5.11.20

The Propcast: Smart Council and Connectivity

In this episode The Propcast talks to William Newton about WiredScore’s Smart Council, and connectivity.

 

Click here to listen to Episode 1.

The Propcast by Louisa Dickins, Co-Founder of LMRE the leading Global PropTech recruiter brought to you in partnership with UK PropTech Association, The UK PropTech Association is a membership organisation to drive the digital transformation of the property industry.

This show will focus on connecting the Proptechs, real estate funds and VC’s globally…and get everyone talking about innovation of the build to rent environment.

5.11.20

About Our Host

Louisa Dickins

https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisa-dickins-ab065392/?originalSubdomain=uk

Louisa started her career in property working at a well-known estate agency in London. Realising her people skills, she moved over to Lloyd May to pursue a career in recruitment. She now is a Director at LMRE, who are a specialist recruitment firm driven by PropTech and recruitment professionals, and Louisa oversees their 5 core areas. Louisa co-founded LMRE and provides a constructive recruitment platform to the new disruptors in real estate. Louisa is also on the board of Directors at UK PropTech Association (UKPA).

 

About LMRE

LMRE believe there is a better way to recruit. LMRE focus on a more comprehensive, client led focus delivering exceptional talent to the right place at the right time. They are passionate about the industry and passionate about people's careers. LMRE spend time with each client to become and an extension of the business, and their transparency and core values help them grow with the sector. LMRE simplify recruitment and innovate with our clients and evolve the people driven, PropTech community.

 

About Our Guest

William Newton

https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-newton111/?originalSubdomain=uk

WiredScore’s mission is to enable the world to get “better connected” by uncovering information and simplifying activities for businesses and individuals to access internet service and other connectivity technologies. To achieve this mission, WiredScore has developed Wired Certification. In an increasingly tech-driven economy, connectivity is fast becoming the most critical utility for commercial real estate tenants when selecting office space. The widely recognised Wired Certification seal is a trusted symbol that identifies buildings that have been independently certified to provide the best-in-class connectivity infrastructure that businesses require to thrive.

 

Resources mentioned

LMRE website www.lmre.co.uk

UKPA website www.ukpa.com

WiredScore website www.wiredscore.com

 

Insights From This Episode

 

  • Sometimes the most obvious ideas are the best. It may not be ingenious, but that's because it's so necessary – William Newton
  • That gave us the perfect opportunity to put together the WiredScore Smart Council and try and provide a bit of clarity about what a smart building really is, why it's useful and why it's important – William Newton
  • We were increasing the understanding what the factors were that were going to define the future of real estate, and good connectivity is undoubtedly one of them – William Newton
  • People will need to rely on cloud-based office systems even more than they have before. Which makes connectivity more and more important – William Newton
  • One of my favorite facts is for the average internet outage, your heart rate goes up equivalent to if you were watching a scary movie – William Newton
  • Making a shift into a small start-up might seem like a daunting prospect now, but as long as you're confident that you're going to be able to learn from that… there's no way that it won't help you in your career – William Newton

 

Episode transcript

 

Louisa

Hi everyone. And welcome to the Propcast, my name is Louisa Dickins, co-founder of LMRE and board director of the UKPA and I shall be  your weekly host. Each week for 30 minutes, we will be connecting the VC, Proptech startups and real estate professionals globally, and assist in bridging that famous communication gap we all love talking about. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Hi everyone and welcome back to season three of the Propcast. and I thought who better to kick off the third season than with the wonderful William Newton, President and Managing Director of WiredScore, so welcome William.

 

William

Thanks Lu for having me today, really looking forward to it.

 

Louisa

Awesome. Today we will be talking about William's newly formed Smart Council and connectivity, and obviously WiredScore the product. But before we get into that, let me tell you a little bit about William's story. So William began his career at McKinsey and co, before moving to work as a senior policy advisor in the Cabinet Office, and then in the Number 10 policy unit at10 Downing street, which we'll hear a little bit more about later. William joined WiredScore in 2015 ahead of the company's London launch as thecapital's official digital connectivity rating scheme, and partnership with the mayor of London. In five years, William has successfully lead WiredScores expansion to France, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Australia, and Italy, and is now growing WiredScore's product offering by entering into the smart building space with a brand new certification.

