming so much the case? And why? Why do you summon some people in industry not see that hurt?

Lee Odess 21:48
Yeah, because I think so if you go way back all the way back to like, not joking here, but like, the caveman times, right, where they put boulders in front of doors to keep bad people out, right? That’s the essence of our industry, it was built off of that idea of around protection and safety. And it’s about security. And it’s primarily been about keeping bad people out. So you put up barriers and things like that. And a way to control it in a lot of ways was identity was given to the person which was you’re given a card, the end user, the consumer, that’s all you had. And really the people that our systems were built for, were the installers who set the systems up, and the administrators that did the admin the systems, and then the end, users would just get the cards and as long as it worked, you didn’t have to worry about them. So fast forward a little bit, you have things like mobile, and you have new people that are coming in to the space saying, you know, I want to have convenience, as well, and technology. And they’re really challenging. Some of the things we’re before our industry, the whole idea around convenience was, if it was convenient, it was probably insecure. So right, you purposely put barriers up to keep people out, right. So that’s what that’s where you get some friction between the two, then you have health comes in with COVID. Now you have another part of it, where the systems that we have before that we’re kind of out of the way unless something bad happened, or now trying to help make people have awareness to be safe, healthy, you know, density reports, on touch list, not grabbing things. So like we’re part of now this bigger value proposition. And what’s interesting to me is reason why I think access control also gets a lot of attention is it’s one of the only things that go in, that are like a must have. And it also drives adoption. Like, I could maybe ignore, you know, the, I don’t know, latte ordering tenant experience application. But if I have to use this thing to get into the building, I’m going to use it. So right, that’s usually where people end up going is like, I’m gonna go get access control built into this. So that people the usability of my application goes up, and then I’m going to wrap around features around it. The issue there that you run into in that case is that a lot of the historical systems that we have or never set up for that use case now. Right? So they don’t have the API is maybe, maybe in some cases, they don’t want to even do it, because again, that seems a little bit insecure to the system. So they fight it. But that’s why I think it seemed as the backbone In my opinion, though, it’s actually a feature of this operating system that you’re talking to, but right now, because it’s one of the stickiest parts, it becomes the centerpiece.

Blake Miller 24:40
Totally. And that’s the interesting thing that I think is being kind of the the tech innovator that would that’s coming into this industry. I didn’t nothing about it, and I thought, we’ll just sell smart locks to apartment owners and they’d be like, yeah, totally, we’re in until I realized that like, well, there’s like 13 different people that actually touch That door going into that new building or, you know, however, you’re going to manage all these different things, right? And so seeing this and wondering, like, you know, are locks just going to become a feature or of a greater building operating system or something like that? Or, you know, do they literally unlock, like the one thing that you’re doing, which is managing four walls and a roof, and who can come and go, when they can come and go have the different types of buildings can now be managed all with under one roof? And then seeing what that smart access can actually then enable in terms of that remote management? Those sorts of things?

Lee Odess 25:39
Yeah, I mean, my take on that is, you know, in these forums, we always, also, I think, it’s fair to, for us to say is, we always talk high level sort of binary, it’s either this or that, but there’s always gray in between, uh, you know, you could argue half of the things I say, with examples, but talking in a broad scale, I actually think, yes, the lock, in my opinion, there’s some table stakes stuff that it does, like, it has to be secure and safe. And I do think that you do have some gadgets that have come into the space that maybe don’t do that, as well. And I do think over time, those those will get

Blake Miller 26:12
things like that when like, what do you mean by that?

Lee Odess 26:14
Uh, meaning, like locks that aren’t built real? Well, or, you know, don’t have,

Blake Miller 26:20
you know, there’s really, there’s so many locks out there right now,

Lee Odess 26:22
right? Like, it’s, it’s insane on how many there are in, you know, there are some standards and things like that, that I think would be well advised for people to actually care more about in some, some do and apply them. So like bH ma ratings, and you can look up what those are, and maybe I’ll put them in show notes in that. But like there’s, you know, fire ratings and things like that, that these are like, sorry about that.

Blake Miller 26:47
Right? Like there’s a life safety products, right. And that’s exactly right. But, you know, there’s a lot of competitors popping up in our space, and they’re just using these residential base smart locks to try to grow really fast, because they’re cheaper and, and all these things in this in the multifamily industry and those, they don’t meet code, they, they break down a lot, they create issues, and, you know, they might have 10 codes on that basically is like giving out your passcode you know, all these different things.

Lee Odess 27:17
Yeah, I think those things will catch up to themselves, I believe this is I think, when you have sort of the the hyper acceleration of getting into the marketplace, and, you know, tools get used inappropriately in a lot of places. But I think, as things level out, that’s why I like to think of it as the sort of the hype cycle, right, where you get all these people that get into it really high, and then at some point, it drops down a little bit, it won’t be back to normal of work, things are out, but the watermark will be a bit higher. And I think that fat between the two of them, people that either flash in the pan using that the right stuff. But to be fair to, I actually celebrated a little bit, because I think it puts pressure on the norm that we used to have before where there wasn’t necessarily this push or desire to actually accelerate some of the innovation that is needed also. Because if you think about it, a lot of the locks that existed on the marketplace for a long time, didn’t support the software centric solutions like that you want I mean, you know, you and I’ve been through this like six or seven times. But like, how hard it is to get companies to get on board with the idea of supporting software centric solutions. So like the paradigm shift, change of the mind, where it’s like, this lock software forever was actually built to motorize it right, and now you’re looking to do a whole bunch of other stuff that it wasn’t necessarily built for. So that only takes time. And frankly, in my opinion, to get to the point where it’s where it’s built properly.

Blake Miller 28:50
Well, it takes time that sure. And you know, where I’ve seen a lot of stuff too, and we’ve talked about is, is then the business model has to change, right? Because right now, you know, it’s you got this caused this big capex costs, you know, it’s gonna be one thing, if you’re putting it in a new building, you’re gonna have to spend that anyway. But to retrofit, it’s a cap x. And then you got to figure out how to I pay for it monthly, or, or whatever. And you’ve got the software that’s bringing it all together companies like us at home base, but then you’ve got the manufacturers, companies like schlager, companies like eco B, that are now trying to figure out what we sold the thing and now we’ve got to support the thing, how do we or support the software? How do we do that? How are How are? How’s the industry thinking about those things?

Lee Odess 29:36
Yeah, I think they’re they’re there. It’s like, the way they’re thinking about his arm wrestling with it at this point. So I think he has some pressures. So if I’m, you know, the thermostat companies or lock companies, all of them, if you think about it, so they built that lock, they built that thermostat, whatever it was based off of a financial analysis that was done, I don’t know 510 years ago. That was really based off of hardware sales. So they have, you know, margins they have to meet, there’s cost associated expenses in the rest, right? It was built with a a plan that didn’t include No offense, you injure, right? Or like you, right? So you’re, there’s a, there’s an entire shift in the way that these things need to get paid for. Now, to be fair to them. There’s also a cost that now is being introduced, that wasn’t also thought about or appreciated or figured out, like, how are we going to pay for this thing? Right, so. So that’s a long way of me saying there’s reasons why. But I agree with you that we always in our in the industry, and I think in the technology industry, we want to solve every problem with technology, when in some cases, this might actually just be a business problem. And taking new business models and to apply them to this might break open an entire new universe, if you would, to wear those pressures of the people that are selling like cheap locks, or, you know, cheap thermostats or whatever it might be that that you may find out that the people that make the robust stuff, if they just tweak their models a little bit and got, I think, a little bit more curious into the methods, maybe had some courage into the longer tail. Right, that that they may find out in the end, that actually has returned a much greater return than they were getting with the traditional model. But I think the difference is, I wrote something a long time ago called the devil, you know, versus the devil, you don’t know. Yeah, a lot of these places you’re not allowed to not, you’re not allowed to participate with the W don’t know. And that that to me. And again, if I’m sorry, I go on a tangent here, but I love it that also then I think the main driver, the base behind all this are human beings. And it’s the actual sort of emotional intelligence and self awareness to take a step back and pure, like human behavior and just understanding all that the psychology to have to take the risk. And to do those things to trust maybe in some cases. I think it boils down to that it has nothing to do with someone having a blue blink your light and somebody else.

Blake Miller 32:19
Yeah, no, I agree. I mean, and the thing is, is like you’re seeing this, it you got to when it comes down the business mother dollars and cents is you’ve got the you’ve got multiple divisions that go into getting a complete access solution, let alone then a video surveillance, all these different things that all add up to one big budget. And then there’s only so much operating expense budget to go around for property as I’m speaking specifically for, you know, commercial world. So how do you make it all work? You know, do you put together it all into one service plan or finance at all? We’ve seen, I saw brivo just recently announced a financing deal, you know, today. Yeah, so it’s just like, it’s interesting to see these different types of models coming around, because you only have so much that you can charge unless you can guarantee savings, like some of these, like LED, you know, financing deals.

Lee Odess 33:16
Yeah. My thought on this is that I think we’re going through a weird teen tween age right now where I think a couple things have to happen. I do think there needs to be some consolidation, like right now, to bring one solution to the market. There’s like 16 people involved, and everybody’s got to eat. And when everybody’s got to eat, it makes it way, way, way too expensive in the end for somebody, right. So I think if we’re being honest that that has a lot to do with it currently right now, right?

Blake Miller 33:44
Yeah, your dad told me I get it. Right. Right. Kind of on that, like one of the best things. Actually, the probably the best advice I got a long time. He’s like, you got to figure out what industry you want to disrupt first, like, just get you got to accept some of these things and just realize that this has been going on for a long time. This way.

Lee Odess 34:01
Yeah. So I think it was last week’s newsletter I did to one of the things that I I started thinking about was, so a lot of people listen to Scott Galloway. Professor Galloway right there. He talks about the Rundle on that in if you think about that he was listening to one of his presentations, and he had some interesting thing of like, why doesn’t Nike get with Lulu lemon which gets with somebody else? Yeah. And across sector sort of bundles of products that go right? Where it makes me think like, if you think about the ecosystem in partnership way that we do things currently right now, it’s still pretty siloed by there’s connectors at the top, but then like, you go an inch deep and it’s silos all over the place. Right? Absolutely. We’re makes you wonder like if I took that top area of partnership, which is high level, predominantly, mainly technical, that’s it. Yeah. If I was in then like a sliver of market If I was to expand that even more, and basically look at it as an entire unit that went through, and maybe on this one, you don’t make as much as the next one the rest, but can I think about like, could you dominate that area by doing that? So I wonder sometimes like, are incumbents going to go work with some startups? And do that incumbents working with other incumbents? If I’m a venture backed startup, do I go get, you know, six of my buddies that are also because your your metrics are a little bit different than, you know, incumbents metrics? So can they stomach that? You know, gross? Like, I don’t know, it makes me think that that goes back to the business model area that I don’t think it’s going to be just a math problem or technical, I think it’s a business structure business model that has to come along with it. And sorry, another tangent here a lot. I also think the guest has to change their expectations. Right? Like, like, there, there needs to be, I think, an appreciation in some due to the benefits. And maybe it’s bad storytelling by undersea, because we haven’t told them, like the value creation story enough. But I also think the, the people receiving the information need to look at these things beyond them just being utility. Yeah, and looking at all of the value that they can create, whether it’s marketing, you know, its its retention, you know, yeah, factor all that stuff.

Blake Miller 36:26
I totally agree. And there’s all those things that play into it. The other piece of it, though, is their side of it is broken, right, unless they’re owning and managing their properties on their own, whether it’s office space, or multifamily, whatever it is, they’ve got a third party property manager, and if they’ve got these things that, you know, help them manage a property more efficiently, it’s going to save in the property management, that property management company doesn’t usually give those rewards in those savings back right to digital transformation. It gets them to take out of their underwriting costs that it takes to manage a property with X amount of maintenance people or something. But now they don’t have to because there’s there is no smart locks. Are there is no lockouts because of smart locks, or anything like that. It’s a total shift in that that thinking?

Lee Odess 37:14
Yeah, I mean, that, again, that shifting your thinking, maybe there’s some consolidation that end as well? Yeah, I think there’s a whole that’s, that’s what’s exciting about the current period that we’re in right now. Because it’s, we’re literally flying the plane while building it and a lot of ways and there isn’t like a period where we can just say, like, stop, and like everyone stands still. And they let’s figure it out now. So it’s gonna be awkward for a little bit.

Blake Miller 37:40
Yeah. And what’s exciting though, is there’s so many great competitors and lots of different kind of takes in the market across so many different kind of niches that it’s making it a very, like, front and center mainstream, like, Matt, like see change happening. Pretty exciting. Absolutely. Dude, this has been awesome conversation. We’re running out of time, but I’ve got some lightning round questions that I’ve been dying to ask you. So the first one my favorite one is, what business or service is going to be obsolete in the next 10 years. Who’s the next blockbuster?

Lee Odess 38:17
What business and service will be obsolete in the next 10 years?

Blake Miller 38:21

Lee Odess 38:23
obsolete or service? Man? You caught me off guard on that one. Trying to think so I guess if I if I was going to take a look at. I mean, if I could be fair, I’ll put I’ll be a homer pick. Okay. Yeah. I actually think the mechanical lock business is at some point, this idea where we have these categories of smart locks, connect locks and rest. I think the technology gets so inexpensive and easy to implement. and the value store is so great, that you could actually see cost drive down to where I could see a day where, you know, we’re currently right now, let’s say majority are still mechanical. I think it flips on that end. So I could I could see that within the next five year I could see somebody in our industry, making a bold statement and just saying no more mechanical, everything has some aspect of technology inside of it, whether it’s pulling data out, or it’s actually full on motorized and a full on foot, but it will you will be able to get a technology lock that has smarts inside of it. Hundred percent

Blake Miller 39:37
does is one of the big No, no. Trying to figure out exactly how it’s gonna phase out. I totally agree. I mean, I’ll be Sam over on that too. And my follow up question to that is does one of the big like tech companies end up buying one of these massive lock companies like a legion or Asa boy or somebody like that? Do they make it just a total feature of their service? Is this Walmart consolidate? Does Amazon consolidate?

Lee Odess 40:06
I don’t I don’t think so. I mean, I can see them offering the products themselves in some respect or OEM it, but I don’t, I think for a lot of reason whether you know it the mark that mark, it’s not necessarily big enough for them to do it, right. Like, you get to those companies. And these got to be billion dollar like big. Like, I just, I don’t think so frankly, and that and I do think that partnerships get tighter solutions start to get more custom if you were to purposeful built on that end, guy. Um, but I don’t I don’t see one of them doing that, frankly.

Blake Miller 40:46
What, uh, what platform will kind of reign supreme in the future? Like, obviously, the phone changed everything and create it create everything voices reign supreme, what’s what what sort of thing? Really, is that next platform over the next 10 years?

Lee Odess 41:04
Yeah, I think like, just discoverable type, you know, I, I’m looking forward. And I don’t know if the technology what the technology is going to be. There’s a whole bunch that are out there currently now trying to be it. But I really believe this sort of plug and play aspect of products across platform that are discoverable in the rest, like, like we as an industry, and as an, you know, a technology industry have done a disservice to the customers to that where we’ve had to make them decide and figure out, you know, religious wars around is it ZigBee, or Z wave or what, like, whatever it might be. That’s nonsense, in my opinion. And so I think we grow up a bit more on that end. And if we don’t, someone’s going to make us whether it’s the big tech companies, or, you know, it’s big, you know, let’s say on the multifamily side, big, big owners that just make selections and say you either have to do this, or you’re not participating anymore. I’m not putting up with this. But I I feel like that whoever does that. And I do think that will happen. At some point, I think that that’s going to drive and it shifts, again, I think that those things don’t matter anymore. And I think that would be whether it’s mobile, whether it’s a lock a thermostat, you want to bring a computer in, I don’t care what it is, again, as these things become more connected, they get more cloud oriented. You know, there’s, there’s a handful of operating systems that will, you know, handle a lot of the localized type type stuff. I think the Hokey Pokey dance that all the homeowners and all of the installers have to do to configure that all goes away. I think

Fingers crossed, fingers crossed on that we’ll see.

I don’t know who it’s gonna be. But I’m encouraged by it

Blake Miller 42:51
definitely seems like a lot of work, work heading that way. We’ve talked a lot about technology’s changing everything, changing the access industry, changing how we build buildings, what’s something that it’s not going to change?

Lee Odess 43:03
I do believe you’re going to still need installers and somebody to put it in. I know everybody talks about that, that’s going to go away. But you talked earlier before, there’s code requirements, it’s life safety. And I, you know, I think the way products get distributed might change. But I think this expertise in a trade, I don’t think it’s going to go away. You know, I think, you know, cost per door type stuff goes away, down, not away, but down. I think different business models get introduced. You know, I think there’s a lot of things that morfitt, but having a trade that that understands, you know, when things go bad, or how to make things consistent. And that skill set, I think that that’s going to be around for a while.

Blake Miller 43:50
So we’ve got a lot of folks that are listening, that are thinking about, you know, the next type of buildings that they’re building, or even figuring out what you know, value out of ways to retrofit their buildings, using kind of smart technology. What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give them right now guy, there’s post COVID, trying to figure out what happens next world?

Lee Odess 44:09
Yeah, get real curious, and have somebody internally be your center of excellence, if you would have this. I wouldn’t outsource all of it to anybody. Because there’s so much information, so many more companies, it’s only going to get worse, if you would, that having a level of somebody internally that is the owner of that type of information. And I would I would roll it into however your organization set up. It’s an important piece, this is not a feature anymore. So just like you know, you handle some other things within your, your buildings and the way you make selections and the way the things you prioritize. I would prioritize this way up there and I don’t know if it’s a, you know, again, different people have different structures but The the idea of having a statement where you’re like, Well, I didn’t know. It’s I don’t think the the that you’re going to be allowed to do that anymore.

Blake Miller 45:11
We tell everybody how they can find you online. I’ll make sure it’s on the show notes as well. No, I appreciate it.

Lee Odess 45:16
LinkedIn is a great way to get me. You know, to LinkedIn and Lee Odess is there. Twitter @lodess is another good way. You can email me at or text message me, 2029998180 I think it’s a good way to communicate for some people happy to do it that way too.

Blake Miller 45:37
Absolutely. It’s good. You’re always got great advice. Lee. Thanks so much. It’s such a great conversation.

Lee Odess 45:43
Hey, Blake, always good to see about it.

Abbey Wemimo & Samir Goel on Rent in America

What’s happening with Rent in America right now. It’s the middle of a pandemic. Are people able to make rent? Let’s level set.

Abbey Wemimo & Samir Goel are the Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Esusu, the leading financial technology company helping individuals save money and build credit. Esusu’s groundbreaking rent reporting platform captures rental payment data and reports it to credit bureaus to boost credit scores. The company’s mission is to provide financial solutions that pave a permanent bridge to financial access and inclusion.


  1. Introductions
  2. What is happening with rent right now?
  3. How does this affect landlords?
  4. What is Esusu’s Rent Relief campaign?
  5. How does Esusu help to build a renter’s credit?
  6. What ways does this help renters and landlords?
  7. Why do this?
  8. Lightning round.



Blake Miller 0:02
Welcome to the Future of Living podcast. I’m your host Blake Miller. Today we have two guests on the episode. We’ve got my friends Samir and Abbey from Esusu. They’re working on rent relief programs. You should check it out.

Samir and Abbey, how you guys doing? We’ve got a different type of podcast going on with two people today. I’m so excited to get caught up with you guys today. What’s going on?

Abbey Wemimo 0:24
It’s going well man, Blake. Thank you for having us. We’re very excited to share what we’ve been building at Esusu, particularly during these tough times.

Samir Goel 0:33
Thanks for having us, Blake. Excited to be here with you.

Blake Miller 0:35
Yeah, why don’t real quick you guys give each of your backgrounds that led you guys know what you’re doing because I think you’ve got some unique insights in your backgrounds that really led you guys to what you’re doing.

Abbey Wemimo 0:46
Absolutely, Blake. For me, one of the biggest inspiration behind co-founding Esusu with Samir is due to personal experience. For context, I was born in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria, lost my father at the age of two. And I was raised by my spirited and mother and two feisty sisters. I had the opportuniy to come to the United States, because I was afforded one of the finest education anyone can ask for. I mean, came to the United States, we didn’t have a credit score financial identity, walked into one of the biggest banks to borrow money were turned away. Because no financial identity, we didn’t think the banker in Minneapolis, Minnesota was racist, but it’s just because they didn’t have enough data to underwrite the risk they have in front of them. So consequently, we’ll walk down the streets and borrow money at over 400% interest rates from a predatory lender. And in addition to that, my mother sold my father’s wedding ring, and a bunch of her jewelry so we can get a fighting chance and starting points in this country. So the impetus for starting a Cisco corporate corporate experience working in places like Goldman Sachs, PwC, and the European Commission is really where you come from the color of your skin, and your financial identity should not determine where you end up in life. That’s the real emphasis here. And we continue to fight for folks along the way. But above all, make sure the multifamily landlords we’re also working with also profitable With that said, a pass it too Samir to share a little bit about himself.

Samir Goel 2:21
Thanks a lot, Abbey. And so like Abbey said, its history really stems from a personal place for us both. For me, my story is really my folks immigrated here from New Delhi, India, and frankly, thought we had made it they were chasing the American dream. And that just wasn’t the experience they had here. On my father’s first day in this country, he was mugged. We had a place to stay, or so we thought and that place wasn’t able to shelter us. And so my parents really started out with no money, no credit score, and nowhere to go. And so watching them work miracles throughout my childhood, the simple thought I was left with was, it shouldn’t be so hard for people who work hard every single day of their lives, to have a fighting chance. And that’s really the impetus behind why Abbey and I started the Esusu. Like Abbey said, no matter where you come from the color of your skin, your zip code, it shouldn’t determine where you end up in life. Fortunately, you know, I had an opportunity to get a great education and work in the public sector and private sector. But at some point, you know, Abbey and I, who have now been friends for eight years, pretty much work husbands at this point, decided that we wanted to use our as we like to say, our minds for business with a heart for the world to really do something that could impact the communities that we come from.

Blake Miller 3:27
Man I just love your guys’s background, and like kind of your vision just like your mission and what you’re doing. And you know, before we really hop into what you guys are doing, because I think it’s really revolutionary. And it’s such a need especially now is like I want to talk about what’s happening. Now we’re taping here, beginning of August, middle of this thing called COVID the pandemic. But we had a lot of, you know, social equity awareness. A lot of probably not doing a justice saying it that way. But you’re just there’s a lot going on in 2020, right? Talk to me about what’s happening with rent in America today. And kind of where people are at people paying rent, are they able to and what’s happening?

Abbey Wemimo 4:09
Blake, that’s a fantastic question. And thank you for acknowledging the hard history of the United States. For listeners a little bit of a context, the large income inequality we have in the United States in the United States today. It’s not an accident. It’s a derivative of systemic oppression that has operated since the founding of this country, just because the second group of people, particularly African Americans, were not considered as equal. And that has been an underscored in cases whereby the Federal Housing Authority from the 30s through the 1960s, fundamentally discriminated against African Americans and didn’t give them cheap mortgages, in some cases, when they actually went to go fight for this country, in different places across the world that has created the largest wealth gap in the history of the world, quite frankly. So where are we today, where we are is the average white family as 10 times as more wealth than the average black family, and the biggest driver of wealth is homeownership, which encompasses roughly 76% of individual wealth. So with that backdrop, what is going on from a rent standpoint today, the data we are seeing, because we’re very close to it as when we when we when we saw COVID-19 hit, for my data, we saw over 62% of folks were at risk of not meeting your rent obligations. Thankfully, the federal government stepped in and created stimulus programs to make sure people could stay in their homes. And have been trying increase that number to now around 93%. But, we see an impasse in Congress today whereby, you know, stimulus has not been passed, we don’t know what’s going to happen to unemployment benefits, and this creates a huge uncertainty particularly in the housing industry. So given that backdrop of systemic oppression, and the majority of folks this issue affects is African Americans and another minority groups, well, we do have a what we have on our hands right now is just a symptom of a larger disease of economic inequality, which permeates into the property technology space, or that property management space, whereby come August today, actually, August, people might not be able to meet their rents obligation reports out from the Washington Post, Politico, New York Times that quarter, a quarter, a quarter of Americans will not be able to meet their rent obligations, which is absolutely disastrous, when we think about the wealth of the greatest nation on the surface of the earth. So when we do that, as soon as soon to tackle this issue, add on was just to create programs called the Rent Relief Fund, which are let’s dig a little bit deeper into.

