Our Q&A series is an opportunity for our European team, headed up by Dilan Omari-Clark to discuss all things PropTech, Start-ups, and Career with different founders from across the continent. Each week we ask our guests some burning questions and quiz them about their product, we hope you find it insightful and enjoy getting to know the founders.
OrthoGraph allows you to measure walls, diagonals, openings and any equipments with their properties and barcodes fast and accurately. It enables you to get all calculations right on-site, have a Real Estate Data Sheet which lists out every important aspects of the surveyed property, and more importantly access everything instantly as a 3D BIM model in a simple web browser. The web-based 3D OrthoGraph model viewer lets you virtually walk around your surveyed BIM model without using a mobile device. The company was founded in 2004 and is based in Budapest, Hungry.
This goes back to 2004, when we established OrthoGraph. I have been a CAFM guy since 1998 and my first role in the segment as a software developer was to create the first BIM based CAFM system called ArchiFM, as an employee of Graphisoft – that time BIM was called virtual building. When we succeeded in the development and started to implement projects, I saw that the most critical and missing point of any implementation is the lack of data. Even if there was something usable, it was already outdated and inaccurate for all the clients. I have seen millions of square meters surveyed and modelled in the “traditional way” by using pencil and paper. In some projects tens of architects were hired to do the job, travelling around the country and still it took a lot of time (months) and pain to prepare the materials for ArchiCAD and for ArchiFM. This was the reason why we founded OrthoGraph, to simplify this data capturing process and also support the inventory of assets as part of the BIM.
Funnily, though the concept was very well accepted, we were struggling with mobile technology. I mean there was no real problem with the software as we optimized our solution in all aspects to be able to run it on Windows mobile, but the problem was that it was too early. At the time of push button phones and large laptops it was a real struggle to sell the running hardware, to convince people to trust tiny devices with screens that needed to be operated by digital pens. Still, we could achieve some very nice success stories, but mainly the service was provided by our own people, and not by surveyor partners – which is not our intention. We are basically a technology company, and we believe that we are the best at developing and providing state of the art technology.
Once the iPad was introduced by Apple, we decided to port OrthoGraph to this new platform, but with the focus on the non-enterprise segment. This was the time, when OrthoGraph Floor Plan was released in 2011 to support architects, interior designers, people moving from one home to another with a very simple to use as-built surveying app, nothing about inventory or supporting large buildings, or web-cloud. We had an instant break-even with the new technology in the first month after release, which was a fantastic feeling that we no longer had to struggle with selling the concept of mobile technology, so we thought that this was a good direction.
But as years passed, I saw that the FM segment was still struggling with the lack of data. At the same time we knew that we had the necessary knowledge and the experience to support this enterprise segment but we were not yet using and sharing it with the market.
In 2015 I left ArchiFM and moved to OrthoGraph 100% to step into the direction of Operational BIM. At the time we partnered up with Leica Geosystems for a strategic cooperation where we developed a new, market changing hardware together. They made the hardware, and we made the native app for that laser scanner. During this development and while our revenues got stronger from our core OrthoGraph app we decided to get back to our origins and we decided to solve the Operational BIM problem of the market. We had many years of experience behind in surveying and mobile technology, 15 years of CAFM experience, system implementation experience at large projects and we also knew how to integrate the surveying hardware to best fit the demands of facility management. So, we were prepared both technically and financially to take this big step forward and started to do the development. Both the technology and the concept, and also the sales model. We believe OrthoGraph must be a technology with an open API providing Operational BIM to any software systems and workflows that need graphical and calculated data to improve their performance. As a result we have released OrthoGraph Enterprise in September of 2019, while becoming again a startup with a totally new sales and marketing model, and with a unique technology that is strong and robust enough to fulfill the extended needs.
After starting the sales of the new Enterprise product, it took us only a few weeks to win our first pilot projects at renowned companies, who are both large and have a forward looking businesses and technology approach. To give you a short list: BOSCH, Futureal, a number of universities and several other companies, whom we could easily reach mainly in Hungary, where our headquarters is located. We wanted to get a firsthand experience about client needs from these projects to see in which areas our technology needs further improvement. Then COVID-19 came in and it closed the country borders, limiting us for new project acquisition only to Hungary. It was tough times, but we made the best use of it. During lockdown we strengthened our partner network and we have teamed up with some key international FM market players. We are soon going to communicate the names, once the last signatures are dried on our cooperation contracts. The recent positive news is that more and more new technology partners and CAFM service providers are contacting us day-by-day. This shows us that the market is in a more mature status now 1.5 years after Covid broke out, and that the decision makers are more conscious of the criticality of digitisation.