WiredScore owns and operates Wired Certification, which is a global digital connectivity rating scheme for buildings. Now, this was first launched in 2013 with the endorsement of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Today WiredScore has certfified over 600 million square feet of space across nine countries, with over 2,500 buildings committed to certification, and I'm sure we have thousands and thousands more to come. WiredScores mission is to make the world's buildings better connected, enabling a more collaborative, innovative, and dynamic future. And it's imperative that we now turn our attention to smart buildings.

 

So everyone who's listening, I'm sure you have heard of WiredScore but that's a  brief overview, but now I think let's hear a bit more from William about  what was the proper story behind WiredScore, and also, how did you first  get in touch with Ari as well?

 

William

Well, two interesting and slightly different  question. In terms of WiredScore coming into the world, we really owe our existence to Michael Bloomberg while he was mayor of New York. And it was he who saw the discrepancy between on the one hand, the enormous and the increasing importance of digital connectivity to businesses. And then on the other hand, the fact that most businesses had no idea how well connected an office building was before they moved in.

 

And in truth, most landlords probably didn't know either, but if they did know, they didn't have a trusted way of articulating that to tenants. And so Bloomberg looked around for someone who could find a solution to those problems. So our founder Ori said, yeah, I can take that on as a challenge. And he considered the fact that there were certification schemes for lots of things in real estate, like, wellness and like sustainability. but no-one had ever rated the thing that actually mattered the most day-to-day, which is the internet, which is the lifeblood of modern business. Like the internet determines whether or not you can do your job every single day. And so I went back to Bloomberg, suggested the idea of a digital connectivity certification scheme, and Bloomberg as the mayor of New York seed funded us into existence.

 

Louisa

 Yes, its crazy to think that no one really thought of this before. it's something which is just so simple and like you said, so important and is fundamental to any business or any building, whether it's residential or commercial. So I'm not surprised youve seen such an uptake.

 

William

I remember when we first started talking to landlords in the UK and everyone I explained the idea of WiredScore to didn't say to me like, Wow William, you and Ori are the smartest guys we’ve ever come across, instead everyone's like, Man, this is so obviously needed, its so obvious, I can't imagine why nobody's done this before. And sometimes the most obvious ideas are the best,  it may not be ingenious, but that's because it's so necessary. It's requirement is apparent as soon as someone hears it.

 

Louisa

Yeah, surely straight away when you're pitching, when you're at the opening up a door, there's obviously a clear value proposition there which really anyone can understand. I speak to a lot of businesses, I'm sure a lot of real estate funds or landlords are constantly being pitched to about these products, but we're not quite then getting our head around all of them.  Now we've spoken about WiredScore, could you give us a bit more introduction or elaborate on the product because I'm sure it's not as simple as we've just made out to be.

 

William

Well, we do try and make sure it's simple without being simplers. We're not oversimplifying what's happening in the world, but when you think about it, a tenant really cares about four things when they care about the internet. They care about whether or not they can move into a building and get up and running quickly. What kind of price they're going to pay for, what kind of speed they're going to get? They care about whether or not they’ve got good coverage and capacity on mobile phone signal. And then lastly, and probably most importantly, they care about resilience. They care about the fact that they will have the internet up and running all the time in their office buildings. So we devised the Scorecard that reflects those big four inputs and gives a rating, - platinum, gold, silver, certified, or uncertified for every building that we rate. Now that can be used by landlord in a few different ways.

 

Obviously there's the advantage in terms of leasing, and attracting tenants into a space. But more than that, it's really a tool that can help with asset management. I go with designing and building in the first place to make sure that it's up to those standards, or improving a building from where it is, looking across an entire portfolio of a landlord's buildings to see the common themes that are coming out. In London at the moment over 50% of new developments are either already certified by WiredScore, or going through the process of certification, and the City of London has put in their draft city plan that all new developments in the square mile will have to be certified. So I think indicative of the fact that this isn't a problem that's going away. This is useful now, and it's going to be even more important in the future.