Blake Miller 6:59
Yeah, and real quick, before you hop into that. Now I want to kind of touch on, you know, what happens if 25% people don’t pay their rent? Right? You know, a lot of people do think that, you know, there’s a lot of huge landlords that can, you know, help sustain that for a little bit. And that might be the case. But, you know, 80% of rentals aren’t owned by huge landlords, or by small business people their own like by mom and pops. And so what is the chain reaction of these things that we don’t solve it? I do want to hop into the Rent Relief stuff. But if we don’t solve it, like what happens here in the next 30, 60, 90 days?

Samir Goel 7:36
Yeah, Blake. That’s, that’s a great question. And I’m glad you kind of brought that up. Because I think oftentimes, we look at these issues as one sided, right, there’s a lot of talk around the tenant, which is incredibly important, because what’s going to happen is, people not being able to pay rent is a symptom of losing their jobs. And now, because they can’t pay rent, the risk is that they get evicted. And because they don’t have a job, they can’t get a home. And then we have a massive homelessness process problem, which will disproportionately affect black and brown communities, right, that’s the tenant crisis. But at the same time, to your point, landlords don’t want to be the bad guy. Sometimes, maybe they’re awful landlord, but most of them are just trying to run a business and meet their net operating income, so that they can continue to meet their investor returns, and also take home money for their families. And to your point, you know, if they’re some of these large, you know, 50,000 unit plus, landlords might be able to sustain this for a few months, but even they will have problems. But for mom and pop landlords, their margins are incredibly thin, right? Sometimes on a property, they’re taking home a couple hundred bucks a month. And that’s all they really have. And so the risk is, either they have to evict a bunch of tenants, which is awful for people, and probably awful for them, because it’s actually very expensive to evict. Or alternatively, if they’re unable to do so they’re just taking losses and potentially go under, at which point a big institution, let’s say like a Blackstone of the world goes and buys it up, and then further kind of destroys the ecosystem, right? And so this isn’t really a landlord verse tenant thing, what we’re dealing with is something unforeseen a year ago, literally no one could have predicted COVID and the impact it would have. And that means that we need intervention from institutions, from government, from policy to really make sure that there’s a win here for tenants and for landlords. We can’t leave either behind in this situation.

Blake Miller 9:19
But let’s talk about that you guys are doing. You know, you first started with start talking about the Rent Relief Program. I think that’s a great place to kind of hop off and start digging in there. And then I want to talk about kind of the right product and service you guys are offering.

Samir Goel 9:35
So yeah, from the rent relief campaign, I think Abbey started to touch on this. But essentially, when we saw the data that we did, which was 62% of our tenants are unlikely to meet their rent obligations. We had to take a step back and think about how can we show up for our tenants but also our landlords who are partners in our ecosystem players. Right. And so we launched a public rent relief campaign. We raised over $200,000 in a couple weeks stemming from our foundation count Like Acumen Fund, and global good fund and just individual donors who were compelled to do something to support renters and landlords, and then we leveraged our network of over 200,000 rental units across the US to reach out and ask tenants to apply for rent relief. And once they apply, we do a quick diligence process. And if they’re approved, we actually pay the landlord directly. And then this ensures that the landlord is able to meet their net operating income to that the rent that the relief actually goes towards paying rent. And then we work with the tenants on repayment. So that way, there isn’t further perpetuating this essentially, baggage heavy relationship between a tenant and a landlord instead, work with tenants, we offer them a three month grace period, we understand their circumstances are willing to be flexible on payments, and we make sure that there’s an opportunity for them to get back on their feet. Because our goal here is really to buy time, right? Because government intervention takes time, it’s slow. As we can see in Congress, things have been stalled for weeks and weeks. But if we’re able to buy time, so that tenants are able to keep their roots, landlords are able to stay in business. And that might not have been for a larger policy intervention to actually address some of these issues in a bigger macro way, then, then we would have achieved our objective. So that’s really what we’re trying to do here with this fund.

Blake Miller 11:17
And that seems like such a helpful thing. Yeah. Have you guys already put all that money to work?

Abbey Wemimo 11:24
Yes, Blake. We’ve put majority of the capital to work the exciting thing is now this rent reliefd is starting to evolve into a product within a Esusu. So Esusu is going to be launching or we have actually started partnering with reasonable lenders to launch something we call the housing stability loans, which is, you know, moving forward, someone can add up for their rent to actually create an assistant whereby we can stand in place for the tenants give them the benefit of doubt, and help them by time. So then what the carpets were raised with depleted, but we we just recently partnered with Kiva, which has, you know, loaned over $1.7 billion to continue to deploy this cash and a plethora of CDFIs and credit union, which their core focus is to provide this affordable loans to individuals, it’s just creating this network effect pointing capital to where it should be. So as a society, we’re not solving homelessness backwards.

Blake Miller 12:24
That’s really awesome. I’m gonna have to keep up to date on that, we’ll see how it goes. I mean, it’s like, it’s an exciting thing that you guys have already deployed all that attack, like just the quickness in which it is, but it’s also kind of pressing in that he had to deploy that, you know, where we’re at everything. Um, you know, I really want to dive into what Esusu is as a product, because the way I understand it is you guys are helping people not only save, but also build credit. And you know, as somebody who personally is a renter, renter out of convenience, renter out of, like, the amenities of these things, and what it affords me to be able to spend my time on, I’m obviously not accruing, you know, any basically anything for that, except for the freedom of my time, which I do value significantly. Other people don’t have that, that luxury of those things. You know, they’re they’re renting because they don’t have the ability to buy a home or anything like that. Talk to me about how you guys were doing, because I think it’s so needed.

Samir Goel 13:28
Yeah. Thanks for that question Blake and also outlining some of the different categories of renters there. So what we’re doing at Esusu is really straightforward as you as a renter, when you pay your rent on time, we report that data into the credit bureaus. So you’re able to build and establish credit. And if you think about it, it makes sense rent is for most people 30 to 50% of their income, yet we don’t use it to determine their financial worthiness. And Abbey and I looked at ourselves, I thought, that’s just ridiculous, right? Because most renters are also folks with limited credit access and opportunity. And so there’s a direct overlay between renters, immigrants, minorities, college students, lower income populations, for the most part. And so this was really an opportunity to provide that kind of opportunity to access credit and build a financial identity. The way that we do this is really straightforward. We partner mostly with large multifamily owners and operators integrate with their system of record. So their yardie their real page MRI for all you property management software nerds capture that data and then report it into Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. And people are able to build and establish credit. And for the landlords, the main benefit of this is that it helps them drive on time payments, so they see an uptick of 25%. And on time payments, and then for tenants like yourself, Blake, who are probably great tenants. It’s another amenity that helps you keep your best tenants in your building. Right, it adds that additional value. It’s like oh, I want to keep renting somewhere on building credit because whether I want to buy a car or a home or just refinance other debt or take out a loan It’ll help me on that journey. And so it really serves is that useful amenity. And beyond that we started pairing additional products like building stability and the housing stability loans, but I’ll pass that over to Abbey to share a little bit more about some of the additional services we’re offering.

Abbey Wemimo 15:16
Yeah, thanks a lot Samir. One of the other interesting things we’re doing Blake is we’re answering simple questions. An example is during COVID-19, can my residents pay the rent on time? Big questions we’re providing in on predictive analytics, identifying tenants that cannot necessarily pay the rent on time not to evict them but rather to a pay them with housing stability loans. So the tenants can accept the loans and landlord actually gets the cash. And through the process we’ve described previously, giving them three months moratorium, to not pay the money back and given them invest flexible payment terms, that’s not draconian compared to what’s in the market this today. So that’s what we think is the winning recipe here. Help tenants get credits for paying rent on time, which if you have a poor credit score can cost you about a quarter million dollars in your life. Number two for the landlord is if there’s uncertainty help understand the risk profile of tenants. And then above all, it doesn’t just stop it understand the risk profile, what is the action, which is providing affordable, reputable financial products to tenants, so they’re not being evicted. And the landlord’s also not suffering. What we found is proximity is addressed a little bit of the biggest issues we have in society today, what we are doing is just essentially a stopgap measure albeit a win win solution moment. And one thing it want to underscores is we need a national strategy particularly stemming from Congress to address the deep roots in a systemic inequality.

Blake Miller 16:57
You said stopgap there. And that’s it. Like, I’m usually the eternal optimist, like this is great. I think if anything, what, what this, what 2020 has given me as an experience is to, you know, try to think about what the other side is happening. And what happens if nothing was happening, if nothing itself here, you know, and now you have renters that have just taken on more debt, they still don’t have jobs, they still have these things. You know, what happens here? And are we just kicking the can down the road? And how do we fix this stuff,

Abbey Wemimo 17:36
So Blake, you know, I am an immigrant to the United States, I’ve done a lot of studying about this country. One thing that’s clear is the optimism of this country and makes it second to none. Every time that things appear as bleak American stepped up to the plate, and I’m a fundamental optimist, that there’s always a rainbow after the storm. So let’s go back down memory lane. Number one during the Depression, what happened, it was a lot of hopelessness. But under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, we had great strides, the medicare and medicaid medicare plan, we had Glass Steagall, to separate investment banking operations, from the regular checking accounts operations, we had a lot of big strider land grant initiative also led in that era, I fundamentally believe we can do something here, that is really going to right the wrongs of the past. And that systemic inequality we’ve collectively created as a nation, some of the tactical things you can do from a policy standpoint, which we’ll recommend is to create a $1 trillion loan loss reserve fund to right the wrongs of the past. And people might say this is crazy, but it’s not. What we asking is set aside $1 trillion if there are lenders out there that want to borrow money, so people can afford the rent. Let them unleash that capital right now while we figure out what’s going on in Congress so people can stay in their homes. And I will tell you the cost of make folks being homeless out there is greater than the serious crisis we’re going to have. So it’s a little…

Blake Miller 19:13
For a lot of people especially the extra capital-minded people will say, how does that make any sense? But I think that it’s it’s, it costs us more to have people homeless than to do anything to do anything else, right?

Abbey Wemimo 19:27
You got to Blake, so let’s do the math. Right. The math is simple. If on average, you spend $135,000 on on homeless folks, you know, suppressed health institutions, the ramifications of society itself crimes, that’s just an approximate, you multiply that times, you know, roughly 70 million people that’s going to cost society over a long time 15 trillion dollars, simple math. We’re not doing complex addressable market math yet. But if we take that math and say $1 trillion, so we prevent people. On average, they get, let’s say, five to $10,000 in zero interest loans. And if they can pay back, that’s great. If they can’t pay back the loan loss reserve one kicks in, just like insurance security, to make sure that people are not kicked out. It’s simple math. It’s a simple process, we’re asking for here. I once you…

Blake Miller 20:20
Sorry, I was just gonna say, I mean, it seems like having something like this in place, with also maybe doing something around stimulus and building and just helping us to build our way out. Provide people jobs, to build affordable housing, that is people off the streets. And, you know, I think that gives you kind of some ethic people. You know, frankly, to me what would be smart stimulus to come out of this stuff, because I think you only have to build got support people.

Abbey Wemimo 20:51
You got it, you got it. And that’s the right way to think about it is building net, not losing the ground. We have we’ve gained for the past now 12 years since the financial crisis. And above all closing the racial wealth gap, this that’s the real issue here. Majority of folks now suffer African Americans and Native Americans and Latino communities. Let’s just call a spade a spade. Until we address that issue. If there’s another pandemic, we’re going to be back to, you know, where we are. So if we’re not thinking about those things, and not thinking about the income wealth divide, in economic terms the Gini coefficient, we’re wasting our time.

Blake Miller 21:32
Samir, what I saw you I saw you we’re gonna hop in, and what do we have to add there?

Samir Goel 21:36
No, I think I think Abbey was quite comprehensive there. So I’m very aligned with all the all the points of views that were shared. But I think like, to your point, right, which is like you, we need to build our way out of this. That’s exactly what we did after the Great Depression, right? Under FDR. We had all these initiatives, we built highways, we did parks, we did all these things that employed everyday Americans in jobs that at the same time, elevated our country. And the reality is that we can’t just sit back and do nothing. Because if you know, 10s of millions people lose their job lose their homes, like every business suffers. Every business crumbles, people can’t buy things. Pete there’s more crime, there’s more issues, there’s more depression, America is already going through a mental health crisis right now, right? Like our society is being torn apart of its fabric. And that was before COVID. Right? We had all these issues around structural racial wealth inequalities, we had issues around mental health, you know, and these things are only going to accelerate if we don’t actually do something. So it’s not a choice really, for Congress. Congress needs to do something. The question is what, but just letting things happen is not an option either.

Blake Miller 22:39
Yeah, unfortunately, we’re starting to run out of time here. I guess that’s what happens when we got the double the fun on the on the podcast, right? But I always end everything with two with lightning round questions. And I’m gonna hit you both with two different ones. My favorite one to start each one though, is what product or service is going to be the next blockbuster, like, in other words, who’s completely obsolete in the next 10 years? Samir I want you to go first.

Samir Goel 23:05
Wow, that’s… Wow, I did not see that one coming. Like, be honest. that one that one was a real curveball.

Blake Miller 23:15
The fun one, there’s been some great answers.

Samir Goel 23:18
Wait, payday loans. That is going to be completely obsolete in 10 years, we’re gonna eradicate that industry from start to bottom because we’re gonna have better ways to essentially underwrite risk.

Blake Miller 23:28
Good one. Abbey?

Abbey Wemimo 23:31
Check cashing operations, those things are a thing of the past we have to rethink how we converse with people with the influx of FinTech companies cash checking and there’s a death sentence coming.

Blake Miller 23:42
Abbey, I’m going to stick with you. What is one device like smart device, wearable or something that you’ve gotten or, or just at home? It’s made your quarantine a lot better?

Abbey Wemimo 23:52
My Apple Watch has been incredible. My girlfriend and I got it keeps us accountable. Um, it’s kind of like this little thing whereby by we compete, which is helped me stay in shape throughout this quarantine.

Blake Miller 24:07
Samir what’s made your quarantine better?

Samir Goel 24:09
So we got kind of like an Alexa tablet. We just had the the music one at first, and we got the one with the screen. And that’s been a game changer just for really simple things like remembering alarms and playing music while cooking and just made life a little bit smoother.

Blake Miller 24:25
Now, we’ve talked a lot about how like technology, specifically FinTech technology is going to be changing the future is about what you guys are doing. What’s something that’s not going to change in the future?

Samir Goel 24:34
You know, I think people especially in COVID, think that because we can work remotely like everyone’s gonna want to work remotely and not do offices anymore. But I think I think that change will be a lot less drastic than what people think because it’s kind of that thing where dishes pastures always greener. And I think that we’re going to realize that there’s a lot of value in being together in person interacting with people I think work will be more flexible. But I think like the death of the office is not quite here yet I think there’s there’s more value to being with people in person live, and building those relationships and people people give credit for. And also, I think people didn’t realize how frustrating being at home would be either. And so, you know, whether it’s because you have kids at home, and so you can’t concentrate, or it’s just harder to be effective or productive in your bedroom, right in this tiny Manhattan apartment. I think that, you know, in some ways people will now experience working from home and be more inclined to have office spaces than they did before.

Abbey Wemimo 25:34
One thing that will not change Blake is the continued penetration of technology will continue to see expansion of technology, the erodment of particular jobs, which should also create different opportunities. So this is a clarion call to folks in Congress, or the policymakers on the state and local level, to create, you know, opportunities and retraining programs. So when the synergies from technology start kicking in which it is currently, we’re not leaving a lot of people behind. So that’s something I want us to keep at the back of our mind, just technology continues to permeate different industries. And one thing I would say is the continued optimism of America as being one of the greatest nation on the surface of the earth, I think is going to be a constant just due to the fundamentals.

Blake Miller 26:26
You guys I love your mission. I wish you the best of luck. We’ll definitely stay up to date on it. Let everybody know how they can find you Samir.

Samir Goel 26:33
Thanks, Blake. You can find us on our website Abbey and I are pretty active on LinkedIn and our emails are just first name at so you can find us pretty easily there. But Blake, thanks so much for having us. Really appreciate the time.

Bonus: Blake on Aruba Unplugged

This week Blake joined the Aruba Unplugged podcast to talk Homebase, Smart Living-as-a-Service & bringing the Jetsons to real life.

Learn more about Aruba and their podcast:

Aruba Unplugged – EP42: Smart Living as a Service

Smart living is a trend on the rise. Homebase is at the forefront of this movement. Blake Miller, founder and CEO of Homebase, joins us to discuss how smart technology is changing the way property owners manage and people live.


Blake Miller 0:00
Welcome to the Future of Living podcast. I’m your host, Blake Miller. This week, it’s a little bit different. We’re re airing an episode where I joined Aruba Networks podcast, I talked about creating a Jetsons-like living experience with some of their platforms. Check it out.

Vincent Rendoni 0:20
Welcome to Aruba Unplugged, I’m your host, Vincent Rendoni. I’ve got a question for you. Have you ever rented before? Or do you own property? And then you might want to keep listening. In today’s discussion, we’re going to look at the rapidly changing face of communal living and what it means to live smart. With me is Blake Miller, founder and CEO of Homebase, a company focused on the future of living. Well, Blake, just get right into it. Tell me about Homebase, I got a nice bird’s eye view from doing my research before this podcast, but I’d love to hear it in your own words.

Blake Miller 0:51
Yeah, absolutely. So kind of that elevator pitch, if you will, is you know, we help apartment owners and managers automate the management of their building using the Internet of Things. That’s it’s kind of sounds like a lot of a tech speak, if you will. But basically, what we’re doing is, we use things like smart locks for access control, things like community Wi Fi from Aruba. And then the smart things or smart home devices that you might see. That would go into a regular apartment unit, things like thermostats, and light switches, and now appliances, and all this. And we kind of make it all work together for all the different users of the building. So whether it’s the residence, they can unlock their door, they can get connected instantly to always on internet, they can change your thermostat, or even like pay their rent all through the Homebase app, they have one place to do it all. It’s kinda like a living, living as a service app, if you will. But for the property managers, they’ve got these tools now that they can start to automate a lot of the different kind of repetitive tasks that they have all the time, like, moving people in and out and assigning them keys or all those different things like that just kind of goes by the wayside with all these things that are just they kind of connect and work together. And in doing so, it gives them kind of control back of their building, they they own their own network, they can charge the residents for Wi Fi as an amenity and have it automatically added to their rent, though, they don’t have to do anything to collect all that extra revenue, that increases their net operating income. Because it all just automatically happens through the app. And then they can also utilize things like smart locks and access control to be able to automate a lot of access for their maintenance staff or vendors and make them a lot more energy or a lot more efficient. And then use things like smart thermostats and light switches for things like energy management, and, and all these other things. And really, it’s just bringing it all together. And that’s what our software platform does. And we’ve got pro partners that help make this all kind of work and get it installed and implemented. So it’s kind of a white glove service for the owners and you don’t have to undertake all this new stuff. And we really just kind of we help we help them take that smart building approach, whether it’s new buildings or retrofits.

Vincent Rendoni 2:56
That’s awesome. You know, it’s sounds like a win-win situation for the renter and leaser well, property owner I should say.

Blake Miller 3:02
I’m biased but it’s definitely like a win win wins across the board. Right? You know, the residents get this, the smart living experience and get connected to kind of everything around them. We’ve got some exciting things rolling out soon where though, we’re working with one of the world’s largest grocery stores to be able to have in home grocery delivery, things like that. But all the all these things are just enabled because you know, pun intended, like you can unlock you know it’s unlocked. Right, you can unlock the door remotely, you can do all these other things. But it’s the it’s the things that really enable it.

Vincent Rendoni 3:33
I love a good pun. I’m also I should tell you I’m less biased See, I just came a homeowner from a renter about a month ago. And my property was beginning to do some of those elements to like smart access, smart packaging, the bills, because I gotta tell you moving into a home, it’s suddenly like, okay, sewer, water, disposal, every electricity, internet, it’s four a different things. So to leave centralized payments was kind of a bit of a kick in the face to say the least.

Blake Miller 4:02
I bet.

Vincent Rendoni 4:04
One thing I’m excited to talk to you about too is I understand that you were a part of the Kansas City Smart City initiative.

Blake Miller 4:11
Yeah, it was a really unique kind of public private partnership that I was able to, not only like just get to participate in, but was one of the ones that kind of came up with the initial framework and the idea. So really just kind of taking this idea of a turning the city into a smartphone using infrastructure, and on the internet of things to be able to kind of make what we call the living lab, which was basically what we call kind of the iTunes for the Internet of Things like all these different killer apps that could create Smart City stuff. So we were working with like Sprint and Cisco and Google Fiber and the city of KCMO. And what we ended up deploying was a public Wi Fi infrastructure and network along the streetcar line that went live in 2016 here in Kansas City, and that that infrastructure enabled connectivity for things like smart light streetlights and digital kiosks and the public to get connected. And basically, that that framework then was opened up to some entrepreneurs and other innovators to be able to kind of build other like I said, killer apps, things like services for residents or anything like that. And that kind of framework really turned into the what we ended up doing with Homebase, which is applying this always on internet that provides a platform that all the things and then can connect to, and then you have to create all these different applications for the inputs of the residents, or the all the different users of the building.

Vincent Rendoni 5:40
Interesting. So it seems like there’s a lot of carryover from smart urban planning into smart living, I mean, what is smart, you know, I think of all the finer points of urban planning with smart technology, it’s just kind of on a macro scale.

Blake Miller 5:52
It totally is, right. And like one of the thing that we’ve that I started seeing what made you know, our kind of mission, like something that I became really passionate about was not only being a renter, myself, but I just recognize, like, you know, we all spend more than 80, 90% of all of our time inside of a city, instead of buildings, you know, primarily where we live, or these buildings are coming, very mixed use these days, you know, are we live work, play everything. And so one of the things that, you know, I became passionate about smart city, technology and a mobility and really got dove deep into autonomous vehicles and all these things, but everything, it kind of kept that going back to was like, you know, you need infrastructure, you need all this, all these smart things out there. And if we made our buildings smart, the buildings are really just kinda like a node on the network across the board. So, you know, if we made a bunch of buildings smart, then we might actually have a smart city, or at least have some of the data and infrastructure to be able to enable building some of those things.

Vincent Rendoni 6:48
It’s kind of a beautiful, like, way of looking at it. I think, like just bit by bit, you know, if suddenly a smart door but goes into a smart room, then a smart building, then we have ourselves a smart block, then a smart city, then bam.

Blake Miller 6:59
You know, it, it definitely sounds a lot better with a little retrospect and a little, you know, being able to see it on the other side and not being so in it. But you definitely start to see like how it all it all works together. Like to be able to have something smart, you have to have it connected, and it’s all connected.

Vincent Rendoni 7:18
Well, you seems like you had a great vision, but I’m curious about something else. So this vision, how did you determine which technology you needed to make this happen?