Let me emphasize again the importance of our strategic decision of focusing on the enterprise segment (that put us back in the startup status). As a consequence we are now selling through partners instead of simply uploading the app to AppStore and Google Play. In this new model we are in close cooperation with our partners whom we are supporting to provide high-level services to their customers internationally. We are scaling up at increasing speed, we work hard to know our customers, and to enforce our international presence which is showcased with our Business Development Manager who is now based in Paris.
Competition and Digitisation.
There are more and more clear signs that due to Covid 19 the utilisation of commercial buildings will change. This change will trigger the rapid adaptation of the new business demands and also the competition will increase in this segment. Consequently, building owners will need precise information of their property portfolio to be able to make the right decisions. They will need technologies that support the optimization of operational workflows to reduce costs while increasing productive performance. I am sure we will see many new great PropTech technologies arise in many segments. More than ever before. We will see many of them applied by those building owners and service providers who want to be ahead of their competition.
The real estate industry is catching up with digitalisation, and megatrends like urbanisation, 2050 carbon neutral goals, smart buildings, IoT, etc. will multiply the value of reliable, real life building data. Existing buildings need to be digitised on mass scale and rapidly worldwide. We expect the explosion of the BIM for FM market in the coming years and OrthoGraph is here to help anyone to start their digital journey. We democratise the access of real-life building and asset data for operation. These are great times for PropTech in our opinion.
The most loved question we have is: How rapidly can a building owner get in control?
When we tell our customers that it only takes weeks to do the as-built surveys and inventory, and we prove it by presenting our technology live and by sharing case studies, then the “Wow” feedback is the one which gives us the most power to continue our journey.
The most interesting question we get is: What is Operational BIM good for?
As an answer we love to show how much valuable information the users can get out of it in addition to obtaining nice floor plans and 3D models. We emphasise the importance of having an asset inventory with RFID identifiers at all maintenance points and locations since the use of unique identifiers will result in high-quality, well controllable maintenance and cleaning workflows. Through previous projects we show for example how massive renovation cost savings can be realised. The point is that once you document your buildings in OrthoGraph’s Operational BIM ecosystem you can use the data for as many purposes as you want. We transform data into valuable information. Even the simplest Excel export provides instant data access for tendering, contracting, renovation. Not to mention the abundant possibilities by integrating OrthoGraph to IWMS, CAFM, CMMS, BMS or any other system that needs graphical or calculated data.
The most difficult question we have is: How do we handle situations, where there are already existing models of a building. Can we import those models?
Firstly, there is only approx. 2% of buildings having some level of digital documentation (not only BIM). Yes, 98% of the building stock has 0 digital documentation! Secondly, these existing models are typically inaccurate (5-10% deviation) and the lack of asset inventory, barcoding etc. Still, the owners spent a lot of money on producing these inadequate models for operation, sometimes they paid even more on keeping them updated as much as possible. Understandably, it is quite hard for them to accept that if they want to benefit of OrthoGraph’s powerful Operational BIM functionalities the buildings need to be re-measured a second time. The good news is however, that this will be the last time since OrthoGraph is enabling easy model updates throughout the complete life cycle. Even though the resurveying to OrthoGraph is a clear financial win, it is still a hard and sometimes painful decision to release something that already cost a lot for the company. Nevertheless, once they understand the importance of RFID inventories, and that even a minor 2% inaccuracy can sum up to massive revenue losses during the 30-50 years of building operation lifecycle (comparable to the total construction cost of the building), then they typically switch to our models and keep their old digital documentation, BIM, etc. for their archives. Construction BIM can still be a good value later on in some rare situations, where there is a fundamentally big change in the building.
Actually, what we do is so different from anything else on the market and as-built data capturing is so important for the Building Operation professions that we are awarded more and more frequently.
We are in the 50 Semi-Finalists of the PropTech Startup and Scale-up Europe Awards 2021 of the European PropTech Association and FINNOVA FOUNDATION, we have been selected as one of the most influencing global innovations in Real Estate and Construction industry by KPMG last summer, we have been selected as one of the 10 most innovative Hungarian companies and as the 2nd best emerging PropTech Startup from CEE in 2019.
Besides them we’ve got many other great awards too, but what I always say, for us the best award is when the client realises at the project handover that we have opened up new horizons for them – horizons that are far beyond the traditional scope of facility and maintenance management. It happened just a month ago that at a hospital project hand-over a medical director presented us in 15 minutes how they will improve their patient care workflows by using OrthoGraph’s data to provide better services with the same number of nurses. I can’t describe how proud I felt while listening to his brilliant innovative ideas and thus learning about new use cases that we can further share with our future customers.