 

Louisa

So obviously there’s been a huge amount of  uptake. Has there been any resistance maybe in certain regions or areas or countries? Obviously New York, London, massive uptake as you just demonstrated, but do you have to have any obstacles or some people who were like, You know what, we're not quite ready for this yet?

 

William

We definitely see an adoption curve, so Manhatton's at 33% of the total square footage being certified by WiredScore, but that only happens after five or so years. So each market you move into youll have the early adopters, the people who say, yes we understand why this is important and we want to get involved early. So you see buildings like Derwin's white collar factory was the first Wired Certified platinum development in Europe because they immediately understood the idea and they wanted to get involved. Similarly, British Land was the first group who decided they were going to commit their entire pipeline to it. So you get those early adopters and then there's a good chunk of fast followers later on.

 

Louisa

And I think the moment we've all been waiting for, you've recently formed a smart council, which I'm sure everyone's been  reading about or following. Can you elaborate a little bit more? What does a smart council consists of? What will the council bring? How have you formed it? I'd love to learn a little bit more about it.

William

Well for the last few years, we've stayed pretty firmly in the realm of digital connectivity. But during that time, the landlords that we know really well have said like, look, we're developing these smart building strategies, we'd love to know what you think, we would really like a smart certification. And we've kind of leant a bit of advice here and there, but we've never fully entered into the process of defining what a smart building is and how it can be useful. At the start of lockdown we realised that we were going to have a tiny bit more time on our hands, particularly because our clients were going to be at home, so it was going to be easier to interact with them.

So we thought that gave us the perfect opportunity to put together the WiredScore smart council and start developing in collaboration with the 50 global landlords and tenants, certification that would try and provide a bit of clarity about what a smart building really is, why it's useful and why it's important. So we approached a number of our existing clients who had already raised the issue with us in five different countries, six different countries, and said, do you want to collaborate with us on it? So everyone from Hines and Blackstone and Patrizia and Legal and General and many others, it's brought together the best of their expertise.

 

I think the important thing about doing it is that we weren't going in immediately talking to the people who are selling smart building equipment. We were talking to people who are using that equipment and too often in the smart space, the technologists decree that you need to buy their solution for your building to be able to be smart. Of course, that's not true. A smart building is one that delivers the outcomes to the users that the users really care about. And that's underpinned by technology, but it shouldn't be technology first, then users later, it should be users first and then technology later.

 

Louisa

I was going to ask a question, what classifies a smart building exactly then?

 

William

So, we think that there are really four things that users care about in a smart building. And when we say users, we mean both the landlord and importantly, the tenant. The first is the building delivers an inspirational tenant experience. And that's because it allows really high levels of productivity. It's a really healthy building, got really good cyber security standards and a few other things, but that all comes in a package of an inspirational tenants experience. The second thing is that the building is really cost-effective to run, both for the landlord and for the tenant.

The third thing is that the building is really sustainable, that we are being mindful of the carbon footprint of every building, not just in the policies that are implemented, but the actual outcomes of that carbon emission. And then fourthly that the building is future proofed. It's not going to be a smart building in 2020, but by the time 2023 rolls around, an app needs a new iPhone, it's suddenly is no longer needed in the world. So I think particularly there, we emphasize that there needs to be a degree of modularity, so you're not building in hardware that's going to become obsolete pretty quickly.

 

Louisa

Always important to maximize value for those integrating it. Talking of integration, during COVID you mentioned more people working from home, your team was working from home. how was it putting your product into these buildings during these unprecedented times? Was it difficult?  How did you overcome that?