Blake Miller 7:25
Sure, that’s a great question. And it ended up how we ended up partnering with with Aruba. So we started looking around and figuring out like, how are we going to connect all of these things, and to do it in a cost effective manner for our, for our clients, and you know, doing a new building, it makes a lot of sense to wire the building, and have all these different connectivity infrastructures, and to have it all work together, but to retrofits like and it can get kind of expensive to run wiring and do all these things. And a lot of our competitors, or a lot of the early companies out there, because this stuff is all still so it’s so very new, with smart buildings and everything everybody started using cellular based gateways like hubs that have to go in every unit as we all know, basically, the Internet of Things unfortunately still doesn’t work without some level of hub or ZigBee or Z-Wave or Bluetooth all these different connectivities but so we had to figure out how are we going to do this how we’re going to do it at scale and one of the things I kept coming back to was like the cost to implement a Wi Fi network in the building was it that much more than being able to pay for all these hubs and do all these and get all the wires run even to do just kind of like a mesh network but everyone else was also selling the ROI of what a smart home for apartment basically was going to be as you’re going to be able to raise your rents and I was just like you know coupled with how to connect all these things cellular creates all of the all these different hubs create all their own issues, then you got to have them plugged into the by the resident when the resident moves in all these different things. Not to mention like just relying on raising rents all the time, when something is going to like a smart thermostat or a smart lock is going to become like table stakes like granite countertops and stainless steel really quickly. We had to find a different way and I kept coming back to the Wi Fi and knowing that just like Internet is like the fifth utility it is infrastructure for sure could be in these buildings and in their cup looking at the at the numbers were you know, third of America’s cut the cord. People just want internet they just need internet streaming, as you know is everything coming up. I just recognize with what we’re doing in the smart city could apply exactly to here where the internet becomes not necessarily a commodity but it becomes a part of the building. It becomes the infrastructure that you can connect all the things and then through software defined networking, kind of like living in a hotel or like what Aruba has made. Aruba has done so well in in campus environments. Like the internet is always there. And you can just upgrade or downgrade as you need. And so that was really where we, we push forward with with Homebase where if you’re going to make a smart building, you should have internet as the infrastructure as the fifth utility and then it can provide a different wallet capture of your residence versus relying on just rent premium. All while, then over time, you’re going to get efficiencies from the smart building.

Vincent Rendoni 10:32
I like to refer to that as the fifth utility. Because you know, having just been to this myself, we didn’t have internet for a day, and I’m just like, Oh, great. It’s like not having water.

Blake Miller 10:41
Yeah, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t move into a place and not have water or electricity for a day. And yet, we’re commonly we go through the most stressful, you know, time for anybody to move. And now you have to take work off and some of these other things and they have to you have to wait another day or two like it should just be built in. And especially where I don’t have to get cable I can get everything I want through the internet. That’s, that’s where we see a real value going forward. And you know, it turns out, we were right. A lot of now AT&T and Spectrum and all these competitors out there are now doing community Wi Fi just like we’re doing, instead of the traditional just bulk internet where everyone just has it and everybody does one, two, or three. So they’re bringing new products to market with that.

Vincent Rendoni 11:25
You kind of dipped into this a little bit, but I want to kind of talk about tech speak. And he thinks that we kind of sell in our pitches here. But I wanted to go into what does it mean to have a smart building ecosystem powered by the Internet of Things? I’d love to hear you break that down a little bit more for our listeners, and to be honest, me.

Blake Miller 11:40
Yeah, I mean, so smart building means a lot of things to a lot of different people. And as I mentioned, we kind of whether it’s new or retrofit, we take kind of a three step approach to it. And the first thing is you got to have a way to manage people coming in and out of the building. Literally, you have to have the locks, right. So smart access controller homebase access is one of the number one things are the first step that we that we have. And we’ve partnered with a legion who owns Schlag, which is 100 plus year old lock brand that we’ve partnered with to develop a one faab or key card credential, as well as virtual key access to every door in the building all through the Homebase system. So whether it’s the front door to get into the high rise building, the elevator system, the gym, or what other amenity spaces or the actual unit door, you can use the same card or the same phone from any door for anywhere you need to go. And because we communicate to that door via Bluetooth, we don’t have to have any actual connectivity in the building, which is why it makes this kind of a great step one, whether it’s new or retrofit, it’s a cost effective way to kind of take your journey to a smart building. And literally managing apartments is is judging who can go in and out and doing it securely and safely for all. So that’s kind of the number one step for us. The second step is you have to have a way to connect all the things and this is again, where we differentiate ourselves from everybody. We use a rope, excuse me reuse Aruba, Wi Fi, access points, switches, winsol, firewalls, all these different things into the building, enabling kind of that fifth utility, as I mentioned, and this provides that connectivity, then for all the other smart things that you might put into the building, it could be the stuff that you put into the units, like the thermostats, the light switches, we partnered with LG for appliances, these sorts of things, to it could be video surveillance systems throughout the common areas of the spaces. It could provide connectivity for those thermostats or other things that are in the common spaces or wherever it might be. But again, it’s at one common infrastructure through the building. And then through our apps, that’s where then they’re able to resell the same x access to the higher speeds.

Vincent Rendoni 14:00
Awesome, awesome. Thanks for calling out Aruba, I was gonna ask how were we were involved.

Blake Miller 14:04
Yeah, yeah.

Vincent Rendoni 14:06
No question I want to ask you about smart living. That was how automation plays into your ecosystem. What kind of automation are looking for in your networks?

Blake Miller 14:13
Yeah, so there’s a lot of different things there. Right. So, you know, we look at it once. Once you have the infrastructure in the building, once you can control things once you can send virtual keys and do some of those basic obvious stuff, it becomes really more around helping to automate those repetitive tasks that management has to do all the time. Not only things that are just like standard, like moving people in and out and get granting them access to the building in the units automatically based off of when their stays are supposed to start but then it starts to get into you know, if you have everything in the building, it starts to get into things like preventive maintenance, knowing that a thermostat has run for 300 hours, instead of in knowing that the air filter should be replaced then, and knowing how many other air filters are within a range that probably should be replaced. In the building at the same time, and being able to drop ship those air filters and do all that, those sorts of things, you start to get into automation and preventive maintenance, that really starts to save staff time. And not only on just actually physically replacing those air filters, but you’re going to save them all of this time of having to notify residents and do all those things. Because it happens automatically the resident gets notified, somebody’s going to be coming in to replace their air filter, and all that you just, it just works. So those are some of the things that we start to think about, we’re automation net, once you have the smart things there, what the automation can enable, not everything has to always relate back to COVID. But obviously, this is the world we’re living in. And, you know, now somebody can maybe order once they move in, they can maybe order an upgraded air filter if they wanted to that can enhance their living experience and make it a little bit healthier for for wherever they’re living. And, you know, at the end of the day, it makes it really simple for everybody.

Vincent Rendoni 15:57
Speaking of better living experiences, we work with Homebase, what do you think that rentals be most excited about? You know, with kind of the move to smart the move to the move to smart said the move to smartness? Yeah, move to smart living?

Blake Miller 16:09
Yeah, you know, for us, I think we get a lot of, we get a lot of feedback actually around the internet networks. And the fact that it’s always on the it’s never without issues, there’s always like getting getting your your Chromecast or, you know, some random device, getting it on there and transferring passwords and some of those things to make sure you’re entering it right on and all those. But once you get past some of those, what we hear a lot is just, it’s awesome. That is just always on, I just moved in and I just get connected. I get notified if for some reason the network did go down, I actually get a notification that you know, that went down. You know, you don’t get that too often from the competitors, right. They’re just like, oh, weird. So some of those areas. But you know, I think a lot of where we have where we hear more excitement is some of the new new services and the things that people get connected to now, you know, being able to order things like House Cleaners and dog walkers and grocery delivery, literally into your unit are things that people are getting excited about.

Vincent Rendoni 17:08
It’s funny, I mean, agreed, but it’s the IoT with like appliances, this kind of thing that got me excited. And I just ordered my own washer and dryer. And I’m starting to see this in some apartments here in Seattle where I live, but like connecting your like washer and dryer to your phone for precise timing and like down to like the down to the granule like precision about how you wash your clothes. like yeah, it’s kind of incredible.

Blake Miller 17:32
You know, there’s definitely some cool stuff that you can do. And you know, in the rent in an apartment, there’s some limitations on what like smart appliances that you might be able to do and everything but you know, being able to remote start your washer dryer be able to do some of those things are definitely a nice amenity and a convenience that is super valuable. But then on the property management side, being able to know if a washer is leaking, or dishwashers leaking or something like that, or if somebody has, you know, left a range on or something, you know, those sorts of things become critical, critical information to help prevent like, potentially catastrophic problems in apartment buildings. And that’s where we think some of this as you get some of the data be becomes really interesting.

Vincent Rendoni 18:20
Yeah, I mean, cuz get us you want to stop things when they’re a crack not when there’s a hole in the wall, so to speak. Hmm,

Blake Miller 18:26
Yeah, absolutely. Or, you know, if people aren’t removing all of their lint in the dryer, some of those things could be a fire hazard in and of itself. So just continuing to think about how you can really enable that.

Vincent Rendoni 18:38
Yeah, I kind of went down that train myself. When I moved out, I put a vacuum hose once a month down my dryer, I’m like, Oh, geez, and the person before us do this. Let’s shift a little bit from the renters to the apartment owners. I’m gonna talk about the benefits that they see a lot of me I’m thinking of value, I’m thinking of revenue stream. Can you give me an example of the benefits that apartment owners See?

Blake Miller 18:58
Yeah, so one of our number one, you know, it’s, it’s back to the Reuben network. And I’ll dive into a lot of cost savings and everything that they get with access control and security benefits. But you know, one of the number one value prop set Homebase that differentiates Homebase from everybody else really is around the positive net operating income that they can generate by offering Wi Fi as an amenity. So being able to create kind of these different speeds and tiers allows them to generate or capture the different share of the residence wallet, and not only have Homebase pay for itself, but actually create a positive revenue generation. That cash flows super nice for the property owners and their managers, obviously, but then it also adds a an additional value add to the overall valuation of the property when they go to sell it. So real value being created. They’re taking kind of the control of their building, if you will back from The traditional cable companies out there, they’re not just getting, you know, a nice, you know, spiff, if you will just for letting them come in and own their building, you know, they’re able to get a nice recurring revenue generation, right, right from their own network, and be able to use that network then in a lot of different ways and start to cut their costs across a lot of different line items on their p&l.

Vincent Rendoni 20:25
Everybody seems to win in this situation.

Blake Miller 20:28
That’s, that’s definitely how this all starts to work in pulled together and that and that kind of revenue generation allows the time to really pick up the cost savings and from not having to own a key locker system anymore, not having to rekey your locks at the end of every lease or stay not having to have your maintenance staff waste time to go check out a key, go carry out their work, and come back and check the key back and all those sorts of things, those savings start to go away, these your staff can become more efficient, you can start to kind of manage more units, centrally, you know, with with, with your with your facilities, management staff versus having to have multiple people on site everywhere. And that will take time, that’s a digital transformation, those are the things that we’ve learned, you know, you don’t just say, well, you’re going to save $50 a year because you did smart locks, it’s like you’ll save some. But now it requires the training and, you know, effort to be able to do all those things, to be able to have energy management, you did you need data of that building, right, you need to be able to know, have those thermostats run and see multiple seasons, to be able to understand how energy, energy efficiency could be applied in the building. So there becomes a lot of these different layers, that over time that will make that building a more efficient you can you can operate it, you can operate more units in your portfolio with the same amount of team members. So that’s a that’s a big plus. But also, then you’re going to have all these other savings that some of them, we don’t even know what we’ll we’ll kind of accrue over time.

Vincent Rendoni 22:05
It’s funny people, I mean, even myself, I think about like smart buildings, like such an advanced thing. But really, it’s just a lot of gradual processes that lead to this gradually, then suddenly all at once. So right, it’s the old phrase.

Blake Miller 22:17
It definitely is that and you know, it took us a kind of a while to really learn that, you know, when we started, it was all about selling new buildings. And you’re like, you got to do all this stuff. And we still want that to happen, obviously. But we really, we really recognize that a there’s a lot of different styles of buildings, a lot of different ways, buildings are managed, there’s a lot of different, you know, implications for all the different things that you might want to do. And then there’s this whole world of retrofitting that, you know, is capital intensive. And there, there’s an equation that goes into this. And there’s a way that they’re bought and sold. And there’s a way that they’re managed, and all of these different layers that really, if you break it down to an on ramp which we’ve done, we we you’re not just jamming everything down somebody’s throat, you’re actually kind of bridging that, that bridging the gap, if you will, to the future.

Vincent Rendoni 23:05
Bridging the gap to the future. I like that a lot. Speaking of like futures, I want to talk about yours, I want to know which exciting projects that you and Homebase are working on right now for the rest of 2020. And so I’d like to hear what’s going on.

Blake Miller 23:17
Yeah, there’s a lot of different different buildings, different styles different like kind of just levels of smart buildings that are going live and add on into 21. And now up to 22. And what’s crazy is we’ve been having buildings now that are 23 starting to come up come on. But one of the buildings are actually two of them that really are excited that we’re excited about have gone live in the last week once called the flash cube here in Kansas City, it’s actually one of our most advanced buildings in terms of everything that’s in there, doing everything from access, control, controlling, you know, every door in the building, co working spaces, and all those types of amenities into you know, elevator access control. There’s internet everywhere, we’re controlling internet only for the residents, but all the community spaces into the coworking space as well. And then the building also has thermostats and light switches and everything kind of throughout and they’ve got some cool amenities that we’ve helped, kind of pulled together and enabled things like you know, a wine dispenser and some of those things as well.

Vincent Rendoni 24:16
What a wine dispenser?

Blake Miller 24:18
Yeah, they’ve got some really cool kind of community rooms where they’ve got these wine dispensers, that that you can basically anytime just kind of click a button and dispense some wine and it just gets kind of added to your bill.

Vincent Rendoni 24:32
It’s really cool stuff. I expect nothing less from a building called the Flashcube.

Blake Miller 24:37
Yeah, they’ve done it the Worcester Communities that have done really a beautiful job with it with the property and really reimagining kind of an older building that kind of a fun fact that Walt Disney actually used to still store a lot of his film reels and so there’s like a whole like, vault in the bottom and everything like that. It’s really cool stuff. And I think the people that are going to live they’re going to think it’s really cool. And, you know, we’re excited kind of as the building comes live and starts to lease up, you know, you got all these smart things in there now. And it’ll continue to evolve as we grow with them and launch some new services. So we’re really excited about that one. And then the same company we worked with them flashy was a brand new building, renovated, obviously, but a brand new rehab and renovation. But kind of the same time we’ve been working with them, we’re launching a couple blocks away called 909 walnut. And it’s actually a retrofit of a 35 storey one of the tallest residential towers actually in the Midwest. And it’s like 120 year old limestone building, and all that. So that was kind of a challenging, challenging retrofit to do Wi Fi and all these things, we had to kind of really learn about the building and replace some access points after we found some hidden hidden like elevator shafts and some of those things, but, you know, in doing so we really learned a lot and you know, it took a little bit longer than what we expected. But we have great, great kind of network in there that now we have, you know, whole smart building 120 year old smart building, if you will.

Vincent Rendoni 26:10
That is so cool. Flashcube and Walnut 909. That’s…

Blake Miller 26:13
909 Walnut. Yeah.

Vincent Rendoni 26:14
909 Walnut, sorry. Yeah, look more into these. And listeners. I really hope you do too, because I really want to see what 120 year old smart building looks like. I don’t know about y’all.

Blake Miller 26:23
Yeah, so and you know, continue to get what’s really cool is once you have this stuff in there, that’s that’s not where it starts. It’s really where the relationship starts. Right? You know, once it once it once it’s in there. Now the building actually has to learn to become smart, and has the things we have to learn and everything. So that’s really where it goes from here.

Vincent Rendoni 26:40
Awesome. All right. Last question for you. What’s your long term vision for Homebase? You know, you kind of hinted at this a little bit for the property owners. There’s opportunities we haven’t even begun to discover yet. So I’m kind of curious long term vision future, the role that technology is going to play? How do you see it like?

Blake Miller 26:57
Yeah, have you seen the Jetsons?

Vincent Rendoni 26:59
Yes, big fan.

Blake Miller 27:00
Yeah, I mean, that’s, you know, I grew up watching the Jetsons, I love that and kind of be that, like, really kind of futuristic, and, you know, make that joke. And I thought we’d all have flying cars by now too. But, you know, really, I think what we’re enabling, and what a lot of our competitors out there are enabling are all new ways of living. And it’s using the Internet of Things, it’s using smart tech, in a way that a keeps, you know, security and privacy and all those things in mind. But really works to help enable what we kind of call living as a service, you know, whether it’s service, yeah, whether it’s our, you know, all of us, we’re all kind of pulling these things together, we’re pulling these solutions together using all these disparate systems that are in a building, and making them work not only for the residents, but making them work for the property owners as well. So the future, you know, you definitely see a building that really just starts to run itself. And it’s not so that gets rid of people, it’s so the community managers that are on site, the leasing agents, traditionally, today, they’re really able to just really work the community and be there for the community. And the building kind of tells them what it needs. And those are some of the things that we really are kind of trying to work towards. And, you know, as that happens, and as we have more buildings online and buildings all across the world, we want to enable kind of a, the ability for somebody to, you know, live in one building and be able to say, hey, I want to want to unlock this door virtually, and go, you know, travel to, you know, wherever, when we’re allowed to travel and pop into a building that’s run, managed by Homebase, as well make it super easy. You know, they can move right in, or they can stay there for a short time for a short turn state have all their same settings right there that they had, and you know, back home. So we want to continue to kind of just evolve this kind of future where the buildings run themselves, but it makes the residents and really everybody this is just living as a service.

Vincent Rendoni 28:49
Nothing as a service. Well, thank you for sharing your vision and like thank you for your time today. It was a real pleasure talking to you about you and Homebase.

Blake Miller 28:57
and said I had such a great time as well. And thanks for thanks for having me on.

Vincent Rendoni 29:01
Oh, yeah, one thing I wanted to say it was so rude of me not to bring some before congratulations on the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl. Very exciting.

Blake Miller 29:07
Yes. Hey, it’s gonna be Patrick Mahomes sign for 10 more years, so it’s gonna be a long time long time of winning we hope.

Vincent Rendoni 29:14
Cheers to you in Kansas City.

Blake Miller 29:16
I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Vincent Rendoni 29:18
Thank you. I’m Vince Rendoni. You’ve just listened to Aruba Unplugged. Thank you for listening. Please like, subscribe and tell the IT guy.

John Jacobs on Connected Construction

John Jacobs podcast episode cover

John Jacobs is the Chief Information Officer of JE Dunn Construction, leads all Information Technology efforts and oversees integration of national operational processes. He continues to oversee the development of applications focused on operational and field efficiency, including mobile applications, intranet and internet portals, and database reporting tools. One of John’s main tasks is to drive technology efforts in the field to improve efficiency for all building partners.


  1. Background of John Jacobs.
  2. What does the CIO in a large construction company do?
  3. How do you get job sites connected?
  4. The real-time job site.
  5. Getting back to specialized technology.
  6. Barriers to construction technology adoption.
  7. What has COVID changed?
  8. Lightning round questions.


Note: JE Dunn is an investor in Homebase.


Blake Miller 0:01
Hey everybody, welcome back to the Future of Living podcast. I’m your host Blake Miller. Today we’ve got John Jacobs from JE Dunn Construction.

We talked about the future of construction and 5g and how it all plays out. Quick disclosure, JE Dunn Construction is one of the investors and Homebase.AI, the company that I run, but I do think you’ll enjoy this conversation. John, how are you? Welcome to the Future of Living podcast. How you been?

John Jacobs 0:27
Great doing well, as well as to be expected in crazy times today. But yeah, we’re doing good.

Blake Miller 0:32
I know, I know, we’re doing season three here, kind of in the throes of COVID. Here, I appreciate you taking the time to dive in. Why don’t you let everybody know kind of what got you to what you’re doing today. And what you guys are doing to literally build the future as well.

John Jacobs 0:49
Sure happy to do that, officially my roles Chief Information Officer. So get to lead IT been with JE Dunn for 25 years as of a month ago. So it’s been a long run but…

Blake Miller 1:00
Congrats on that.

John Jacobs 1:01
Thank you. Yeah it’s is pretty exciting. But around here, JE Dunn that’s, that’s frankly I’m kind of a one of the young guys because, you know, just look around, and they’ve been people that are here for 50, 60, 70 years, literally. So 25 is just a good job.

Blake Miller 1:18
Cool organization. Yeah, for sure.

John Jacobs 1:20
Yeah, pretty exciting. Um, but my background get here was was very non traditional. I’m an engineer by degree, went to the Navy after college, got to be on the the commissioning crew and aircraft carrier gets to see them build an aircraft carrier.

And then, and then got out and came to work for Dunn. And then was in project management operations for done building buildings for 15 years, both here and in Minneapolis. And then I was asked to lead a six company merger. So as we grew, we grew by acquisition. And so we we wanted to just make sure you have a single company experience. So we rewrote our SOP and best practices. And there was a whole lot of tech that went behind that. And that’s when the CEO said, I think I want a business guy running IT. And he asked, “would you take over the job of CIO?,” and I started laughing, and he didn’t, I went “oh, you’re serious.” So I, I still kind of call myself the least technical CIO are around. But now after, you know, being CIO for 10 years, so I’m not sure I still can claim that title. But I’m having a ball, I have an incredible team that can actually do pull off the tech when I have harebrained crazy ideas.

So that’s the road, I really do have the coolest job in the company, we’re having a ball, trying to innovate and change an industry that’s, frankly, not known for innovation.

Blake Miller 2:49

John Jacobs 2:49
So we’ve had some really good success doing that. And we’re, we’re really having some fun trying to pull that off.

Blake Miller 2:59
That’s very awesome. I love that background. And so a little bit of a little disclosure is obviously JE Dunn’s an investor Homebase, I wanted to kind of throw it out that throw that out there. And we put that in the show notes. But you know, one of the things that I really have loved about working with you guys is how innovative and kind of thought forward that you guys have been and I think a lot of is from a lot of weight. What you guys have done and Tim has done to kind of put this out there, what does it mean to be a CIO of a one of the largest construction companies in the US?

John Jacobs 3:28
Well, I think you have to balance two things. One, you have to earn the right to be innovative. So the blocking and tackling IT you have to be good at. And that’s not easy. So you have to be able to protect the business, cybersecurity what’s happened, even locally with you know, big, big company, cyber event is constantly a threat. And so you have to be good at that you have to expect it and do your best to prepare, then you also have to be able to manage and secure our data and have machines and just have all of the technology necessary for our people to be efficient. First, you do that, then you sort of earn the right to be innovative. And it also helps that I have a construction background. I think the team’s know that. At least I understand what goes on on a job site. And so once once we assure them that we’re gonna do our best to deliver world class IT then, then we get to innovate. And so then it’s right, how do we what business problems can we solve that that really can drive either value for our client or value internally where we can help our builders build better so so I think that’s it I think that’s sort of the the two pronged task is being good at blocking, tackling IT, earning the right to innovate and and then deliver on that promise of keeping an eye over the horizon of what’s coming and delivering something that adds real value.

Blake Miller 5:05
So you guys are definitely a leader in this space. And one of the things that definitely interests me and some of the things that we’ve been working on is your approach to getting the job site connected. Talk to me about kind of what you’re doing there. I know, you guys are kind of some of the first ones to be doing that. What does that mean to you guys? And that is it like, all the way up the towers everything’s connected, right, you know, as it gets cut as it gets built? Or how do you approach this?

