A company called Radiator Labs has a solution to cut the cost of heating an old radiator building in places like New York City by a third. The technology also gives residents the power to control the heat in their own apartments—without replacing the central boiler that supplies the heat. This was one of five technology companies at a real estate-focused Demo Day held in January by MetaProp NYC, which calls itself the “New York Real Estate Technology Accelerator.”
MetaProp plans to support ideas it believes will transform the real estate business. Another company at Demo Day presented its service, which motivates building visitors to share information about themselves. Another presented a platform that could help small landlords manage the more than 24 million single-family rental in the United States.
“There is an impending tsunami in the real estate world,” says Aaron Block, cofounder and managing director of MetaProp.
The five companies at Demo Day have just completed the 2015/2016 MetaProp NYC RETech Accelerator program. MetaProp picked its five startups from 150 applications. The 22-week program included mentor meetings, education sessions, and pitch practice. Since MetaProp launched its NYC Accelerator in August 2015, its five startups have received commitments for more than $6.5 million in funding from investors including Zillow, Cushman & Wakefield, and Howard Hughes Corp.
Two thousand customers have already preordered the small sensors created by Notion, a startup technology company based in Colorado, which has just begun to deliver. “We are shipping,” says Notion CEO and founder Brett Jurgens.
Notion’s sensors can easily be installed on surfaces throughout a home. They can read temperatures and detect open doors or windows, water leaks, and even loud noises like fire alarms and report back over cellphone networks.
“For 2,000 years, buildings have not been intelligent,” Jurgens says. “We think that is a huge problem.” Early detection of problems like water leaks could prevent millions of dollars in damages. Notion’s prices range from $129 for a single sensor to $269 for a package of five.
Air Traffic Control for Hotel Housekeeping
Another company participating in the Demo Day, Optii Solutions already helps keep the rooms clean at 21,000 hotel rooms around the world. That includes leading luxury hotels like Crowne Plaza at Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia, and the City of Dreams in the Macau Special Administrative Region in China.
Optii Solutions provides technology that helps hotel staff communicate with each other, wherever they are in the hotel, track what needs to be done in the rooms, and respond quickly to guests’ needs. “We are air traffic control for housekeeping,” Ives says.
New CEO Daniel Ives sees room to expand. The hotel business is the third-largest employer in 32 of the 50 states. “There are 1 million people cleaning hotel rooms every day,” says Ives. “It is unmanaged, unmitigated chaos.” He took over the top job at Optii Solutions a year ago from Soenke Weiss, who founded the company in 2006.
Better Property Management for Single-Family Homes
More than half of all rental units in the United States are single-family homes. That works out to 24 million rental houses, owned by 8 million landlords with an average of just three properties apiece.
Rentalutions helps these owners with every part of managing their rental properties, from finding and screening tenants to collecting the monthly rent. The company is already helping 18,000 property owners rent out their homes; over the next year, Rentalutions plans to double that number.
Connecting With Customers
Hundreds or even thousands of people may walk through a property every day without ever leaving a clue who they were or how to connect with them. “If you don’t understand who your audience is, then they are not your audience,” says Mike Perrone, CEO of SocialSign.In.
His company makes an offer that many of these visitors cannot refuse: free, fast internet service. A welcome screen opens on their mobile devices saying, “Connect through SocialSign.In.” Visitors can sign in through Facebook or through their email.
Signing in begins a relationship that can sharply increase the odds that visitors will eventually download an app or make a purchase. At one property in New York City, these relationships have led to sales exceeding $1 million, or an extra $50 in income per square foot ($538 per sq m) for the property. SocialSign.In’s customers now include the Shubert Organization, Modell’s Sporting Goods, and the Quiznos restaurant chain.
Optimizing Steam Heating
At older buildings heated by steam radiators, some apartments are always warmer than others. Oftentimes that is simply because heat rises, overheating upper floors while lower floors are colder. The central heating system is largely unable to warm the coldest rooms without overheating the hottest parts of a building. Radiator Labs has created a solution: The Cozy. It is a radiator cover that keeps each radiator close to 100 degrees Celsius, or hotter, without letting the heat escape. The system pushes heat to the coldest rooms in a building without wasting energy heating radiators in rooms that are already warm. Residents release heat from the under the Cozy into their apartments as they need it—if they need it.
The technology is already working in 40 buildings, including several at Columbia University and New York University. Customers have reported immediate savings of more than one-third in their heating costs. In addition, the system effectively gives every radiator its own thermostat, with heat available on demand.