John Jacobs 5:31
Yeah, that is a, it’s been, it’s been a decade of tackling that challenge, because it’s, it’s a challenge, even in a finished building with full fiber back Wi Fi. To do good communication, can you imagine an environment that’s exposed to the weather that has materials that are blocking signals, and that’s constantly moving like you don’t have permanent Wi Fi access points, you don’t have in many times access to wireless signal down inside a concrete frame or in a steel frame that’s blocking access to towers. So it has been a significant challenge. So we, and we work in a low margin industry. So I solve it with tech, but with expensive tech. And so do you really want to set up really expensive connectivity that it gets torn out? Doesn’t get used by the building in the long run? So we’ve taken the tact of make it easy, make it mobile, make it effective, so that the teams can can decide do they want to light up the whole job site? So that anybody anywhere can have an iPad and a, you know, mobile laptop to connect? Or do you want to light up kind of hotspots where you can walk to an area and connect? So then we balance connectivity, with offline capability? And are you working off of the latest information. So the so then you’ve got this huge amount of data that you got sync constantly…

Blake Miller 7:16
So you’re kind of alluding to what I was going to ask is what like, why is that so important? You know, a lot of people obviously, I mean, you guys have been using paper plans for years. You know, what’s, why is that so important now? And are things really changing that fast when you’re on the job site?

John Jacobs 7:34
Yeah, connectivity. There’s, there’s a fantastic story that that was the literally the foundation for what we call Dunn Dashboard. And that’s how we connect all of our teams. So every single JE Dunn on job site, has this incredible collaboration site, an extranet, basically a job website. They’re all templates, they’re all the same. But that’s where you get everything 2d, 3d, say in 2d plans, 3d immersive models, all of your content that you need to build. But that was born out of sitting in a trailer, I sat and watched myself in Colorado, a laboratory facility that was admittedly fast paced, things were changing. But because of the equipment that went in the building, there was new architectural design sheets being issued, on average, every eight minutes.

Blake Miller 8:24

John Jacobs 8:25
So how you can’t possibly you don’t have a chance. I mean, the trades don’t

Blake Miller 8:29
You’d have to be streaming. Right, like streaming from CAD or something.

John Jacobs 8:34
So I watched those guys take, there was a project engineer, having a progress meeting. And everyone that came to the progress meeting, handed him a USB stick. And he spent the whole meeting downloading plans, and then giving them their USB stick when they left. And that wasn’t good enough. And so that was where was what was born out of that was a SharePoint based collaboration solution where everybody through a secure access has access to the latest 2d and 3d drawings. So, so connectivities everything because if you’re moving at that pace, you’re gonna make a mistake. Not not, you know, not because you’re doing something wrong, but because it’s literally like the infrastructure for that piece of equipment changed, you know, 12 hours ago, and it took a while for that to get documents and so, so that’s why it’s just critical to us, lifeblood of, of the job is information and being able to deliver it anywhere.

Blake Miller 9:33
And it’s not just for safety, right? I mean, this is how you guys can kind of bring down the cost of overall construction that we all know is continuously blending and you said, you know, in a low margin business, right?

John Jacobs 9:44

Yeah, it’s so safety rides on the back of that from a communication standpoint, but it’s number one in what we do, right. I mean, literally, the culture at Dunn is, is we’re striving for perfection of everybody that comes to work goes home safe. So, so safety uses all of that communication. But now, can we do through IoT early warnings? Can we can we prevent some of the things that in the past have been, you know, the leading issues by using IoT, but IoT needs connectivity. Connectivity, in a on a job site that, you know, is hard to maintain is a challenge. So those are that’s a, it’s an uphill battle that we fight every day.

Blake Miller 10:32
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. So something you say, kind of intriguing in our kind of prep for this was, you’re very intrigued by the disturbing kind of trajectory, away from the specialization in technology. Talk to me a little bit about what you meant by that. And really kind of like all these big tech vendors that are just kind of trying to gobble up, but you know, PropTech’s the hot word these days. You know, I’ve always laughed, like, you know, and I don’t want to put them all on the spot, but companies like Siemens, they were building automation system, but they don’t they just do an HVAC. And it doesn’t communicate with anything else. What is, where are you going with that?

John Jacobs 11:07
So it is a hot button for me. And I could, we could spend the rest of the podcast, so about six more talking about this. But there’s, there’s specific examples of the days when software vendors solve specific problems. And then they dove into that problem. And they created answers to those problems with software. And so they understood my business, they understood what problems I face, they understood what the problems on the job faced. And, and so scheduling software’s an easy one of their there was a dominant industry player, well, that software has grown into be basically an ERP. But, you know, ERP, for whatever, buddy, that doesn’t understand that. That’s our accounting and project management software. And so these big companies just keep acquiring more and more solutions to put into their suite of technology, we at Dunn have taken a different stance. So what we call Dunn Dashboard, that thing I was telling you about before, it’s a job site website, and and we spend the time on the back end, to integrate with all of the best in breed applications. And then we secure and manage the site and your identity. So I know who you are, and know what job you’re doing on the job. And then I give you all the information to help you do your job better. Well, I do that intentionally so that I can have best in breed tools for every single JE Dunn job consistently. That also allows me to, to minimize the training impact so that if you go from one job, you finish that you go to the next job, you don’t have to relearn a whole new suite of technology. So I think enterprise efficiency trumps individual efficiency. And so that’s why we’ve built this the way we do it. What I said in the prep was, companies keep adding and buying up all these small focused technology companies. And that’s a great they can offer an end to end solution. But when you’re at a company of JE Dunn’s size, do you know how hard it is to change enterprise tech, it’s almost impossible that you would bring the company to a screeching halt. So I’m not sure that breadth of offering is as important to me as the value proposition. What are you solving?

Blake Miller 13:39
So the digital transformation, right? Are you? How are you going to really dig in, that’s something we’ve, we’ve really learned very heavily. And you know, we’re coming at it from hitting so many different of the construction divisions, right? We’re access control, and you know, we hit lighting, we hit a low voltage, we had all these different things well, how do you Who do you talk to you you’re getting hit, you’re, you know, you’re talking with several different ones. We’re giving out a whole infrastructure in a way to, you know, manage the building and all that in there. But then who pays for it going forward? It’s the management companies and suddenly other things that they’re getting the value. So finding and fitting your value prop that really resonates with

John Jacobs 14:20
Your business is a perfect example. I mean, you know, how many of us at our house, I I’m the CIO, I’m supposed to have a smart house. So I’ve got, you know, a an August front door lock in a Nest thermostat and a WeMo light switch and none of them can talk. I mean, I got to have 17 apps on my phone to control it. And it’s left to me to figure out, I can’t do that a JE Dunn. I can’t expect all of the employees to understand every single application that they need and have them figure out how all those stitched together and come up with a solution. So that’s that’s our job in IT to build that cohesive suite of technologies. That they know is going to be best in breed, but is a single one stop shop, so that they have a chance to do their thing. I mean, right, they shouldn’t have to worry about the tech, they’re their builders. And so we want to enable them to do their job better. And so we got to take out that, you know, the siloed lack of continuity, that, uh, that is inherent with some technology.

Blake Miller 15:24
Yeah, what do you see some of the biggest barriers or things that are still preventing adoption, you know, beyond just kind of the the app, do it everything for you? What else is what else is preventing adoption there?

John Jacobs 15:39
Yeah, I think the number one thing for me is the complexity of what we do. So sort of the iPhone age where everything is just one app away from a solution. When you’re doing something as complex as commercial construction, it’s, it’s very difficult for it to be one button away. we’re striving for that. But it’s hard. I’ve heard it described, I’ve used this phrase before that construction companies are just accounting companies that happen to build buildings. So there’s a there’s a dollar, associated with every transaction we do, and and managing the time and money of every transaction is difficult and complex, the technology to do that is equally complex. So the solutions we deliver, we were trying hard to simplify them. That’s why we’ve done this cohesive suite of technology. But it’s still it’s still complex. It’s not just I’m opening my phone and looking for a photo app. You know, it’s a complex solution. And there’s a quote on my wall it’s a Bezos quote. And we talked a lot about innovation. But the quote is that “innovation is not disruptive, adoption is.” And so we can have the most innovative tech in the world for construction. But if our teams can adopt it, and don’t understand how to make it useful on the job, then it’s useless. It’s not disruptive…

Blake Miller 17:13
…back, you know, there’s nothing.

John Jacobs 17:15
Yeah. So so I think that the hindrance is adoption, and adoption is complexity. And so we’re, we’ve got some incredible tech. But how do we make that tech valuable? And adoptable, easy to comprehend, I think, is probably the biggest limitation.

Blake Miller 17:34
Makes so much sense. You know, I want to change gears a little bit. We’ve been talking a lot about technology and how you guys are implementing it, what you’re doing there, but you know, post COVID, everybody’s just in this whole new world, right? You have, how are you managing? How you leading? How are you doing all these different things? And everything’s kind of this great reset? What are some of the things that like, and talk to me about good leadership, you said that good leadership requires visibility, what are some of the things I think it goes into what we were just talking about, you know, visibility gives people context and understanding of why it’s valuable, and why they should contribute? What are you guys doing around here around now?

John Jacobs 18:11
One is just, you know, the video collaboration, we were pretty proud of the fact that the whole company went home nearly overnight without a hitch and had access to all their content. And then they could jump on teams and do video, collaboration. And firm for months. Truly, that worked really well. And so. So we had infrastructure that was already built, you can’t you know, in the in the heat of the battle, you don’t create infrastructure to support that. So we were proud that that was just basically a firefighter a test of our, our infrastructure, which the teams performed well, and, and so our leaders had to learn how to connect frequently through video chat, but everybody’s doing I mean, this is not that’s common to every single company in the country. Yeah. So I salute our teams and the fact that they’ve done that, well, here’s the thing. That’s a fallout as not just JE Dunn. I think this is probably companies everywhere. But I think it’s challenging our managers to have more visibility than what happens on a conference call. Right? One is analytics. So just how do you measure how productive your folks are being by themselves at their house? So you got to have that performance metric understood, and…

Blake Miller 19:30
No longer butts in seats. Right?

John Jacobs 19:32
Right, exactly. So that’s hard, man. That’s how you measure productivity is really gray. But here’s the thing that I didn’t expect. That has been a really interesting discussion. So when we would have meetings and I would announce something big or complex or hard or whatever, you could watch people and see how they responded. And then you could see where they kind of went so they would all cluster around a cube or you would see people that maybe walked away frustrated and so you you had visit ability in the nonverbal signals from the people you’re leading. Yeah. Now you do a Teams call. And you announce what you’re going to announce Any questions? nobody says anything. Click you hang up. And they don’t walk to a cube. They call somebody, but nobody sees it. Yeah, the managers don’t have visibility…

Blake Miller 20:19
Or on chat. Like that. Yeah…

John Jacobs 20:21
Yeah, exactly. And so in a crazy way, we have reduced visibility of our teams, not in the obvious way if they’re not sitting by you, but just watching their, their nonverbal feedback. So we’ve been having discussions internally about how do we do that? How do we do that better? How do we equip our managers to understand that as a challenge, and do different things to draw that out of people so that you can manage that? That concern? Fear, challenge frustration, that, that you just aren’t seeing? as much of?

Blake Miller 21:02
Yeah, I’ve seen that. I’ve definitely seen that too. And it’s just like, it’s, uh, even. Even knowing that people are getting things done. It’s hard to it’s just hard to balance that what you’re not what you don’t see what you wear, you know, how do you how do you help? How do you be around, you know, do those things, and sometimes it’s that FaceTime that really helps that?

John Jacobs 21:22
Yeah, yeah.

Blake Miller 21:24
So so you guys, obviously, you guys had job sites that were operating pretty much all the way through this? What did you guys do to implement safety for your team members, anybody who’s coming through partners, all of that?

John Jacobs 21:37
Yeah, I’m, I gotta tip my cap to the teams that we’re doing that within done. So our risk team, our safety team, our operators, all work together. And we were very early out of the gate being very consistent and diligent in publishing what our protocols were. So our screening protocols, the inevitable if when someone went positive, what do you do? How do you respond? How do you clean the site so that you can get people back? How did you maintain privacy, privacy of the individual have, you know, of the diagnosis and all of that. So we were consistent, we communicated. And, frankly, our connect our portal was constantly being updated with the latest and greatest from CDC guidelines. So that we were very consistent in our response, you know, over 300 jobs stayed active throughout. And, and they all follow the same plan, we actually had a competitor drive by our site and said, I’m driven by three sites today, they all look exactly the same for Jadon and my company, we just we don’t have the communication yet understand what the game plan should be. And you guys have already published it, and are following it job by job by job.

Blake Miller 22:54
Is that the thing? Is it just I mean, communication, is that the biggest thing you’d recommend to everybody that’s out there trying to kind of implement their new policies.

John Jacobs 23:01
Yeah, not not just communication, but communication in different media. So so you publish it, you know, in a written word, some people just want to sit and think about it and look at a document. Other people want to watch a video, other people want to be face to face and talk to people. So how you get that communication consistently in different forms. So as people learn differently, they can consume it and, and do their thing, because ultimately, it comes down to individuals, right, we can publish policies all day long. And we can say this is exactly how we want you to do it. But it’s going to succeed or fail with individuals, and how they receive that information. So so good communication leads to more effective response at the individual level.

Blake Miller 23:46
John, we’re almost out of time, and you’re almost out of the hot seat. But we always end everything with lightning round questions. And my favorite task everybody is what particular business or service is going to be completely obsolete in the next 10 years. Like in other words, who’s going to be Blockbuster, just selling apparel? You know, as a shell over them for ourselves?

John Jacobs 24:06
Such a good question. Um, I think I actually have two answers. One is technical of course from my check out to give you technology one, right. I’ve wonder if laptops will be gone. So think think Iron Man and Minority Report the ability to take information with you everywhere you don’t like, you know, the whole laptop logging insecurity, what I got to have access to my files, whatever. So fully immersive capability, like an augmented reality, HoloLens, contact lens, whatever would replace wouldn’t be great to not be strapped to your laptop. So we’re pretty close to that. There’s connectivity issues, but so I would say the laptop manufacturers, frankly, because you could compute in the cloud. So that that endpoint device…

Blake Miller 24:58
I got it. I got a new laptop. Stop recently and was able to, you know, spin everything up pretty quickly. Yeah, it’s like almost you just need to screen. I just needed that. As the interfaces change, I think. Definitely possibility. Yeah. All right. Number two.

John Jacobs 25:14
Yeah, this one that may be controversial. News in general. So in what’s happening in the world today, everything’s opinionated. All I’m getting is your opinion about the facts. But don’t we have AI that could hear and interpret verbal spoken word, all the text that’s printed? And give me actual facts about what the news is. So that like the true Walter Cronkite version we grew up with. Because it’s so filtered through the opinions that you’re being told and have facts and let me make the decision. So not only do I kind of predict that, I’m really kind of hoping for that, because I just want access to facts, not opinion.

Blake Miller 26:01
Yeah, I agree. I find myself having to read all different sides just to try to figure out somewhere where it’s triangulated.

John Jacobs 26:08
Right, yeah.

Blake Miller 26:09
Yeah. So you started to touch on this just a few minutes ago, but one particular device, or two kind of technology is gonna kind of reign supreme, it sounds like you started talking about augmented reality. Are you guys getting anything there?

John Jacobs 26:21
Yeah, we’ve got, we’ve got like 10 HoloLens full, immersive augmented reality devices out, we’ve got a couple of the new HoloLens, two developers versions that are out there. So fully immersive content is so powerful in the construction industry, we today have jobs, where you can see what’s in the floor or in the wall. So things were that used to be hidden where you didn’t know were like, we call them post tension cables. So concrete frames have rebar and then in some cases, these cables get tensions to a high pressure, well, you don’t want to drill a hole because you have to put a pipe through the floor and hit one of those cables, it’ll literally shoot out of the building. Well, now, we could put HoloLens on and see where that post tension cable is. So we used to need to bring in X ray machines to X ray this lab before you drilled. And so we’re testing the ability to use augmented reality. And we haven’t used it for PT cable yet, but we’ve laid out all the PTC, you can see it and now we’re sort of testing the accuracy. But imagine just being able to walk into a building under construction and see what should be put in place versus what is, sees unsafe things based on you know our standards. So yeah, we’re we’re investigating augmented reality, both in the immersive sense with the the HoloLens devices, the handhelds, just with your iPad and iPhone, where you just hold it up and do the same thing.

Blake Miller 27:59
That’s so cool. Yeah, we’ve been playing with that, too. We can leave kind of like sticky notes, basically. And in the ether, and when somebody shows up, they basically can you know, AR and see that it’s really cool. So we’ve been talking a lot about what technology is going to change in the future, what’s something that you think it’s just not going to change the future?

John Jacobs 28:19
Um, well…

Blake Miller 28:21
Will people still build buildings?

John Jacobs 28:23
I, of course, like buildings. Well, office buildings are being challenged right now, right, because everybody’s working from home. But of course, we need structures, we think, you know, we think places can inspire people. And so the buildings that we build, when we really understand what the client does, and what they want, we can deliver on what inspires them. But that’s got to be a people relationship. So as much as I’m in the tech side, you need to understand people’s needs before you can deliver some innovative tech solution. So so I think what’s not going to change is the need for people to interpret need before you deliver a solution, so we got so many things that are trying to interpret my voice listened to what I want, I’ve got something in the corner that’s willing to, you know, answer all of my questions.

But as valuable is that is that there’s still critical importance of relationships and people and being able to interpret need at a human level. And then innovative tech should deliver transformational solutions, like we should then be able to respond better. But I hope that doesn’t change where the relationship between you and I is first and then the technology is so

Blake Miller 29:50
Love that. So you know we got a lot of real estate developers and, and real estate people that listen to this. So any words of advice if they’re if they got buildings that are starting to come out of the ground, when should they be thinking about this kind of new future that we live in?

John Jacobs 30:05
Yeah, we have the ability, I just said people come first. So right relationship is first. But we have the ability to fully envision not only the building what it looks like, but the cost of the building with the materials, like, look like we can go so much faster if we you leverage innovative tools up front, and not make it sort of the cheapest bid environment, delivery of a facility, you know, similar to what you’re saying, if you think about smart technology first in your business, you can deliver an experience for people that live somewhere that’s better than if they hadn’t asked up front. But they have to know to ask for that. Right? They have to know that smart changes their experience? Well, it’s the same thing with us on a much, you know, sort of grander scale, that we can deliver smart technology that creates solutions that are that are incredible. The building can be smart, both from a performance standpoint, even from a health and well being standpoint. But you have to aim for that you have to know up front that that’s possible. And that just doesn’t happen. Sort of in a lowest bidder wins scenario.

Blake Miller 31:23
Definitely does that. And we and I think we all as operators and and folks that are developing solutions for that we definitely need to be thinking about how do we help these folks change their underwriting process to be able to kind of account for it all the way through because, you know, spending a little bit more upfront actually probably help you save a lot more in the long run, right? Definitely. John, this has been such an awesome conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day. Can you let everybody know how to find you online or connect with you?

John Jacobs 31:52
Sure. On Twitter, JohnjacobsJED and LinkedIn and JE Dunn’s got a LinkedIn page, Facebook page, all the traditional social media.

Blake Miller 32:03
Very cool. Make sure that’s in the show notes for you, john, thanks so much.

John Jacobs 32:07
Great. Thank you.

Luke Lucas on 5G & Smart Buildings

Luke Lucas is Senior Manager of Engineering Business Development for T-Mobile USA. Luke manages the Build Your Own Coverage (BYOC) program, focusing on enterprise and in-building coverage, furthering the role of wireless in buildings as a 5th utility-like service. In his role, Luke is involved with smart building and smart city technologies, 5G wireless and the relationship between enterprises installing infrastructure and the connection to T-Mobile signal source and backhaul. Luke has been with T-Mobile for more than two decades, previously in several regional and market development manager roles.


  1. Introduction.
  2. What is 5G, and all these other Gs?
  3. What is BYOC (Build Your Own Coverage)?
  4. How does BYOC get brought into properties?
  5. What are the challenges of these deployments?
  6. What consideration should buildings be taking now?
  7. What are 6G & 7G going to be?
  8. Lightning round questions.



Blake Miller 0:02
Hey everybody, welcome back to the Future of Living podcast. I’m your host Blake Miller. Today we’ve got Luke Lucas on the podcast from T-Mobile. We talked about building your own connection and 5g inside of buildings. Check it out. Luke, welcome to the Future of Living podcast. How are you today?

Luke Lucas 0:22
Great, Blake. Nice to be with you.

Blake Miller 0:24
Yeah, no, it’s always crazy times. We’re actually taping this. Today, right after we we wrapped up the T-Mobile Accelerator and live broadcast the demo day. So figured why not stack up T-Mobile and get a bunch of pink in my life.

Luke Lucas 0:37
Don’t forget that’s magenta.

Blake Miller 0:39
Magenta. My bad. That is, I keep forgetting that I have to get the company line going. Right?

Luke Lucas 0:44
It’s actually a registered color.

Blake Miller 0:46
I love it. I love it. Well, you know, I actually see the T-Mobile Center here in Kansas City just got christened the old Sprint Center. So I see…

Luke Lucas 0:52
It did.

Blake Miller 0:53
I see that magenta my window. So well, why don’t you tell everybody kind of about yourself how you got to what you’re doing today at T-Mobile, which is some really cool stuff. And then we’ll talk about 5g and what the future is like.

Luke Lucas 1:04
Great. Thanks for that opportunity. So I’m Luke Lucas. I’m Senior Manager of 5g smart in-building coverage. It is my 25th year at T-Mobile. So yes, when you start at 25, and add 25, you work out…

Blake Miller 1:20
You’re an OG.

Luke Lucas 1:22
I’m, I’m an old guy here. But literally, I think I have seen the opportunity. As we started to build the outdoor network. From a commercial carrier perspective. On cellular across the US, I’ve now worked in three of the four engineering regions and T-Mobile, eight different city marketplaces. And then the last six years, I’ve worked my way to headquarters, to where initially I worked on the Major League Baseball account. That was when T-Mobile signed, that big broad band of marketing, and we had to then enable all the stadiums to make sure that our customers were connected. But it also gave me Blake the transition opportunity to say, after all these years of building indoor coverage, excuse me outdoor coverage, now’s the forefront, and the final frontier with indoor, so outdoor to indoor. And I think all of us as, as you know, folks in the US have enjoyed connecting from the the signal outdoors. But now, it really is a focal point because we actually have to go to the edge. And edge networking is now the key ingredient to indoor space. And that’s bringing the signal indoors on a perfected basis, that that business proposition was a business plan that I presented five and a half years ago. And that was originally called bring your own coverage. Today it’s branded build your own coverage. It’s really patterned after a fifth utility. And if you think of utility, water, sewer, gas, electricity, all those functions are created by the developer by the builder, once they put your project, your residential project, your commercial project or industrial project your retail project together. So no matter where you are in life, you’re attending these properties, and you’re having an expectation of connectivity. So today, the indoor signal is more important than ever, T-Mobile then supplement that and breaks it into two categories. First, we look at the enterprise or the government, who controls that indoor space to procure the equipment and the technology and put that in place. Secondarily, then T-Mobile budget internally to bring that signal source to you. That’s what we’ve licensed to the FCC. And of course, we typically include our fiber connectivity to our switch our switches our brain of the system, that then brings you into the total network. So it’s been really exciting. And over 25 years, like I’ve got to tell you, it’s finally the sweet spot, working so hard outdoors, now exclusively indoors. And then of course, we’ve now evolved from 4g to 5g. And what is 5g? It is the new platform foundation. It’s really it’s a build on the existing platforms that we had when we had one gene. People weren’t really aware of that. 2g still absence and…

Blake Miller 4:23
What are all these G’s, like, break that down? Like I want to really that’s where I really wanted to dig in here is like, what is this? What is 5g? Why do I need it? And you know, explain it to me kind of like I’m a five year old type of thing, right? Because I’m rocking around with my 4g my my phone here and I’m on the T-Mobile network. And it seems pretty fast like seems pretty awesome. But like what, what’s, what’s going on here?

Luke Lucas 4:46
So 5g is is really an evolution. Each G is a upgrade, if we could call it. So if we were talking to a classroom of students, you know through ease of our lives, we do a number of upgrades, we upgrade our car, we upgrade our housing, we upgrade our clothing, we upgrade, you know, personal effects. And so really in technology we’re upgrading. And we’re enabling from that upgrade. And so when you modernize and upgrade, it then allows you to do additional functions that you didn’t have before. It gives you creativity and innovation that you didn’t have access to before. And that’s really, I think, the bottom line, Blake is that there’s promise, there’s creativity tied to 5g. And I think last but not least, everybody has come accustomed to speed, and maybe speed to a certain degree. People don’t really need excessive speed, but I do think, at a industrial level, and from a productive level, in commerce and business, they will require speed to support the customer and the customer satisfaction. Yeah, certainly industries and businesses. And that’s what 5g is enabling. So in benefits, everybody it touches everybody, if you even have just a simple phone, that’s a 5g capable funnel, and you will have benefit. If that’s an enterprise level, you’re going to have much larger benefit. And certainly, if you’re an industry, or a business sector, a marketplace within the US. And of course, globally, you’re going to then see even more promise as it covers the land.

Blake Miller 6:37
Well, that’s, yeah, that’s awesome. That that really helps me kind of understand. I mean, it makes sense. We get a new iPhone, we have new phones every year, you know, I think I’m just on an installment plan at this point. I just like I’ve never owned a thing, right. It’s just my subscription service for my phone. Now everything is on a service, right? Talked on the on the podcast a lot about living-as-a-service, how just basically think everything is basically basically a SaaS. But talk to me about what like some people are doing with the early 5g networks and it coming online? Like what are what are some of the most innovative things that you’ve seen there? And some of the companies that you’ve been working with? What are they doing? What are they using for it?

Luke Lucas 7:19
Why I think the initial thought with 5g was that they would use it for safety, security and compliance. And I think that’s where we’re starting to see the entry into 5g. So the safety is obviously like cameras and monitoring and, and then it may expand into additional sensors that might be able to communicate with you in ways that we haven’t had access to before. Do you have a water break? Do you have a power failure? Do you have other things, you have efficiencies to say, hey, the cooling is running in my building? And it’s the weekend and there’s nobody there? So is excessive air conditioning necessary? Could you enable that just simply shut it off. So we’ve had some of the innovations over the years, you might remember it was called M to M or machine to machine? Now that has updated itself. And it’s called the Internet of Things or IoT. So when we combine the evolutions, we now see all these things coming into the space as services as a next is electable options that we can then put to work on to be more productive, to have cost efficiencies and savings, as I’ve mentioned. And again, what does the future hold that today we can’t answer? But you and I will say in two years, five years, 10 years from now, how did we ever do without that? Right? Because somebody invented and 5g supported that invention,

Blake Miller 8:56
You know, give give somebody a bigger pipe, they’ll just fill it. Right.

Luke Lucas 8:59
Right. Right. Expanding the canvas is exactly what’s happening. You know, we’re doing that here in Washington state, we created an Innovation Zone with the University of Washington with Microsoft, with a number of other companies to simply say, Here’s 5g on a blank canvas, what would you paint the canvas with?

Blake Miller 9:20
Yeah, I mean, that was the same mentality when we were doing the Smart City Technology Partnership here in Kansas City, and originally was Sprint. That was one of the things with the whole of rolling this out is like put the infrastructure out, open it up so people can then innovate on top of it. That’s, you know, take advantage of it. So it sucks. These stadiums and stuff aren’t happening right now and everything but I really want to talk to you about this BYOC because I know you guys have in your kind of job right now. You guys have done some really cool projects. Talk to me. What is BYOC? What is it? Why is it important? And if 5g is everywhere, why do I need?

Luke Lucas 10:02
So, build your own coverage was really to close the digital divide on making sure the outdoor signal gets in and gets in officially. So BYOC is just an enabler, as we’ve discussed, to make sure that there is a way for you to do that. All the carriers subscribe to getting signal indoors. But we really thought that we would take it a step further by educating the marketplace, and then also creating a multitude of programs. I’m a guy that grew up in San Diego, and I love ice cream. And I used to love to go to Baskin Robbins, because 31 flavors of ice cream, gave me an opportunity to kind of sample one. And if I didn’t like it, I would go to another and then when I found my favorite, I’d probably always include my favorite. If we break that down to a wireless technology side, indoors now is really become centric under COVID. And under civil rights. So we we’ve got to make sure that the technology is there. Each and every building owner operator tenant may look at technology and that incorporation a little differently. So like Baskin Robbins, we’ve tried to be creative. We’ve got our original BYOC program. Now Blake, it’s you put in the technology, we bring the signal source, you’re connected, you’re done. Secondarily, we had different locations that said, “Hey, I’m a public or quasi public location. And if I can’t afford in a budget, this budget cycle, this business here, of the technology with T-Mobile helped me with that.” And we call that BYOC Hybrid. And last but not least, we found ourselves competing with Verizon and AT&T, where they were simply choosing one option. we now call that option, BYOC Express. And the long and short of it is that previously, other clients or tenants of BYOC said, “Hey, I went to the other carriers. I wrote one check or gave them a purchase order, I gave them my credit card, and I bought the RF, I provided the backhaul myself, I’m putting in all the technology I just wanted and I want it quickly.” And we found in our BYOC program, we take basically about six months to evaluate the need, understand how it fits in the network, work with the enterprise client and their strategic partner, and then internally fund our RF, we also do a similar pattern with BYOC Hybrid on the public location. But for the BYOC Express program, you can show up today and six or eight weeks from now, you can be enabled with 5g, and you’ve done it all yourself in kind of a self control mode. Almost as if you and I were at the grocery store, you know, could we check out with the checker, or can we just go through the self-serve line. And so BYOC Express is really that third program. Last but not least, we’re going to have a fourth program probably in the first part of next year in 2021. And that would be the private network, also known as CBRS, or Citizen Band Radio Service, part of the spectrum that the FCC allocated is three dot five, that 3.5 spectrum is a preferred spectrum that is licensed only for indoors from your property bordered line. So it can be your business footprint, it can be geographically a larger footprint. And it functions in a couple of capacities where you can be licensed, or you can be unlicensed, like a Wi Fi. And we do think that that will be a greater opportunity. People will still apply the T-Mobile for BYOC, BYOC Hybrid, and most likely be expanding in the BYOC Express. But we do think that we’re just on the verge of probably a tidal wave hitting the beach of businesses saying I can really be in control of my technology and my future. And I can enable anything and everything under my own control with a CBR s or a private network offering.

Blake Miller 14:11
So that…help me if I’m a business owner or building owner probably better suited you know, we work with a Homebase, we work with apartment owners, you know, condo owners all types of stuff. Like, you know, my first reaction might be like, “Well, why do I need to do this? Aren’t you guys? Aren’t you guys already? I mean, you just launched 5g in Kansas City. Is it all here? Why do I need this? What’s my value?” Like, how do I plug this into my spreadsheet to see if this can be underwritten?

Luke Lucas 14:40
Well, it will, I think, I think it’s a custom prescription, Blake. I think each and every property owner and or a tenant needs to understand their needs and their expectations with technology. So to you and I we, you and I both see a lot of customers. A lot of partners And when you see them, we’re helping them assess their needs on an individual customer basis. Certainly certain developers, certain owners may say, I have a portfolio of properties. And I want to apply technology uniformly across all those properties. But I would tell you this and you know, this already, one developer sitting next to another developer, I will be in the room and I will be amazed at the disagreements that they’ll have on construction materials, landscaping, paint,…

Blake Miller 15:32
I’m honestly shocked that buildings get built. I’m fundamentally, utterly shocked. Once I’ve seen behind the scenes here, I’m shocked that they get built.

Luke Lucas 15:41
It is amazing. And, and that’s where I think, uniformity and kind of a opportunity kind of clash, for us to provide a handful of programs, so that someone can then say, for my situation for my real estate, this program fits. And that may have a financial component to it. It may not. Um, but we need to have a variety. Because in life, especially as Americans, we we love variety. We love choice. We’d love opportunity. So we’re trying to fulfill that in the BYOD program.

Blake Miller 16:18
That’s really cool. So talk to me about like some of these, like real applications, right? You mentioned some stadiums that you’ve worked on everything, what does those look like? And what are the challenges that go into getting these things in these networks?

Luke Lucas 16:33
Well, I think it’s foundational. First and foremost, we try to coach in at a provisional level. Before we actually land into a stadium for a deployment or into a commercial office building or a multi family building, we try to be educational in terms of get ready for technology. And we do that in a simple format. First and foremost, at our website, T-Mobile BYOC .com. We have a couple of checklists, as you know, we have the smart building checklist, we have the Smart City checklist. If we focused on the smart building checklist, regardless of stadium or commercial building or multifamily building, you want to provision that building to be ready for what we call any G. So we’re, we’re in 4g Today, we’re moving into 5g, and we have 5g available to our customers today. But when you look at your real estate, add more power, add more conduit, add more fiber, and add more Ethernet. If you provision your properties with with those four basic ingredients, and you’ve increased the amount that your architect or builder has recommended or has has written into your construction documents, you will be ready for the future because all of those paths, the power path, the wire path, the conduit path with the wires, all then brings all the technology together. And you’re simply doing an upgrade over the years, very similarly to what you do today with your Wi Fi router. If you have the connection of the wire and the power, you can plug it in the box. And within a two to three year cycles, you and I both know that Wi Fi router gets thrown out, and you’ve bought a new one to upgrade, and you plug in the power and the cat five, cat six or the fiber and boom, you’re back in business. That is the basis of our coaching and education to get people to provision that the rest will follow when they’re ready. And hopefully they’ll be ready, you know, sooner than later.

Blake Miller 18:40
Yeah, I mean, that’s it. That’s definitely good advice. We see this a lot too. And we get involved early on in that developers process where we’re trying to do everything from the access control, the Wi-Fi in the building and all these different things. And we’re just like, you know, you got to prep for this, like you there’s gonna be certain things that the future isn’t just going to have, right? Like, why are you putting in a telephone wire? You know, we still see that today on buildings that are going to go live in 2022. And they’re like, “Well, you know, just in case” I’m like, “Well, yeah, you know, I don’t know, I think things have moved beyond that. We know that we can move forward.” But you know, it’s just one example. You know, we’re running out of time, but I want to know, like, you know, you really broke it down well of 5g’s really another just evolution of like the next phase it is what is six g? What is seven g? What does that start to look like? Did you guys even start thinking about that yet?

Luke Lucas 19:31
Well, we think about it from dimensioning our network. It’s very much similar to that conversation that you and I just had about developers and property managers provisioning.

Blake Miller 19:41
Yeah, like basically how do you guys provision the provisioning?

Luke Lucas 19:44
Right? So so we’re doing all of those provisioning steps. We don’t know until the standards are written as you will know, for what will be the the basic framework for 16 and we will get there until about The seventh eighth or ninth year as we evolve into 5g. Interesting, but you and I like smart drivers, we need to meet immediately know of our surroundings, we need to immediately look down the road. But we probably even need to look at our app to see are there accidents? Are there issues that can be addressed? 20 miles down the road? Yeah. And that’s the preparation for 6g. Blake is we’re trying to envision what and where it’s going, what roadblocks, we will anticipate what roadblocks we can get cleared. And where we could be in the basic sweet spot so that as all of this comes together, and as the standards are written, and as all the carriers then start to look at, okay, it’s the standard is written, how do I adopt it? How do I put in place? How does that translate out to marketing? How does that eventually come out to the customer experience? All those things, we’re taking baby steps, and we will and will continue to do so. But we’re right in the throes of the sweet spot that we believe. We’re now deploying 5g and actively 5g. People even, you know, in recent weeks have said, “Well, look, I’m still waiting for 5g to be launched.” And I’ll say, “5g? I have it on my Samsung and Apple in September.”

Blake Miller 21:21
Unlike AT&T doing like 5g E or whatever it is like that they’re they’re claiming. Oh, it’s legit. I’m on it too I got. That’s why I upgraded to the S20 Ultra is like Google has it. It’s awesome. Yeah. So I end up every episode with some of my favorite lightning round questions. And one of my favorites ask everybody I always kick off with is, what particular business or service is going to be completely obsolete in the next 10 years? Like in other words, who is the next blockbuster?

Luke Lucas 21:50
Interesting. Boy? I don’t know. Um, you know, that’s a really good question. And with COVID, I think it weighs in completely sure, though, that to a 90 degree angle that it hits broadside. You know, people that would have probably thought in January, February and March, that they would have a good run rate are probably now, you know, questioning whether they’re going to be a business. First and foremost, I think retail is going to suffer the most. And we’re gonna see the absence of storefront retail, on diminished retail, because people, people are more centric, online and delivery. Now. Whether Amazon’s created that indirectly or directly, we’ve all become a product and a source of that. Sure. So I that’s what I would say. And I think the commercial real estate market is going to have a different landscape. The residential market is going to prosper, people are going to want more amenities. I think the Wall Street Journal article this week shows that there’s a number of amenities that, you know, are are yet to be kind of explored yet it will be incorporated into projects. But back to your question. Retail, I think we’re gonna see an absence of commercial retail.

Blake Miller 23:13
Yeah, and it’s, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a sad thing. Hopefully, hopefully, something will come get into place, maybe a bunch of Shopify stores end up kind of coming coming back and do the smaller rethought retail, you know.

Luke Lucas 23:25
I have a feeling it will it will read dimension it to your point? Yeah, um, I don’t think we’ll see the hundred percent absence of it, there will be some necessity for it. It will be just reprovision.

Blake Miller 23:37
It really surprised me that some of these bigger ones and it’s probably that, you know, they go bankrupt because of debt and other bad decisions and those things, but it definitely surprises me that like the Macy’s, maybe they didn’t go bankrupt. But one of those that would bankrupt whoever did. You know, it surprised me. They didn’t like repurpose themselves faster to be like mini warehouse logistics hubs and some of these things, these bigger boxes they had, it’s just like, you know, that that’s blockbuster. There you go.

Luke Lucas 24:02
Yeah. So and that that goes back to watching the roadmap. Yep. You know, how do you keep your eyes on 20 miles down the road, not just the mile. And that’s where I think those businesses have lost sight.

Blake Miller 24:14
Totally. So what you know, COVID everybody’s been locked up everything. Have you acquired any device, or anything recently, this kind of made your major quarantine better?

Luke Lucas 24:27
Well, I definitely upgraded my phones to the 5g. And I’m waiting for my Apple device. So I’ve got two Samsung devices that I’ve moved, like you have to the 5g to make sure that that’s incorporated. I’ve upgraded my service. I actually live in downtown Seattle, so I was able to actually get up to one gig speed. So I’ve done that. Previously, I did have need for one gig speed when I would go physically to work to Bellevue 20 miles away from downtown Seattle every day. But staying at home. And then I think, other than that, just kind of making sure that, you know, I’m getting out and around and not spending so much time. It’s easy, maybe too easy to have an eight growing into a 10 hour business day, working from home now. So I think you were asking for a specific example. But I think it’s just kind of a pattern now, and making sure that there’s proper allocation so that your sanity remains your sanity?

Blake Miller 25:35
Yeah, totally. I totally get it. No, I and that’s a great answer. So, you know, we’re talking about like, obviously, 5g is a platform that is going to change everything. What’s one of the other platforms that’s going to really reign supreme in the future? You know, voices is something that’s happening right now, what’s that? What’s next, you know, the self driving cars, what’s going on?

Luke Lucas 25:58
Well, I think it really just kind of lends itself to the marketplace and the exploration of problems and solutions. So you and I, maybe there’s autonomous vehicles, but at times vehicles really requires a, you know, very low latency and a really strong connection. When you and I are partnering with cities and counties and communities, they’re finding that their coverage is not that great. They’ve known about dead zones and holes in coverage. And that, then is a pitfall for those types of things. But I do think there’s going to be, you know, immediately some medical application, since we’re in COVID. And I think we’re gonna see some very innovative, creative ways that we’re going to one be probably changing our lifestyle, things that we’ve always done a certain way, will be changing, I think technology will be enabling that. And that’s probably maybe my five to 10 mile, you know, roadmap. But like you, it’s, it’s so creative and exciting to see what potentially could happen beyond that. We’ll get there in time.

Blake Miller 27:10
Definitely. So we’ve talked a lot about how technology, specifically 5g, but this all this different type of technology, it’s enabled by it is going to change everything in the future, what’s something that technology is not going to change?

Luke Lucas 27:24
Whoo, boy, that’s a tough one. Um, you know, technology’s touched so many aspects of our lives today. And even in places where we don’t know it’s touched it, it has some kind of presence, um, I don’t know, I think still recreation and, and vacations and those types of things, you’ll still have, you know, kind of innocence without a heavy application of technology. Um, I think it’ll be in the periphery of those types of applications, but not the predominant, you know, primary, you know, presence that we’ve seen in business, if you go to the office, technology’s obviously there, if you’re at home technologies, obviously, there, if you’re outdoors, connectivity is probably at a basic level for 911, and public safety, and general accessibility there. Um, so you and I have to look for places to escape. Mm hmm. And that’s why I think that, you know, vacationing, and then getting away from it. Whether it’s present or not, is probably the only place that technology is not touching. And we’re probably doing that on a self performance basis by saying, I don’t need technology, or I don’t want technology. And I’m kind of focusing on something different, and away from technology. So that’s the only thing that really comes to mind to meet Blake. Any thoughts that you had? What are other people? What are they answer?

Blake Miller 29:00
Well, you can go listen. Shameless plug.

Luke Lucas 29:02
I’ll do that.

Blake Miller 29:04
No shameless plug for everybody to go listen to more. But you know, it’s a common theme is, you know, I think the one thing that technology is not going to change is that people want to be connected, they want to escape, they want experiences together. And so that’s just kind of that theme of you know, travel and vacationing and all that those are experiences. And that’s what people want. That’s something that technology just can’t replace. You know, we’re sitting here we’re doing these all these Zoom calls, everybody Zooms from day to day, or Google or whatever you’re on. And, you know, you’re exhausted at the end of the day. And the one thing I’m still longing for is just hanging out with my buddies hanging out with our friends and those things. You know, in the end, you just can’t do it in these times. And I think all the things that has that this crisis and everything is accelerated in everything. It’s also just left everything still the same.

Luke Lucas 29:59
The escape without technology. There you go.

Blake Miller 30:05
Yeah, no, I love this conversation. I really enjoyed it. Tell everybody how they can find you online. We’ll also make sure it’s on the show notes.

Luke Lucas 30:13
So, two ways. First, my first name is Luke like Skywalker. And my last name is Lucas like George Lucas. Pretty easy to remember pretty easy to spell. They can typically find me on LinkedIn, and a minimum, secondarily, they can just go to the beam T-Mobile BYOC .com site, and there’s a contact portion there. And probably third, let’s throw that in. They can contact you and you can contact me.

Blake Miller 30:41
Bingo, exactly. I like it. Well, Luke, I really enjoyed this conversation, like I said, and I appreciate it. Thanks, Blake.

Jason McCann on the Future of the Office

As a founder and the CEO of Vari, Jason McCann’s mission is to help companies create environments that elevate people. A lifelong entrepreneur, Jason has more than 20 years of experience building and running successful companies. He learned the importance of putting the customer first early-on while working in his mother’s hair salons as a child.

Jason co-founded VariDesk in 2013, and the brand quickly became synonymous with sit-stand desks. Under his leadership, the company grew at an incredible pace and expanded its product and service offerings significantly, calling for it’s new, more inclusive name – Vari.

Today, Jason oversees all aspects of Vari from design, to sales, to customer service and distribution. The company has grown into a workspace innovation company that provides everything high-growth businesses need to unlock the potential of their workforce – from a full suite of office furniture to the workspaces themselves, offering space-as-a-service with VariSpace. A multi-tenant campus designed to elevate the way businesses approach office, VariSpace offers first-class amenities, fully outfitted offices, and flexible lease terms to enterprise-level clients.

About Vari (formerly VariDesk):

A workspace innovation company, Vari helps growing organizations unlock the potential of their space and their people. From a collection of office furniture to workspaces offering space-as-a-service, the company makes it easy for high-growth businesses to scale and flex their office space. Organizations all over the world — including over 98% of the Fortune 500 — use Vari products, which are tested and certified to the highest industry standards.


  1. Rebranding from VariDesk to Vari in early 2020
  2. Vari Headquarters transformation to prepare for the return to the office
  3. What can companies do today to start planning for the return to the office?
  4. VariSpace offices spaces.
  5. The seamless offices of the future.


LinkedIn: @vari
Twitter: @workwithvari
Facebook: @workwithvari
Instagram: @workwithvari


Blake Miller 0:00
Hey everyone, welcome back to the Future of Living podcast. I’m your host Blake Miller. Today we’ve got Jason McCann, from Vari, maker of those standup desks that everybody loves. You know, Jason and I talked about the future of work. I really think you’re gonna enjoy it. Check it out. Jason, how are you man? Welcome to the Future of Living podcast.

Jason McCann 0:23
Awesome, Blake. It’s so good to see you. Thanks for inviting me today. Look forward to the conversation.

Blake Miller 0:27
Oh, me too, man. I love love your guys’s desk. I’m sitting on one myself right now. I’m sitting though.

Jason McCann 0:33
Hopefully gonna be standing here in a few minutes.

Blake Miller 0:35
Yeah, absolutely. Why don’t you give everybody kind of introduce yourself. Let everybody know what you guys are doing. And I mean, you guys are building the future of living?

Jason McCann 0:44
Yeah. So Jason, I’m the co founder and CEO of Vari, we were formerly known as Varidesk. So we created that crazy sit stand phenomenon that’s out there. We’ve got over 3 million fans, and 135 now different countries that use that original product that we created. And now we create a full line of office space and really are thinking about the future of workspace is it’s continuing to transition. And in fact, we’ve even bought a couple buildings now called VariSpace where we lease out fully furnished offices.

Blake Miller 1:13
That’s very cool. Well, it’s great to meet you. I think it’s gonna be really awesome conversation. Talk to me about that rebrand from Varidesk into Vari. And you know, what’s what what happened there?

Jason McCann 1:24
Yeah, you think back, you know, we were addressing Dan’s back pain. And he’s standing at the cardboard box. And we dream up our first product. And we, what are you going to call it and we “Oh, it’s a variable height desk, and we’ll call it Varidesk.” Well, suddenly, fast forward a few years later, and we’ve now transformed our headquarters, and we did walls that move and added LED lights and soft seating and height at full height adjustable electric deaths. And everybody walked in and said, “why is it varidesk like you’re so much more.” And so we went through a process we work with the same firm that helped Federal Express for those of you that remember Federal Express transformed their brand of FedEx. And we said what could we do? And how could we do it? And they said, Well, you’ve got so much brand built up, you know the value of it with Vari, what about Vari and it just all clicked our fans resonated with it. Future fans, they said, you can be a technology company, it could be workspace innovation, you could be much bigger. So we went for it. And it was an incredible 18 month process. The fans have now resonated. It’s been incredible.

Blake Miller 2:28
It’s so cool. I mean, you guys do how you have fans, right? And I think that’s something that’s been very, very cool. When I saw it. I was like, you know, that’s like the Sean Parker moment, like, “drop the The.” You should just “drop the The off of Facebook” but, you know, it’s really interesting to me that you guys are a product company, you’re a tech company, or you’re changing the office and how we’re living like, talk to me what it’s like to have like fans of that, right. Like, you mentioned that it’s just that it. You guys have a cult.

Jason McCann 2:56
It didn’t dawn on me, you know john skagen, who’s now Chief Revenue Officer joined me as Director of Marketing five years ago did a word cloud, you know, kind of that first? What do you do? He took all the reviews that were out there. And the number one word in the reviews was love. I love my Varidesk. And that at that moment, I said, we don’t have customers, we have fans. And if we can build a lifelong career long relationship with our fan base, they will start to talk about the product, they will help us build this momentum and be that word of mouth spread, or and finding that small group of people that loved it created a ripple phenomenon that so many people around the world could like it. And so it’s been tremendous. And so that’s one of our core values is, you know, creating lifelong fans. And it’s everything we think about so it’s no longer customer service, it’s customer experience. So look at it great companies like Zappos were like, how do we even do better customer experience than Zappos. And so, it’s been fun to look at all these other great organizations and raise the bar and try to create what we think is the next next level of a relationship with our fans.

Blake Miller 4:00
That’s really cool. You mentioned Zappos. I’m a big fan of that. I’ve known Tony for a very long time. What do you guys do to take that even to the next step? I mean, that Delivering Happiness book was something that I was just like, yep, that’s exactly what we should be doing. You What do you guys do to take it to the next step?

Jason McCann 4:16
Yeah, that was sort of the start. What I didn’t have any employees. My first customer experience person Taylor. I said, All right, read this book. And we want to be better than this. Like, if this is the bar, like, Is there anything we could do better? And now that my team’s elevated, we almost think of space-as-a-service model now and how do we take workspaces and we have walls that move and space of moves, and so on? I’ve said, how do you take the experience the way Disney even pushes it even further. So when you walk into our workspace, there are scent machines, my culture team greets you, you’ve got a coffee bar that’s integrated with the lobby experience, like whether you’re hiring, or they’re recruiting talent or we’re doing business ourselves, like all these little energy pockets go throughout a space and so I think every touchpoint that you can have with a fan, with your employees with future fans with suppliers that you’re working with, that those touch points create positive energy in an organization. That’s where I think you’re continuing to see the evolution of what the customer experience. The fan experience can be in an organization.

Blake Miller 5:18
Jason, you’re giving me goosebumps, dude. Can I come work for you?

Jason McCann 5:21
Come on, we’re hiring. I know in the middle of the storm we’re hiring. Join me.

Blake Miller 5:27
I got a sell it to Homebase first. No, no, I mean, this is really cool. So we’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’re all we’re a lot of people are working from home. People are talking about, you know, offices going away all of these things like, What are you guys doing? Talk to me about this. We’ve got a lot of real estate developers, a lot of property owners and managers that listen to us of all different types of properties. Like, talk to me about what is happening, what’s going on and what you’re seeing.

Jason McCann 5:56
Yeah, so we had the COVID shock hit us just like everybody, so we initially said, Oh, what are we going to do? And over, you know, in a four hour period, all 300 plus of my employees were working remote. And then there was 10 of us here that were kind of showing up or considered an essential business, our work from home business, shot through the roof. Because everybody started sitting at home on the kitchen table for about two weeks and suddenly said, okay, I need an electric desk, I need to work space, the dogs are barking, can I buy like a marker board and put it next to me and create the illusion of a space? And so I said, well, why don’t we redesign the entire headquarters while everybody’s gone? So I reached out to my teams in Asia, and they were about 10 weeks ahead of us. So I said what are the restaurants and where the hotels doing? What are the high rises doing? And I just started getting all this information, translating that into English learning thing. Okay, temperature checks. We started that alcohol. Cleaning sanitizer started that we moved all of our space to six foot distancing between everybody so I because our furniture is totally flexible. I literally redesigned the headquarters while everybody was out. I started with manual temperature checks. And then I went to look at what the Taipei 101 was doing, because they have thousands of people that roll through there. They use eizo. So they’re checking all they’re checking hundreds of people at a time. So I bought one of those 15,000 bucks. So everything about getting the health and wellness of the employee so that we can figure out what is the workspace of the future gonna be like, and I think it’s all around flexibility. So it’s going to be an interesting chapter for all of us but we’ve got it we got to figure find ways to get through the storm.

Blake Miller 7:30
So you mentioned like the flexibility of some of your, your furniture and what it like talk to me about that not just desk like I see, you know, we’re filming this today to through the magic of video, but, you know, what are all the different things other than just a standing desk, like what is it?

Jason McCann 7:47
Yeah, so from a product standpoint, I’ve got almost 300 different products that we offer. So the biggest thing has been quick flex walls, so it’s literally acrylic and glass walls, panels that we can move throughout a space. So there seven-and-a-half feet tall, we can move them throughout a space, it creates rooms barriers, we started making acrylic panels. I got one here right next to me, but that we started attaching on all the desks. And you see those now in every restaurant and airport. So we started making them ourselves and producing them for ourselves. And then we had fans that we reached out to that we’d already done spaces for and I said, hey, how can I help space plan and redesign your space? So we put barriers between each of our team members, I tripled the number of Purell stations throughout. I took our single coffee bar that was a major collision point culturally, and I said we got to do two coffee bars, we’re going to spread it all out, single serving on everything. And how do you take even conference rooms, I took all the doors off all of our conference rooms and meeting rooms or eliminated every touchpoint I could and then we said okay, how are we going to come back? So I asked reached out to my team we surveyed and then 25% were saying we want to come back now. And so we started with the early adopters and learned.

Blake Miller 8:54
Were we laughing at this before we started this I was like some of my employees were like your that, with the parents, you know they’re like, “you’re not going to you’re not going to close the office or anything?

Jason McCann 9:02
Forever. Are you?

Blake Miller 9:03

Jason McCann 9:04
Yeah. I think we need to, we need to find those those moments. And really, you know, we took the break room, I wasn’t sure. So I put acrylic panels on the break tables, we spread it out. And I did it on half the tables. And as the first people came back, they always sat at the tables with the acrylic panels. So now I put him on all the tables. And we all were we’ve been wearing masks for months now. And so and I’ve been wearing masks when I travel to Asia, if you’re ever under the weather, it’s very normal phenomenon. And so those things culturally, we’ve said, you’re going to smile with your eyes. You’re going to still say hello and you’re going to wave you may not you know shake hands but you’re going to do handover heart or wave and find a way to have a human connection here. While we all figure out what the next normal is going to be.

Wow, you guys really been very, very thoughtful about this. It’s it’s a, there’s a lot of notes here that are gonna have to come on the show notes. We’re gonna keep keep the transcribers busy. So talk to me. You mentioned VariSpace a little bit ago. Talk to me about that. That sounds like you’re basically opening a co working space in the middle of a pandemic, when everyone closing dowing offices.

Yeah, so I think of it as enterprise level space-as-a-service. So what we learned is as clients walked into our headquarters, they said, Well, I want all of this and that really elevated our vision to creating workspaces that elevate people, as opposed to we’re just selling furniture. That’s not what we do. We think about workspace can be a positive transformation of culture. And so how do you leverage it but I think of culture continues to ebb-and-flow as you add amazing members and embody your values. Your business model, ebbs-and-flows is the business needs change your workspace should ebb-and-flow just like that. So thinking about your workspace as a canvas, so we always envision everything can move. And so we’ve done projects even like for Google, where they’re moving thousands of people all the time working on these agile teamwork, you know, working on two week sprints, so we think workspace should mirror that. And so that’s how we’ve always thought about it and working up the food chain. We said, Well, what if we bought a building and learned even more? Until we bought our first building? It’s over 300,000 square feet, it’s now fully leased, all enterprise level clients. Our smallest space for us is 10,000.

Blake Miller 11:13
Where is this by the way?

Jason McCann 11:14
So it’s in it’s in Irving. It’s in the Dallas Fort Worth area, and it’s called Las Colinas. So it’s the former Zales headquarter. So a beautiful building built in the early 80s. And it sat empty for five years. So it kind of felt like a building in the 80s. We got it and we reimagined it. So if you go to you can get a video tour of it. It’s awesome. Yeah, and so it’s just a cool way to think about, say sort of our largest client is Verizon, so they’ve got 200,000 square feet of space for us. But it’s allowed us to build an on-site cafe, a 10,000 square foot gym, do our hospitality services all for enterprise level. And so we offer three to five year leases. It’s not considered, you know, co-working the way you think of it traditionally with you know, and you and I in a startup and two people and we’re all benching in that it’s literally suites and large spaces all using our furniture. And then we can transform the space if their business changes, hey, we need to set up a prop up a team, my team comes in and can literally transform the furniture. So it’s a it’s a new way to think of space-as-a-service.

Blake Miller 12:15
That’s really incredible, so like what, I mean it’s probably a lot of different ways, but like, what sort of, like what does that cost? Like, as a as an owner, you know, that’s how do you slot that into, you know, what’s happening, especially with, you know, the changing environment of office space and all this?

Jason McCann 12:31
Yeah, so for us, you know, because it was because I’m not from the furniture industry, I come from consumer products and I’m a human being like the rest of you. And so I think of like, what’s the easiest way to get things done and so we designed the very first Varidesk it was slide out of the box, no tools required. Dan and I always joke that IKEA is like the worst Saturday of your life so

Blake Miller 12:53
Oh my gosh.

Jason McCann 12:54
Could we create a…

Blake Miller 12:55
Like I’ve got so many like calluses just from like small…

Jason McCann 12:59
Allen wrench.

All of our product was initially designed so that you could build it in less than five minutes. So Dan, and I could build it in less than five minutes with David, our head of design, then we thought everybody would build their own. Well, what happened is his client said, no, no, can you build it for us. So what I’ve done is just simply layer it in. So if you’re a larger client for us, we come in and just layer this service. And it’s a very simple way we can come in, we do free space planning and design. We come in, install your furniture for free. And then once a year, we can come in and help you transform the space. And there’s a very simple way to do that listening to our fans. So for the tenants in our in our VariSpace buildings, we provide it for free. Every year we come in and transform their space as they need it. So they just reach out, and it’s just part of our service.

Blake Miller 13:48
How do you guys do all this? This is amazing.

Jason McCann 13:52
Well, I think like you, I mean, we’re entrepreneurs, right? And so I’ve hired and you get great people around you and you listen to your fans. And they pull you on the journey. And so, before we never I didn’t even know what an anti-fatigue mat was years ago and all the fans were emailing say, “hey, do you have anti fatigue mats? I’ve been standing on concrete or wood floors?” Sure. Let’s figure it out, you know, and we created one and then the monitor arms. And do you have “do you have electric desks?” I thought for sure everybody’s they’ve already made electric desks, but we made a better one easy to assemble. And then we started just thinking, Okay, well, we have standing conference tables for us, our meetings are better. Why don’t we sell those two and people came into our space and they said I love your active chair that you have. Okay, well, let’s let’s share it with the world.

Blake Miller 14:39
That by the way is my favorite. That thing is cool.

Jason McCann 14:41
Yeah, so I think listening to your fans and asking all those those those questions about where are they having pain? Can you help monetize that pain, address and get reduce all those friction points, and things like COVID we’ve got it on steroids, all this pressure that’s put on all of us as entrepreneur and business owners. So how do you create a culture that says, okay, I’m afraid to, I’m being vulnerable? I’m trying to get through this. But what are the ways that I can help and serve others? And all of that ultimately works out to building business?

Blake Miller 15:14
Yeah. Wow. I mean, you are, you’re nailing it. Now. So talk to me about everybody’s like getting ready to go back to the office, right. And some of those you talked about some of the things you guys are doing and some of the things you’re enabling like, as if I’m a business, or if I own large apartment buildings, I’m losing some retail and doing some of these things like, What am I thinking about? How do we make how do we how do we manage the office going forward? How do I how do I do leases? How do I do these sorts of things? If I’m trying to, if I’m losing office space to to people?

Jason McCann 15:46
Yeah, I think that the number one thing is communication. I think, being totally transparent and authentic. I think if you’re if you’re a building owner, you don’t want the tenant space back. If you’re a restaurant tour, you don’t want to go out of business. The customers want to find food and get it delivered to them. So everybody’s in it together. So how do you think about your business model evolving or changing? What can we all lean in? Where can we be a little more nimble and lean here? By over-communicating and saying, “what is possible? How could we get through this? Could you reduce my rent here and extend my terms? Could you help me adjust my model? Could we rethink some things and ideate and try to find those pockets of opportunity, as opposed to not talking to holding up to sitting in your house or your apartment and not doing anything?” I think number one is communicating. These are the things I’m struggling with, how can we find common ground to get through it and get a group of people in there to help you? Because I think all of us are in this together. And I think finding people that recognize that we have an opportunity to make a difference at this moment. Find ways to serve others figure out ways to help other companies or organizations, all of those things are going to happen. Yes, the the future of workspace is going to look different. It’s going to continue to evolve, but I think it’s going to do Just continue to evolve and change. So you think about, you hear these apartment developers like, wow, I everything’s been, you know, Chip and Joanna Gaines open concept, but maybe we do need a little space for an office or maybe we need to have transformed one of those restaurants into something like a VariSpace or a co-working space so that I can get out of my home and get down and meet with my teams for a little while. So I think they’re gonna be rethinking space and repurposing it. And that’s how the future is going to be is okay. It’s happening really fast. So how do you stay the eye of the storm here and calm while all this craziness is happening around you, and make the best decisions you can?

Blake Miller 17:37
Jason we’re almost out of time but I always end everything every episode with his like lightning round questions. One of my favorite questions to ask is what particular business or service is going to be obsolete in the next 10 years like in other words, who is the next Blockbuster? That doesn’t know it right now?

Jason McCann 17:54
Yeah, I think out. I think the the the editor got to think about that one for just a sec. Yeah. So as you think about businesses that aren’t going to be here, I think the the companies that have too many layers, manufacturers that have dealers, have distributors, have all those layers and aren’t close enough to the fan base are going to be absolutely disrupted. I think you’re watching the furniture industry get disrupted before our eyes, the way that our model is built more like Tesla, and you’re watching that entire industry struggle with what is the future of how do we do business when we don’t have a direct relationship with the fan base. So I think that that’s going to continue to change. I also think there’s gonna be a huge transformation just the way people work and live because, you know, if you read the faster than you think book, you’re like, wow, that the future is going to be so dynamic. I heard from Dr. Wilson yesterday at Denton ISD said something incredible blew my mind. He said, If you pull out this iPhone or your smartphone, and you’re a kindergartener, that’s the least tech not least technology based piece of equipment you’ll ever use in your lifetime like this is…

Blake Miller 19:00

Jason McCann 19:01
An aha moment yeah. So this you think back to when I was in kindergarden, yeah, I was back there with my pencil and pen you know if they were sharing the crayon box and to think that they’re there the iPhone is the least advanced piece of technology these kids will ever use in their lifetime. So I think we have to stay optimistic and hopeful during this recognize that there’s going to be a lot of change embrace it, turn it into the next great companies lean in with over-communication and build something fantastic.

Blake Miller 19:33
I love that what a what not Vari device or furniture have you acquired post-COVID that’s a help make your quarantine a little bit better?

Jason McCann 19:43
Yeah, so for for me the first day well, the first non-Vari thing, yeah, I built I built a home office. Yeah, I built like I built I took it by exact office that I work with here and I did it at home so I literally duplicated my setup. So I have a spot in my workspace because my kids all took over all the rooms. So I don’t have an office at home probably like most of you. And so I said, but I need a spot where if I’m going to do a video conference or talk or Zoom or I needed to feel like I’m with my team, like where am I at? So I literally recreated my office at home. And that’s been a great thing for me to say, okay, so I have my Vari coffee mug on the spot. I haven’t I haven’t bought anything, you know, because I’m not I’m not a big consumer out there for for purchasing. As I think actually the thing I bought the most has been more Audible books on on the future. And I think I’ve done way more meditating and things like that to recharge because I think I recognizes CEO I’m under so much pressure, just like all of you are we’re all facing the same pressure. And I recognize if I’m under pressure, my team’s under even more pressure. So how do I make sure that I’m taking time to meditate and recharge when I can, and sharing that with my team, you know, being vulnerable. Those are things that I would say I’ve spent more money on, but I haven’t really I haven’t really bought anything crazy.

Blake Miller 21:10
For that what’s the what’s the best thing you’ve listened to recently on Audible?

Jason McCann 21:14
Yeah, I’m idle literally that Faster Than You Think book was great. I had I read the summaries of it. Yeah, so it’s it’s a it’s a great one. And the Audible versions got the extra dialogue with the author. I thought that was a fantastic piece. Alma lollies book on Ford. I finished probably two weeks ago, another incredible book out there. The Infinite Game I went back and re-listened to because I just love the way Simon summarized really like what I want to do with Vari is build a company that can live beyond my lifetime and thinking long term, especially in moments like this about the decisions you make I think are critical.

Blake Miller 21:57
That’s a good book. Such a good one. So if you had to describe kind of the the office of the future, what exactly does that that look like?

Jason McCann 22:08
Yeah, I think you have to think of the word seamless, and how is work going to be done in the future. And so I think we’re gonna, we’re social by nature. And we want moments of collaboration and teamwork, and those collision points that happen. So I think those are going to continue to happen. But I also think there’s going to be moments of focus or most of remote work. And so whether that’s at home or even in a third space, I think those are going to continue to evolve over time. I think the idea that we as as humans and entrepreneurs and business people, when we are together, and we ideate and we create that magic, that’s not going to go away. So that’s going to continue to embrace with technology, I think you’re gonna see AI and all of those things make us better. We’re gonna be a little fearful of it. But I think ultimately it’s going to continue to enhance our lives and continue evolve and it is I think about workspace. I think it’s all built on flexibility. So you want if you’re a business owner, you kind of want shorter term leases, you want space when you need it, I think the idea of the way that cloud has become sort of synonymous with, you know, whether it’s AWS or whatever, it’s like, I’m literally, you know, plugging into the Google Cloud and all my stuff’s up there. Well, that’s kind of I think about space. Like, kind of, that’s why I love about aerospace is you come in, we take care of everything when you need it, and then your your business can ebb and flow over time. And I think that’s those are elements of what we’re going to see in the future and future of learning is going to transform and change from the way schools and universities teach and I think all that’s going to integrate into corporate America, so it’ll be great.

Blake Miller 23:43
Jason, we’ve talked a lot about like how technology is going to change everything in the future what’s something is not going to change, especially as it relates to the office?

Jason McCann 23:52
I think the the desire for human interaction, I think, you know, we I walked in like everybody and you start to see everybody with masks on. And it’s a it’s a little scary at first and then suddenly, you recognize you can smile with your eyes. You can wave hand over heart, like little things and gestures and human contact and having communications. And yeah, you’re six feet away when you talk now. But all of a sudden, you realize we’re all in this together. And so the the idea of human interaction and connection and leading with love and empathy, I don’t think you’re gonna go anywhere. So I think those are going to be the great organizations that, that survive and thrive through this or thrive after this. And the leaders that that emerge out of it, because we’ve all got people in our organizations which are rallying cry is keep rolling until the wind catches our sails. I mean, we recognize this is a challenging moment. And so for my team members, those are things that aren’t going to change. Like we’re all in this journey together. Our goal is, you know, to create memories and to make a positive impact on people’s lives. And I think at the end of your journey and my journey, if those two things can be possible that we’ve made And build things that have a positive, lasting impact beyond our lifetime if we’ve taken a lifetime of memories with us, and we’ve done something great and so I don’t I don’t think those things are gonna change.

Blake Miller 25:10
Journey is the destination. Jason this has been such a great conversation. I’ve so enjoyed it. Let everybody know how they can find you online.

Jason McCann 25:19
Yeah, so it’s a and if you want to check out VariSpace, it’s And we’re doing tours virtual online. So you can click on there and learn about us and we’d love to love to help you as you’re powering through this storm. with us. We’re on the journey with you so we we’re happy to help in any way we can.

Blake Miller 25:38
That’s so great. And you know, I’m a fan. I’ve got a desk and I love it. It’s the best. My staff wants me to outfit the whole place. We haven’t quite gotten there revenue milestones-wise, we’re getting there soon.

Jason McCann 25:51
Alright, keep rowing the wind is going to catch your sales, Blake. Let’s do this.

Blake Miller 25:58
It definitely is you guys might have a hole VariSpace down here in Kansas City for us.

Jason McCann 26:02
We’d love that though. All right, bud.

Blake Miller 26:03
Jason, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Jason McCann 26:05
My pleasure. Thanks bud.


Calvin Cooper on Social Equity for Renters

Calvin Cooper is the co-founder and CEO of Rhove, a fintech company founded to turn every renter into an owner. Prior to founding Rhove, Calvin was a Director and Venture Partner at an early stage venture capital firm located in the Midwest. Calvin is active in community and entrepreneur support organizations. He serves on the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center YEx Advisory Board. In 2017, the Columbus City Council and the Create Columbus Commission recognized Calvin with the Visionary Award, and he was also listed in the 40 Under 40 Class of 2017 by Columbus Business First. Calvin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Capital University in Financial Economics.


  1. Why it is important for every member in a democracy to have an economic stake in their community?
  2. How the pandemic affected our decision to make our long term plan of launching Renterhsip our short term plan to launch it in 3 months?
  3. As an ex-VC, how are you viewing the explosion of Proptech and starting a company.
  4. For multifamily investors, what is the best thing they can do to help future-proof their properties?
  5. For RE developers considering co-living developments, what one thing should they be thinking about that isn’t obvious?
  6. What we learned from launching an MVP savings product before launching Rentership.
  7. Lightning round.


Blake Miller 0:01
Welcome back to the Future of Living podcast. I’m your host Blake Miller. Today we’ve got Calvin Cooper from Rhove on the podcast. We talked about social equity and his path towards rentership and what they’re doing it Rhove. It’s really cool. Check it out. Calvin, welcome to the Future of Living podcast man, how you been? How you living?

Calvin Cooper 0:23
I’m doing alright. I appreciate it. I’m so excited to dive in with you today.

Blake Miller 0:27
Man, I really am excited to talk about this, like what you’re doing is just so cool. And I’ve got egg on my face, we actually had recorded a combo and somehow did get out and Season Two. But as you’ve kind of filled me in and when I reached out, like what you’re doing is actually what you should have been doing the whole time as you’ve kind of said it. And I’m so excited to kind of learn about it. So why don’t you introduce kind of everybody with who you are, what you’ve been doing, and why you are building the future of living?

Calvin Cooper 0:55
Yes, so I’m the co-founder and CEO Rhove and our vision is really quite simple. We’re going to turn every renter to an owner. And that was really the idea that inspired the creation of the company. So I’m glad actually that we were able to circle back in and talk about Rentership now, because previously, we were just building the savings match product as a way to to get quickly in the market and pilot and learn and get all the technology we needed to build to accomplish this, but we’re so inspired by all the love and light coming in from across the world. And it’s pretty incredible to be a stakeholder in a property as a renter alongside neighbors. I’m a stakeholder.

Blake Miller 1:42
So what does this mean? Tell me about this. Like, I mean, this just sounds so revolutionary, but also sounds like so obvious, because it gives people you know, a stake in their own community.

Calvin Cooper 1:55
Yes, so it’s interesting that you mentioned that it’s obvious. It’s actually a really old idea, something that John Adams our second president talked about when he mentioned that to preserve equal liberty, or in society that we should make the ownership and division of land available to every member of society. And so this idea is something that I’ve been obsessed with for a long time. It’s so impactful land ownership is so impactful for income equality, and really is important to compel people to participate in the community, and government and it’s so many other things. And so, what this is is a way for every renter to be an owner. When you move into a property like I’m a resident at a property that offers Rentership, we created this experience really for myself and our neighbors. Where were you doing this at? Gravity in Columbus is our first project.

Blake Miller 2:57
That’s awesome. I mean, people would think this was happening, you know, somewhere, you know, in one of the big cities. I mean, I mean, this is doing we’re Midwest guys like this is happening right in the Midwest.

Calvin Cooper 3:07
Yeah, absolutely, man. I mean, I made the mistake of calculating how much rent I spent in the past 10 years. Amazing. I was a venture capitalist at the time. And I was struggling to save money to buy a home, in the neighborhood that I lived in,

Blake Miller 3:24
Before you go on, let me ask you about that. Because I agree. I mean, I’ve been a renter ever since I moved out of my parents house. And, you know, to go to college and do all that never went back and started kind of renting and, you know, if I would add up all of that, it’d be probably pretty, pretty heartburn and probably probably a lot of heartburn myself. But at the same time, I’ve always kind of had this mindset where, you know, I don’t want the burden of owning a home. I want the burden of doing those things and really focused on trying to try to build something and build my career like how do you how do you kind of weigh some of that?

Calvin Cooper 3:57
Absolutely. So I mean, 10% sent the millennial generation and growing never expect to own a home. Two-thirds of us don’t you know two-thirds of us who do buy a home regretted mainly because they see their friends like me with great amenities, live-work-playing in the neighborhoods that they want to be in close to work close to all the amenities of the city. And they’re stuck fixing A/Cs in the middle of the summer. And so a lot of people regret buying a home because they have all the maintenance costs that they didn’t calculate when they bought the home. It’s really expensive. And and and it’s not that great of an investment. 50% of the millennial population don’t even see buying a home is a good investment. And so what we sought to accomplish with Rentership was the best of both worlds. This isn’t rent-to-own where you have your payment locked up and you have to buy that property that you lived in. We saw that as incremental change, what we wanted to do was enable people to have the low barriers to entry, the flexibility that many of these that come with renting, but then add on to that the ability to have an economic stake in the place that you live. So so that’s transformational. It’s a product that never exists existed before.

Blake Miller 5:22
Yeah. So how does, can you explain this how this works? Because, you know, I’ve seen obviously kind of an explosion of like syndication when in terms of investors getting a lot of different investors to kind of buy a building and you obviously get a third-party management and all this, like, how does the ownership stake come in? Just give me give me the 1-2-3 or four or five or six or?

Calvin Cooper 5:44
Well, yeah, yeah, the most important thing to focus on first is the experience as a renter. This is how the world should be every resident should be a stakeholder. As by default, that’s a very simple vision and for instance, at Gravity, every resident is a stakeholder by default just for living there, you can claim a stake in the property. So you download our app, and you claim your stake at Gravity. That’s $50. And so, I have a $50 economic interest in this property. And it’s a contract, right? It’s not technically debt or equity. We wanted to create a new arrangement that maintain the flexibility that renters have without the headaches and barriers to entry that a security interest would would create. But having a $50 stake gives you certain value and right so one, you’re getting a 5% rent return on that every year, plus the your stake participates in the sale value of the property. So as an example, I’m moving to Gravity. I’m a resident, I get a $50 stake. I claim that in the rover And let’s say I choose to buy more on my own terms. And you can buy more in single dollar increments. So let’s say I accumulated $1,000 stake over the course of a year and then I just stopped purchasing. Yeah, I’ll have $1,000 renter ship stake in the apartment building that I live in, I’m going to receive $50 a year just for holding on to my stake $50 a year in cap. If I want to sell my stake, I could sell.

Blake Miller 7:28
How do you get that just through the Rhove app?

Calvin Cooper 7:30
Through the Rhove app. If I want to, if I want to sell my stake, I could sell it any time and receive my thousand dollars back. So if that was over the course of a year, I would have received $50 and if I sold out or received 1000, so I got thousand 5% rent return. If I hold on to that state, the value of it appreciates with the sale value of the property. So the property were to sell in a few years. Let’s say it appreciated by 10% Then my my mentorship stake would be retired, it would be redeemed for $1,000 plus that 10% appreciation in that example. So let’s say I was a resident at $1,000 stake, I received $50 a year for holding on to that. That Rentership stake, and the property sold or was refinanced and the owners bought my pool back, then I would have received 1100 dollars at that time. So really, I’ve gotten the value that I would have gotten as an owner, but I’ve maintained my options, my flexibility, the amenities, the the experience of renting, I don’t have to fix leaky faucets or air conditioning units, and I don’t have any of those liabilities associated with ownership.

Blake Miller 8:50
Yeah, I mean, and this is just kind of another, another wave growing that kind of investor mentality. So talk to me why I mean, this is so obvious. And great for a as a renter, why would a why is the property gonna want to do something like this?

Calvin Cooper 9:04
Man, I’ve been so inspired to see all the owners reaching out from across the country, heck in other countries. The reason that people reached out to us and are interested in offering this is because it just should happen. That’s the first reason

Blake Miller 9:20
I love that, man. Thank you. Right? Like, here’s logic in the world.

Calvin Cooper 9:29
Right? I can’t. I’ve been so inspired by the number of owners who reached out said, Man, I’ve been thinking about this and thought that it would be wonderful, but I never thought it could happen. And tell me how it works. You guys figured it out? One guy I talked to he was like, No, explain to me how it works. And we started to talk to him about the details and he said, God bless America.

Blake Miller 9:54
Beautiful and but you know, it’s so capitalistic, though. Right? Like Yeah, so much sense and it’s like conscious capitalism. Yeah. So how how’s it working? I mean, you guys sounds like Gravity is the first building.

Calvin Cooper 10:08
Yeah, yeah. But before diving into there, I was gonna continue to answer your previous question.

Blake Miller 10:13

Calvin Cooper 10:14
Yeah, so they so they’re reaching out because not every property owner is looking just to squeeze every dollar of rent out of residents. Some people view it as their art, their contribution community, and they see holistically how investing in your customer creates more value for you. Right. So that’s the first part. The second part is

Blake Miller 10:41
Funny how that works, provide a great experience.

Calvin Cooper 10:43
Right. The second part? Yeah. The second part is that when renters when the average American doesn’t have $400 saved in their account and short term savings, they can’t afford to pay rent if they have even a minor emergency. So this also helps derisk their properties by giving people the ability to to save and accumulate accumulate value. Another reason is, most property owners have concessions, and they have marketing expenses associated with acquiring and retaining residents. And oftentimes, those those concessions are Visa gift cards, their other they’ll have lasting value and are easily forgotten. And then lastly, when they’re marketing the properties, they’re spinning thousands of dollars on apartments live ultimately all those companies are competing on Google. For for eyeballs and all that ad spending should be going to renters. So this is a way to pay renters more directly to acquire and retain, to residents. So so it’s not just the it’s not just about conscious capitalism over, although that’s the main driver why people initially reach out. There’s also a business a value proposition too, this is really a triple bottom line project.

Blake Miller 12:23
I love that. I love that. You know, when we were kind of prepping for this, one of the things that you said I thought it was just so great. I mean, obviously 2020 has been 2020 for everybody. There’s been a pandemic, there’s your social equity is the first and the foremost, one of the things that the way you said, this was just it really resonated to me is just the importance of every member in a democracy to have an economic stake in the community. You kind of started to touch on this just in how Rhove works. It’s just like you guys, you emanate this but talk to me about this about what this means you

Calvin Cooper 13:00
Absolutely I love political science and economics. In fact, I studied classical economics and philosophy and undergrad. I’m a researcher by nature, I love getting access to data, exploring what that what that means drawing conclusions, but then thinking beyond that, like what are the implications for society? So something that a lot of people may not realize is that when Thomas Jefferson wrote, the Declaration of Independence, that people are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that he was paraphrasing or expanding upon other ideas that came before him. So like John Locke wrote about life, liberty, health, and I darland see a body. And so what that means is, is that they were thinking our founding fathers and the flow For those that came before, from John Lott to James Harrington to Aristotle, they contemplated how to create a strong society. And part of that strategy was to have a society that was bought in that had a stake in it. And so, life, liberty and happiness would the word happiness replace the word estate that John Locke wrote about. And when you read the the letters of some of the other founding fathers of our nation like John Adams, you’ll see them expand on that idea a little bit more. He talks about the importance of property ownership in society and how it’s so important to maintain the balance of society in a constitutional republic. You see Thomas Jefferson in correspondence talking about similar ideas. How property rights have gone to an unnatural balance and I’m paraphrasing here, but when you have people who are homeless, and these are things that people that has largely been forgotten in our political discourse. And so what it means to me is, you know what it means to society. It’s, it’s that if we’re going to have a strong democracy, everybody needs to have a stake in the fruits of this country. Yeah. And what it means to me personally is, you know, I cried when we released this app, because this was what inspired us to start the company. But, but why ownership matters to me is 110 years ago, I didn’t have a bed to call my own. I was basically homeless in Atlanta, dropped out of school started a company failed miserably learned so much got back into school finished after that, but in 2010 was a rough place, man, I didn’t know anything. And ownership matters to me. My mom lost her home and lost last recession, I saw, I saw the gaps of our financial system play out in my own life. And so this, to me is an opportunity to change the way our system is built, and create more options for people to have a stake in the place that they live in a home is more than a place where you keep your stuff. It’s also a place where you accumulate value we give life to these neighborhoods and why why shouldn’t we get value as the neighborhood’s develop?

Blake Miller 16:35
Man, so eloquently put, like, you know, it’s interesting, you brought up like founding fathers and all this, I really spent a lot of time in quarantine of just really learning, like taking the time to educate myself on a lot of different things. And one of the things that I think is just so fascinating that we don’t realize maybe we people inherently do, but the founding fathers weren’t fathers, right. They were young people that were trying to like, you’re bringing a revolution and a change. And I think that it’s so apt to what’s happening now you look around and there’s young people trying to make a change. And it’s just interesting to see the dynamic of, of different generations that are at, you know, feels like almost at war, but it’s not it’s just people trying to bring a change.

Calvin Cooper 17:20
Mm hmm. Absolutely. That’s what makes our our country so great that, that throughout time we’ve, we’ve constantly sought to improve it. And when we’re in those moments, it’s really uncomfortable. But looking back, these moments are so important.

Blake Miller 17:37
It really is. So I want to I want to dig in a little bit more on you know, you mentioned your your previous failures and some of those things. You spent some time in kind of the VC world and learning some of that was on that side of the business, or that business but it kind of industry like what we’re then starting rove again. And some of the challenges and everything that you’ve learned, starting the NDP savings product that you guys did and then getting to Rentorship because you kind of mentioned like it was so emotional getting it out.

Calvin Cooper 18:11
Yeah, great question, man. It’s been a I’ve been really fortunate. It’s been a fun journey. I love being in venture meet with entrepreneurs. I spent 10 years across multiple fields, just helping entrepreneurs grow their business. And I didn’t really have a desire to start a tech company, I was having fun. And like I said, I love research and data, what better way to turn a research background into reality to then to be able to invest in companies. So and and so as I saw the transition here, I really took many of the things I learned watching other firms execute better than the firm’s that that I was working with. Execute and some of those things were market first. Like, like one pick a market that’s new and exciting. And that’s going to be important and amazing and early. And to team is so important. Find the best team in the world and and do it for the love. You know, I don’t believe in just hopping out here trying to start a company to start a company. I didn’t even want to start a company did it because nobody else was doing this. And the real estate developer who owns a common development Brett Kaufman, when I met him, I was researching this model and he’s like, you know, I’ll co-invest with you guys and launch it and everything but you got to quit your job and do it. I was like, dang. I was just making partner in the venture firm.

Blake Miller 19:49
But I mean, as a VC, you got to know that’s coming right like…

Calvin Cooper 19:53
Yeah, anybody knows how venture works. If you raise the fund and your partner you lock in fees for 10 years I mean that’s it’s pretty great so pretty good deal ventures really hard business but there’s some downside risk protection and and I quit that to have three months runway and ran out of money at one point like we couldn’t pay make payroll. Now we raise money and we’ve got a 14 person team and things are going well, but the journey the entrepreneurial journey is really tough. And so you know, one its market it’s do something that you love with people who you love working with. But the third thing on execution is get a product out any product out as quickly as possible. People have one you know, I was talking to one advisor about this. How long will it take you to get Rentership out and I was like a year and the but we can get a pilot out now and he’s like no, no full products. I’m like okay, he’s like, so what can you get out in three months, and that was the product we released.

Blake Miller 21:05

Calvin Cooper 21:07
And it was so important you learn so much. And you just test and iterate, you become you’re fixated on the problem you’re trying to solve from a first principles perspective. And then your idea how you execute needs to be pliable and needs to just iterate instead of the inverse.

Blake Miller 21:25
Yeah, if I’ve learned anything, it’s like, you’ve got to get that you’ve got to figure out ways to shorten that feedback loop. And it’s obviously a lot harder. And these types of kind of real world type apps that I would call them, you know, I mean, prop tech, real estate, kind of all these things, you’re really dealing, you know, in the real world situations versus some of these other types of apps that you can, you know, iterate really, really quickly gain users really fast and everything so you got to figure out how to get it out. As a as a founder now, team of 14, you said, what has been some of the biggest challenges for you kind of with all this quarantine and trying to figure out how to manage from home, I’m sure you guys probably have a flexible type of environment as we do. What’s that been like, though, for you just kind of managing all this?

Calvin Cooper 22:09
So few questions there. So, so the biggest challenge, and then how is it been managing it? So the biggest challenge I’ll say, I think it’s been what, deciding what not to do. And it’s been a challenge. I mean, we released that the MVP, and vendors loved it. Owners loved it. We went from one one building doing it to like, a bunch, almost 10% of the urban core, Columbus, wow, reaching out from Detroit, Indianapolis, where we just turned down a couple thousand units for the savings product. And it’s viable, is it’s just not as important and it’s not as compelling. And so we need to focus on Rentorship and that that was it. I think a tough conversation and discussion and you’ve got to have conviction to really make the tough calls like that thing. It’s I think that that’s a lesson learned. It’s something that I think it’s important and so oftentimes in our as we do our strategic planning, it’s a recurring theme. It’s you get scope creep, you get it, you release a feature and people want it and that’s that was just put out there to learn. You got constantly narrow your roadmap and and only build what the most important things are so that you can really run on tight sprints one to two week pushes and and if it’s a whole product, get that out in less than three months. You got to make a lot of tough costs. So that’s challenging, fun work. We we’ve got a great team been doing a good job of it with the pandemic. Similarly, it’s it’s first, first things first is you gotta just batten down the hatches and, and really slim things down and narrow focus. It’s challenging, everybody’s scared. I mean, if you think about Mark back back in March, February, we didn’t know anything about this, this and the impact on health in society. So so you know, as an entrepreneur, it’s, it’s probably how parents think. You’re not just thinking about yourself, you’re thinking about your team, thinking about. You’ve got to get educated on what’s going on. You’ve got to be calm, but stern, you’ve got to be focused, you’ve got to over communicate. And so that was, I think, challenging, but we did a good job. I think we, we had regular updates, we made decisions. We were decisive. We were empathetic. And so the that that was that was one one thing that I would talk about as an entrepreneur is that navigating crisis like that. We were fortunate that we had a lot of processes in place for our team to execute through any situation. I mean, we, we we have OKRs, objectives and key results. We have regular strategic planning every quarter, everybody’s involved on the team, so everybody knows why we’re working, what we’re working on. And they self-create their OKRs and in JIRA tickets, and so, we work on weekly sprints, we’re an agile shop, so all those things are important. A lot of times people in startups overlook the importance of strategic planning and all those processes. But I found that it’s extremely helpful, especially in an uncertain environment.

Blake Miller 26:00
Calvin so agree, man, we’re running out of time. But I always love to hit a few lightning round questions right at the end. And my favorite question for dads everybody to start is what business or service is blockbuster over the next 10 years? In other words, who’s going to be completely obsolete?

Calvin Cooper 26:18
That’s a good one. Um, the 30-year mortgage.

Blake Miller 26:22
Yeah. Talk to me. I gotta, I gotta ask a follow up on that. We’re 30 years does it because it increases it lower. What does it become more to housing-as-service?

Calvin Cooper 26:33
I think there’s gonna be a diversity of solutions and financial services that meet people where they are their lifestyle. So the word mortgage hold French means death pledge. So…

Blake Miller 26:49
That’s something I should probably know. But today I learned something and that it’s terrifying.

Calvin Cooper 26:54
Google it. But I mean, who is going to live in a home for 30 years like people don’t even they don’t you? You get a starter home you have kids, you upsize downsize our financial system isn’t it wasn’t… Yeah, it doesn’t meet people where that so, Rhove Returnship is a first step to closing the economic gap between renting and owning. And we’re gonna keep pushing that envelope and other people’s are people are working on similar things like we’re doing this in the multifamily space for the only one doing this in the multifamily space. But there are people in the single family space doing some really cool things. I would be shocked if in 20 years, people are like, by default getting 30-year mortgages. That’s crazy.

Blake Miller 27:44
Love it. Hey, we’ve been talking about a lot of different technology and kind of how you’re innovating here in the kind of the real estate space. What’s a specific device that you’ve actually acquired post-COVID that’s kind of major quarantine a little bit better.

Calvin Cooper 28:00
Device post-COVID has made my quarantine better? I’d say, I’ll just take an app, but using Headspace for meditating. That’s been very helpful.

Blake Miller 28:12
Love it. Hey, we’ve been talking a lot about technology and all these things are changing everything. What’s something you think technology is not going to change the future?

Calvin Cooper 28:22
Something that technology isn’t going to change in the future. I don’t believe there’s there’s many things that tech that I would be surprised if there is a space that technology doesn’t change. Even philosophy is gonna change over the next 10 years. As we integrate technology deeper into our lives, our bodies, our spaces, our minds. And so I would be shocked that technology doesn’t impact on pretty much every aspect of human life, what we eat every day.

Blake Miller 29:01
Calvin, you’re a visionary. You’re an inspiration. Absolutely love this conversation. Let everybody know how they can find you online.

Calvin Cooper 29:06
You can find us at

Blake Miller 29:10
Awesome. I’ll make sure all this is in the show notes.

Calvin Cooper 29:13 Thanks. I appreciate it like man. Thanks for sharing our story and having us today.

The Future of Living Podcast is produced by Media Club. Learn more at


Robert Gaulden on the Future of Access Control

Robert Gaulden is the Director of Allegion Multifamily Channel Strategy and has been involved in the security industry for more than 15 years, focusing on electronic access control, partnership development and security policy. During his most recent years at Allegion, Robert has worked on integrations, channel development and go-to-market strategies associated with Allegion’s access control platforms. He’s currently responsible for developing strategy, channels and partnerships to drive the customer experience and provide seamless access for the multi-family segment. Robert brings a unique perspective and understanding of the role security partners and platforms play in delivering a holistic experience for both the property manager and the resident. He has been featured in Security Sales & Integrator (SSI), A&S International and Security System News, where he was chosen as a “20 under 40” honoree in 2013.


  • Current state of the access control industry post-COVID.
  • Why are companies using residential locks in multifamily, and what problems is that creating?
  • When do fobs or credential die or do they?
  • Will we get to a point of hardware-as-a-service?
  • How to think about safety and security consideration.
  • The smart access control value prop becoming more mainstream.
  • Allegion’s Multifamily strategy.


Allegion Multifamily –


Blake Miller 0:02
Everyone, Welcome Back to the Future Living podcast. I’m your host Blake Miller. Today I’ve got Robert Gaulden from Allegion makers of Schlage, the 100-plus year old lock brand. We’re talking about multifamily access in the age of COVID, remote, touchless, where it’s going. Check it out.

Robert, welcome to the Future Living podcast really appreciate you taking the time to do this. How you been?

Robert Gaulden 0:27
Pretty good, Blake, how are you?

Blake Miller 0:29
I’m doing good man. You know, all things considering, like everybody’s dealing with. We’re doing season three here, the future living and it’s pandemic era, so I think you have to at least give somebody you know that those dates so they know what’s going on.

Robert Gaulden 0:43
Yeah, the global pandemic was not something that I was highlighting into things I had to do during my career, but we’ll manage our way through it.

Blake Miller 0:52
2020 am I right? You know.

Robert Gaulden 0:54
Yeah, absolutely. What a crazy year.

Blake Miller 0:56
Yeah. So you know, give everybody a little bit of background on who you are and and why you are building the future living right now.

Robert Gaulden 1:04
Sure. So work for Legion. We are a lock manufacturer. And we actually do a lot more than locks. We have brands like slag, but bon dupion, which are fire in life exit devices and safety devices and door closers. So we’re a major manufacturer of door hardware and life safety devices. And I’ve been with the company for about 17 years really focused a lot of my time in the commercial space, especially around electronic access, control and integration. And I’ve worked on major projects like major airports and building design all the way through university and K through 12. Security. In the last, I’d say about 24 months or so maybe a little bit longer than that. The company asked me to take a real deep dive into the multifamily segment. And it’s a fascinating segment and quite honestly, I thought, you know, multifamily. How hard could it be? Right? I mean, it’s just it can’t be as complex as commercial. And that went out the window pretty quickly.

Blake Miller 1:58
Yeah, that was me too.

Robert Gaulden 2:00
Yeah, my family is uniquely its own market space. And it’s not residential. Although we’ve seen a lot of residential applications try to be pulled into this space. It’s not commercial, although there are some commercial applications that can adapt to this space. It’s uniquely a blend of both of those things, and thus requires its own technology. And so we’ve taken kind of a fresh look at this space. And we’ve been here with some of our solutions, but we’re really trying to develop the ability to create a more seamless access experience for you know, both the resident as well as the property managers and the owners to adopt technology especially around you know, access control and mobile credentials and things along those lines. And that just plays right into in this space as far as smart apartment and smart buildings and everything I think you’re interested in from the future of living.

Blake Miller 2:51
Definitely, yeah. So, you know, that’s actually how we’ve gotten to know each other over the years right is working together with the Allegion in our product with their Schlage Engage and Control series of locks that really kind of create a whole access system for apartments. You know, talk about though, for me, and I want to go into a little bit of history to have smart apartments or in the multifamily industry what you guys have been doing there, but like, what’s the current state of access control not only for multifamily industry and what’s happening, but it really just kind of across the access industry, what’s happening?

Robert Gaulden 3:28
Yeah, if you if you look at access control, for the longest time, it wasn’t so much around the perimeter, right? Everyone knows how to secure the perimeter of a building. I think the big movement for the last, you know, call it 10 years or so is where do you find better adoption rates for the interior? And how does that then play into the experience, whether you’re talking about K through 12, and the ability to lockdown classrooms, whether you’re talking about the ease and ability on a dormitory to allow a college student to gain access into the room, you know, it’s mostly been a focus around the interior. And I think when we start to look at multifamily in particular, it’s been around kind of this bifurcated experience, right? We’ve had some form of access control around the perimeter for quite some time, whether we’re talking about intercom systems or basic card systems around the perimeter, but multifamily is resident doors have kind of grown up on its own and thus kind of been a segregated and different database completely, many times different systems. So really an inefficient process, some adoption around the ability to you know, use those resident doors in maybe manage keying a little bit better when you move to credentials. But I think what we’re really seeing now when you look across the board is the accelerant the mobile credentials are adding to the to the space and the ability to unify these systems into one aggregate database. One experience, that experience especially in this segment translates you know, almost like rocket fuel, you’ve got the experience for the resident, which is an overall better experience is a seamless experience. But then you have all of those additional efficiencies and experiences that the property manager or the owner is going to experience as well. Those two things in combination really allow for, I think, a great area and multifamily kind of lead the industry, whether you’re talking about commercial or residential, in the adoption of these new holistic platforms, you don’t have as much barriers to entry as you do like in the commercial space. And obviously, single family, you’re really just talking about a single housing unit. So the impact is not very broad multifamily, you get a great use case of both right you have decisions that are being made across the entire platform. every resident has the ability to participate in that experience. And obviously those things compound to the efficiencies and the way you run and manage your building. It’s a it’s a great area and I’m really excited not only in where we’re going as a as a manufacturer in the space, but where the industry is going in general.

Blake Miller 6:04
Yeah, I mean, I really see, access control is like the most important thing to have any type of smart building, right? And it’s, it’s literally, you know, people are making money managing four walls and a roof. Well, how do you who comes and goes is how do you manage that how you collect that sort of thing. So, you know, definitely agree there. You know, you said mobile credential couple times, like I wanted one of the things I wanted to kind of dig in there just for anybody that doesn’t kind of realize the differences, you know, you guys have really kind of mastered and been one of the leaders in that kind of fob or card credential, that people would be familiar with, like maybe in a hotel experience, right. But well, you’re actually talking on mobile credentials is actually in the phone, right? And that’s some of the things that we’re doing with integrations, you know, can you can you talk about the differences there and, and the needs, both in the building to build support those things.

Robert Gaulden 6:53
Yeah. So I think the migration from from keys just to to, you know, cards or credentials,

So it’s been a natural migration path for electronics. And from there, you moved into a Smart credential. And in some cases, you know, entities still haven’t moved off approximate to smart credentials. But there is an added layer of security. What’s interesting, though, is when you start to talk about mobile, no one forgets their phone, right? I mean, everybody lives on their phone, no one’s going to leave their phone behind. If you just took a use case today of current college students and, and their phones and how they interact on it. It’s just a natural progression. We’re starting to see more applications on your daily life on your phone. And these are things that you can’t really separate yourself from the ability to pay via your phone and do these other things from an experience perspective. So it’s a natural evolution from, you know, a hard piece of plastic to then a mobile credential. What’s interesting though, is the power of that phone. When you really map it up to the networks and the capability of the lock that’s sitting on the door. Now you’ve concrete all these new type of experiences. So it’s really more than just the credential itself. It’s how it interacts with the app and the overall system. But from that perspective, you have an extremely powerful tool in your hand that allows you to gain access to a building to really seamlessly move or navigate throughout that building, to efficiently dispense or give out visitor management credentials, you know, with a piece of plastic, you gotta go physically still pick it up much like a key. When you move to an application. When you move to a mobile credential. It’s a virtual credential, the ability to send that via network down to somebody, whether that’s a visitor, whether that’s a temporary known entity, like a package delivery person, whether that’s a vetted service, like a dog walker or cleaning service, whether that’s your resident or one of your maintenance staff. You know, you have a new way to manage credentials, and I think not only is it more efficient and it will open up even more use cases. on things that we’re not even thinking about today, but it’s also also going to give you so much more data on how you’re running your, your facilities, what’s going on within your facilities. And how do you want to manage that from an experience is as well. So pretty powerful stuff from a property perspective. You know, unfortunately, as you look at next generation equipment, you know, the locks themselves are going to need an upgrade to be able to manage, you know, these credentials, especially when you talk about the secure credentials that we want to pass between the phone and the lock itself. So there is a transition point from, you know, previous gen equipment to next gen equipment to be able to manage that. But once you know breakthrough that…

Blake Miller 9:39
Are people going to have to do that all the time? I mean, I think, you know, that’s sometimes worry about that. Like, what is that type of upgrade cycle? What are you guys seeing because obviously you’re doing these commercial type upgrades, not using the residential locks that others are using, you know, how do you plan for that and how do you try to match that up with the style of building of the length of the life of that?

Robert Gaulden 10:00
Yeah, I think this is where this is where the hardware, hardware world and the technology worlds are coming together, right? When you think about a lock on a building, you may have a 30 year life cycle. When you think about your computer in your office, it may have four or five year lifecycle are outpacing what we’re seeing from a hardware perspective. We are trying to think through thoughtful design that allow you to expand that whether we talk about modularity and some other things. So maybe the entire investment doesn’t have to be taken off the door as you upgrade over time. But we are looking at life cycles even on our previous gen stuff, you know, you can you can definitely see eight to 12, maybe 15 years, depending on what you want to stretch right. Now as we look at the technology today. We’re trying to think through what are the future communication pads and you know, there’s a lot of buzzwords out there. There’s a lot of confusion on what’s the popular technology right is z wave ZigBee is it a BLE? Or is it going to be Laura is it can be 5G? So you can just, I mean, we just rattled off a handful, and there’s even more coming around the corner. So understanding where that technology is going…

Blake Miller 11:12
Yeah, I was gonna say how to how to you guys as a as a manufacturer is you know, as I love some of the things you guys always have over there, but I mean, it’s true. You’re, you’re a trusted brand in security, but you’ve been a bet man, bent metal company for 100 years, right?

Robert Gaulden 11:26

Blake Miller 11:26
So, how do you guys think about kind of weighing all those things? You know, does hardware become a service at some point? You know, what does that look like?

Robert Gaulden 11:36
And then I think there’s a fascinating conversation around even the leasing of locks over time. So you can upgrade hardware could become a service although the the traditional channels and go to market don’t really sustain that today and new construction, it would be a vast change. But I think you could see that maybe in the aftermarket and the retrofit side of it, as well. I think the most important thing for us is we’re always weighing, you know, safety and security first, right? And then you have to look at the use case of why a protocol or communication path is more efficient in one way or another. And so for example, we chose BLE as a pathway for multifamily, because when you’re looking at a wireless lock, the ability to have battery life, you know, beyond just a year’s capability is extremely essential in some other technologies consumed battery life, where if you had to change locks batteries every three to six months, and then a portfolio of 200 units. I mean, that’s just not feasible, right? So you have to weigh all of these different things and what was developed for a single family use case and a homeowner who doesn’t mind changing their battery out or maybe doesn’t even access that front door very often is vastly different than a multifamily property where residents going in and out their door, you know, 2-3-4 times a day, and there’s no way a maintenance staff wants to go around change batteries all the time.

Blake Miller 12:56
I totally agree. One thing I wanted to come back to and I want to I have one question there, but I don’t want to forget, this is the debate that we’ve been having inside the office here. And, you know, dealing with fobs, and the actual some of the complexity that goes into managing that in the back end that you don’t really think about. Now, how long do you think the fob stays around? Or is that is that is that a thing that is always a part of the Internet of Things and become a different thing? You know, you mentioned phones always on you. I agree. I go and run with my phone, and all of that. Is of having that extra five is a secure thing is that where does that where’s that lie?

Robert Gaulden 13:33
I think that’s a comfort level thing. Keys are still around as well. Right and even on our one of our current multifamily lock state actually has no key way. Right. So we try to move to that next step to say Okay, listen, you know, there’s there’s an opportunity here to advance the credential, and let’s see if we can do without the key way in this lock for certain security reasons, right? You can’t pick a lock that doesn’t have a key way in it for example. I think from a comfort level, if you think about it, next step would be if you never had a phone that ran out of charge, if you had the ability to always use your phone to open the door, and you may see fobs go away. You know, I don’t expect as we see more adoption in mobile, I don’t expect the majority of adoption to happen just yet and mobile, so you’re going to have a longer runway and fobs. And I think you’re going to start to see as adoption starts to pick up, maybe the fob actually moves back to a card because that format is a lot easier to carry in your wallet and put on your persons as an emergency override to say, oh, my phone’s dead. I forgot to charge it. Getting out of the Uber and I need to get in and…

Blake Miller 14:42
That’s personally what I’ve done.

Robert Gaulden 14:44
I’ve got a card with my credit card. So I’ll just use that as my my one, you know, my access for the inconvenient emergency. So you know, I have a little bit of a internal bet with some people that says hey, maybe fobs move back to cards and multifamily. But I do think over time, as we start to solve some of these energy concerns, because most of this is around energy, how long the batteries last? How long does battery last on your phone? How efficient is it, if those things start to really take the dominant stance, then I think fobs will have some limited shelf life, the security you can put into the mobile credential and things that you could do on a mobile side just far outweigh the ability of a standard fob.

Blake Miller 15:27
Yeah, I mean, those fobs are still basically keys you just can…

Robert Gaulden 15:29
I mean, if you think about it, the file format is actually to be put on a key ring, I mean, who actually carries a key ring around anymore? I don’t know for that matter.

Blake Miller 15:39
Now. So you know earlier is saying and want to make sure we come back to this to your safety and security. Right. And we kind of talked about touched on PIN codes been touched around how you know, the specifically the lock that we’ve integrated that we use and suggest for all multifamily is, it doesn’t have that as a lease on the unit door, we think it makes sense to have PIN codes in shared common areas where you know it that it’s easier to share that but, you know, where do you guys what do you guys think about PIN codes? We’ve had things that people say it’s like, you know, it’s like giving out your password to your email account. There’s always got to be one, even if you can control that one time use thing or anything like that. How do you guys think about that, especially how do you think about it, knowing that there’s locks for residential that you all make that are great locks, but as it relates to, to multifamily,

Robert Gaulden 16:31
As it relates to multifamily, my biggest issue with PIN codes is really around you lose your audit control. And even in the most trusted environment, if if I shared my PIN codes with someone I really trust, if we ever pulled an audit, you have now no real ability to say who really gained access to that apartment. Right. And I think from a liability perspective, that’s something that would be concerning for me. PIN codes from a convenience perspective, especially if you had a PIN pad and the ability to give out a one time use PIN code allows someone to gain access. It’s a great way or a great feature that that allows that to happen. I’d like to see technology solve for that. I think there are abilities to use PIN codes, if you solve for it on the back end, but just generally to use PIN codes and use that as your form of access without any type of controls that says, you know, it’s a random generator, it’s been protected. It can’t be used multiple times, you don’t have a personal PIN code, and it all for me revolves around audit. You know, if it wasn’t for the audit issue, fine, right. But I do think there are abilities, you know, as we start to really adopt mobile credentials, there’s abilities that you can use that allow your phone to to send a one time, you know, open code, for example, or to generate a code for a friend that would allow that BLE radio to engage with the lock, right? So I think we can solve for what pin codes are great at, which is that convenience, without risking the security and the audit from the back end, and that’s what I’m looking for partners and providers that help us really kind of understand that and apply that technology to solve for those convenience factors. Because you do still need a lot of convenience to make this adoption go, but I don’t want to sacrifice security. So until we figure it out from an audit perspective, I’m not a big fan of PIN codes in multifamily.

Blake Miller 18:23
One of the things I’ve always thought about too, is like, those PIN codes especially presented a problem if you’re using them in vacation rentals, those sorts of things like that seems like so dangerous, like people get lazy, they give out that one pin code because for some reason the other one wasn’t working and now, you know, you could just simply be sitting there waiting for somebody else. Now that’s just kind of a weird area for me.

Robert Gaulden 18:46
Yeah, I would agree. Right. And I tend to look at and really have been deep diving market rate. But from a from just general liability perspective, when we start to get outside of that area of control or that span of control. I’m just not a big fan. Like I said, I think there’s ways that we could look at it from a technology perspective, bring that same type of convenience to the market space. That’s not dependent on an actual, you know, widely use or shareable PIN code.

Blake Miller 19:15
So we talked a lot about obviously, inside the apartment inside and a lot of the different doors like how does how does the Allegion or how does this industry continue to be the bolt on you know, how do you grow from here? How do you how do you enable the the butterflies of the world to work? How do you enable all the different integrations, you know, companies even like ours, integrating with yours trying to integrate? How are you guys doing that? What are you guys thinking about?

Robert Gaulden 19:40
Yeah, so I’m a big believer and building ecosystems of technology partnerships, right, because I think everyone’s solving a different portion of the pie. And I think if we can pull that all together, then you can create that seamless access, right, you’re going to need the perimeter system, you’re going to need the perimeter locks. All of this has to meet some type of building. permit code, fire code things along those lines, you’re going to need the residential door lock as well or the resident door lock I should say. Beyond that if you think about that journey as you enter that building, you know whether you’re a resident whether you’re a property manager, a part of the staff or whether you’re a guest or whether you’re a temporary guests like a services provider, all of them have different journey maps throughout that building. And for you to be able to navigate that building get from point A, the exterior all the way to point B wherever you are supposed to go. It may involve you know, multiple perimeter doors or common area doors may involve the actual resident unit itself that may involve you know, access to the elevator or may involve access to the stairwells and your ability to navigate each one of those you mentioned someone like Butterfly MX, you know, the ability to navigate someone who’s coming in who may not actually have an app download, maybe it’s an integration from there that allows you to use that use code to get you into the building and QR code that gets you up to the right floor to go deliver the sinks. But I think if you start to pull in multiple partners, whether you’re talking about the property management software system, so you have one database that really kind of goes across the system, you’re talking about the technology providers, you’re talking about, you know, smart apartment or smart building integration, you’re talking about third party services and the app developers, or any combination therein, I think those things pulled together in partnership really create that experience that we’re looking for, to deliver, you know, where I think the industry can go. That for me, I think the exciting side, there are so many different aspects that I continue to learn about, that the property and the resident want from either a management perspective or an experience perspective. That I think these partnerships in these ecosystems are really the way to go.

Blake Miller 21:51
Yeah, it’s it’s definitely an exciting time because it definitely seems like that the platform’s there and now everybody’s like, whoa, if you can do this, I mean, we do this. It definitely seems like an exciting time. And you know, one of the things before we run out of time, but you know, wanted to ask about how how all this like kind of boils back down into like how this stuff is sold and through the channel and how you guys are supporting, you know, all those locksmiths, your dealers, everybody else that are out there with this, like massive change, and what’s happening where they’re, you know, what’s happening here. How do you support that?

Robert Gaulden 22:26
Yeah, so I think there’s a couple different pathways that I see for multifamily when we talk about electronic adoption, and then we talk about smarter integration over time, and then obviously, we can talk about the IoT movement in multifamily. And so we are seeing some change in what the channel looks like. But the multi it the multifamily vertical right now, if I were to simplistically put them into two buckets, I would say there is a bucket out there that is, you know, they properties and managers. technologists have the vision to know where they want to go and they’re adopting this technology and utilizing it for their efficiency, they’re utilizing it to attract and retain and retain residents. They’re using it as an experience base. And in that set, they’re looking at partners and their supply chains to be able to deliver that, that starts to look like a more complex integration pathway. And that also delivers on an experience there. So, you know, that’s a little bit different than what we’re seeing in the broader market in multifamily where maybe it’s just a basic adoption today of I’m moving from one mechanical deadbolt to electronic deadbolt. So I see two kind of channels to market in the simplistic moving from mechanical to electronics. There’s huge value in that supply chain of just getting someone the experience and bringing that lock into the market space. And that’s generally how we go to market today, PR channel and our ability to really move volumes of locks into the space. I think oh and in that use case, most of the time property manager maybe performing their own startup services, right? If can commission that lock and bring it online, that saves me some cost. And I can adopt this technology and make it part of my portfolio and start using at minimum, you know, smarter credentials, which lowers my rekeying actually eliminates my rekeying costs, gives me an audit trail. So I think that basic adoptions are so critical to this industry and the channel that delivers that today does really, really great job. I think over time, as we talked about this ecosystem of partnerships, and we’ve talked about the different layers of software and how that integrates. That looks like a much more mature type integration type channel, right, where someone kind of can come in, whether it’s a third party channel integrator, or whether someone does in bundles, all those services themselves. But those things I think over time will start to look more like a mature path and that channel has to be created in this industry. And I think it’s starting to form we’re starting to see it you know, companies like your own take on that complexity in allow that to be delivered through the experience that you want to deliver. And I think those things over time will become more and more critical as the software advances, as the lock becomes part of the apartment as the apartment becomes part of the building as the building becomes part of a community. Those things have cyber implications, IT implications. And it’s challenging, right? Because cyber and IT guys aren’t necessarily locksmiths and door frame outs, so we’re gonna have to figure out a way to merge this together. We’re seeing some really activity around it and we are trying to build that momentum around that channel. But we are seeing two completely different markets, a high end technology adoption market that’s looking for that channel in those services. And then a just basic moving from mechanical to electronic adoption that allows us to least see more experiences that can move up that food chain over time.

Blake Miller 25:55
Speaking my language man, I’m saying the exact same thing and know a lot of it like It’s crazy, like every one of these divisions on the construction plans, like they just seem like they’re, they’re all in one of the same. And some different things. I know it’s too simplistic. There’s a lot there and there are a lot of my friends would be mad about that. But no, I mean, they’re, they’re blending and and they’re blurring and, and, you know, they all touch each other on some level, they all end up going back to, you know, shameless plug but a Wi-Fi infrastructure or some sort of connected infrastructure in the building of way to manage it all. But yeah, you know, we’re running out of time, but I always end every episode with some of my favorite questions. And the one I always start with is, who’s the next Blockbuster and next 10 years what business or service is going to be completely obsolete?

Robert Gaulden 26:47
I thought you’re gonna say who’s next Blockbuster, as far as like blowing up and becoming awesome. I was like, can I say us? Or am I ever say us? Yeah, obsolete. Gosh, um… You know, what, what I really do question is at the end of the day when you start to look at your basic functionality of just an intercom system, right a telephone call up system, if it’s not integration, if it’s not integrating to the next path if it’s not doing more sophisticated things, just the door box call system i think is is I mean it could be replaced by it could be replaced by an iPad and a phone. Right? So I think integration of that type of technology and where you know, guys like Butterfly MX are taking these things where you know, that type of technology is morphing over time. I think if you’re strictly doing call box that would be an interesting one to see if if that one last the next evolution that we’re going through from a disruption perspective.

Blake Miller 27:48
Yeah, man, I mean, I love their products as a gorgeous product, but you also kind of wonder is it like the Southwest putting a TV and a headphone or in the headrest, you know, problem, like everyone’s got their own screen.

Robert Gaulden 28:01
Yeah, it’s it’s an interesting. I’m seeing the I’m seeing the movement of some of the smart ones they’re really driving towards towards a more holistic access solution, I think and I think Butterfly’s trying to get there themselves. But I think if you were just simply a call box, I’m not quite sure that’s that’s going to work in the future.

Blake Miller 28:24
What device have you acquired like kind of post-pandemic lockdown that has just kind of changed everything for you everybody’s been locked down their home, what’s, what’s been the device or thing that’s saved you?

Robert Gaulden 28:37
I don’t know if it saved me, but I’ve got a Blue Yeti professional, you know, mic, and it’s made every one of these video conferencing and all the calls, it’s made life so much easier. I have a voice that doesn’t project very well over speakerphone. And so either I would have been on a little BLE headset and run out of battery life too soon on it. It’s been it’s been great between that and our company’s just invested infrastructure and in pretty good gear for home, we’re, we’re a little bit ahead of the curve and in our ability to manage work from remote, so it’s just made that transition a lot easier. But I’ll tell you what, I love the fact that now it’s more of a rarity that I get on a call and someone doesn’t have a camera on versus someone you know, even eight months ago, if I call them on Microsoft Teams or on zoom or something, most cameras are off. I think the human element of people turning on the camera and just wanting to interact and see a face, so I think that’s been great.

Blake Miller 29:40
Yeah, I mean, I’ve been laughing with a old friend Lee Odesst is, you know, doing these video, these podcasts that are inherently supposed to be about audio, you know, we’re doing and whatnot here on video. It makes it so much better. And is this a podcast or is this a video interview or is this what are we doing now?

Robert Gaulden 29:59

Blake Miller 30:01
Yeah. So we’ve talked a lot about how technology is changing everything and changing access control industry, it was something that you think technology’s not gonna be changing here in the near future?

Robert Gaulden 30:13
That’s a good question. Yeah, my gut tells me human nature. I think there’s a lot of things that technology can enhance, or accelerate. But I’m not quite sure it changes in the human nature. So, you know, bad habits are bad habits. We talked about PIN codes. Right. As much as you want to believe that someone’s not going to share their pincode they probably are, right. That’s just human nature. I want to trust my friends or family or whoever it may be until I can’t. And so you know, I think from that perspective, you can apply technology to to change the risk or to change the profile, but it just doesn’t change human nature. So you got to be thoughtful in your design and what you’re trying to do because people are creatures of habit and they want to experience something in a way that they’re used to that they’re familiar.

Blake Miller 31:06
So, Robert, last question here, there’s a lot of people trying to figure out they only got a certain amount of capex budget right now. We’re trying to figure out how to manage more units, less people, however, they’re trying to do it. What’s one of the first things that they should be thinking about and kind of making an investment, upgrading their properties with smart technology specific smart locks, improving that and, you know, how do they make their dollars go further and without feeling like it’s going to be obsolete soon?

Robert Gaulden 31:34
Yeah. So we’ve seen a lot of kind of steps towards what is the migration from mechanical to electronics look like? What benefits do I pick up along the way? You know, as you start to plan that out, as you start to consult with your, your different companies and the technologies out there, I think just that mechanical electronic adoption, we’ve seen really strong use cases of you know key management, you don’t have to worry about all the labor going into, you know, managing your locks or rekeying. Or, God forbid, if you lost keys or think things along those lines. From a risk mitigation, you have audit trails now. So now you have the ability to say no, we were never even in your apartment this week. So we’re not quite sure why you’re missing your watch or whatever it may be. It takes all of that risk off. And this starts to really enable your journey into remote access when you start to adopt from electronic perspective. So if you think about the ROI, or maybe even the contribution of NOI into that basic equation, I think that’s the big first step. I think the next step then we see is most people start to ask what is my credential strategy? Right? And we touched on it today, as you move from fob to unified credential if you had two credentials, for example, one for the perimeter and one for new resident unit. So can you unify that right and then beyond that are their adoption rates or their ability to look at mobile credentials and again, mobile credentials can be monetized based on different applications or experiences that you’re bringing with it, right? So you can look at that journey. And most of you know, at least what we’re seeing today, you should be looking at mobile-enabled products, that’s going to give you that long runway. So you don’t have to think about, you know, restarting that journey if you wanted mobile two or three years down the road, if not, right away. From there, I think, looking at partners that that enable that experience and layer, that experience of technology on top of those hard units, right, those locks around the perimeter at the resident unit, I think is really important. So that’s where I see proptech really starting to move forward and in the ecosystem and integrated platforms and for us. Because of that we actually have a number of partners, right? We allow our locks to be ported to a number of partners so that as a property starts to mature in their technology stack and they understand what they’re looking for. They can migrate from a very simple access, you know, even our Allegion software that allows you to get the lock up and running to overtime. Hey, look, this sounds like a great opportunity to work with Homebase because of all the different things that they’re doing. And all the different feature sets that they’re enabling from not only the lock, but the apartment in the building. And then finally, the fourth experience, I think, as you elevate into that platform is really looking at the experiences that those platforms bring services as amenities and the ability to retain and and attract your next generation resident. I think all of those things kind of work in concert but they all happen step by step by step, right? Get from mechanical electronics from electronics, get into your credential strategy, from there get into what technology and experiences will third party providers bring me and allow me to showcase on my property? Then finally, what type of experience do I want to bring into my property, whether that’s third party managed services or anything along those lines? I think that combination is what makes this technology makes this industry so exciting.

Blake Miller 34:58
That’s such a great framework to be able to think about. Robert, really love this conversation, tell everybody how they can find you guys online. Make sure that’s in the show notes as well.

Robert Gaulden 35:08
No problem. So come visit us on the Allegion Multifamily webpage. If you just Google ‘allegion multifamily’, it’ll pop up to our web page. We’ll have resources on there that talk about our products as well as our partners and some of the different things that we discussed today.

Blake Miller 35:26
Robert, thanks so much.

Robert Gaulden 35:27
Great. Thanks, Blake.

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