 

William

Well, I think we went through slightly different phases. In the initial phase because a lot of our work is based on developments and refurbishments, we can actually do a fair bit off plans. So we're dealing with buildings that wont actually start construction for a couple of years. And there we actually found that our work was able to speed up quite a lot because our client teams are at homes and then mechanical and electrical engineers are at homes. So they were getting through work faster and getting it to us to review more easily. So that actually curiously speeded us up quite a lot.

 

Then in terms of the process of going into buildings, once the initial lockdown measures were relaxed, was actually a really good time for us to be able to safely and socially distantly go into buildings and review them when there were very, very few other people in the building. So it made our work a tiny bit quicker. It's somewhat counterintuitive, but we are glad it was still something that was top of mind for landlords I think, because so many of them were home struggling with internet connections and increasing the understanding what the factors were that were going to define the future of real estate, and good connectivity is undoubtedly one of them

 

Louisa

A hundred percent. And talking about whether you're at home or in the office, have you seen an acceleration in adoption maybe in residential buildings more than commercial? Or what trends have you seen over the past few months and maybe any predictions for the future?

 

William

I think we've definitely seen an acceleration residential, we launched our residential product about a year ago, Jeremy Wright, the then culture secretary did it, and at that time, we had no idea that this was going to be the world that we were living in and that your home internet connection was going to be your lifeline into work. And so it's clear why there's been an uptake. I think in the future, as we move towards a model where offers, this is still really important, but people also do work from home maybe once a day, a week in a way that they use not too people will need to rely on cloud-based office systems even more than they have before. Which just kind of makes it connectivity more and more important because if you can't have access to all of your slide files you live.

 

Louisa

I hosted my first webinar from home and then Zoom kindly sent me, obviously it was like an hour video and I just spent about an hour trying to transfer this document, which I couldnt with my internet connectivity or my CRM, and I was just freaking out that all this work Id done, which is going to go lost.

 

William

One of my favorite facts is for the average internet outage, your heart rate goes up equivalent to if you were watching a scary movie. So when you're trying to upload the file and you're not getting it, its the same as seeing the massive shark  coming to attack your boat!

 

Louisa

I actually just kept my laptop open and charging till I got into the office 24 hours later, as I didn't want to risk it. And I'm sure everyone's had this issue before. Okay, so what are the big plans, what's next for your product? Obviously youve got the smart council. what are they going to be doing now over the next year maybe?

 

William

So we hope to launch our smart certification in Q1 next year. So we're busy with about 40 buildings underway with testing at the moment, which is a really enjoyable process to make sure that we've optimised our Scorecard effectively. Looking beyond that, we are understanding how we can expand our geographic footprint. So we're in nine countries at the moment, and we'd like to work out how we can get that up to 20 as soon as possible. So we've got one country launch coming up in about four weeks, which should be exciting, and getting the, the others in the pipeline now so we are ready for the next year.

 

Louisa

Wow, that's fairly big growth plans. Are we allowed to know what these countries are or is this top secret?

 

William

It’s currently top secret, but I look forward to going back on the Propcast and letting you know when we're up and running.

 

Louisa

The follow up podcast we'll be sure to do.  Aside from talking about the product, talking about your journey,  what was it like going from the cabinet office in 10 Downing Street, into a tech startup? I'm sure they both have their challenges, what was it like? Two completely parallel types of environments to work in.

 

William

It couldn't have been more different, the civil services is 450,000 people, and the public sector has many, many millions more than that. So when you're working there, you feel like you're part of a really big machine. Working at 10 Downing Street, it's been the seat of government for 300 years, and there's amazing history and precedent and tradition, and going from that to being the first person in Europe and the fifth person into a startup was a huge change among other things. Absolutely nothing worked because we didn't have systems or functions. So the way I got a laptop was by going to a shop and buying a laptop.  You realise suddenly that without all those support structures around you, you need to be really resourceful to get something going. So it was a thrilling challenge, but it couldn't have been a more different culture to go from

 

Louisa

Is there any advice, you've done a career change, an environment change, is there any advice you'd give for people who are wanting to go into or going into a startup, regardless of whether it's PropTech or FinTech, any advice you could give to the audience listening in?

 

William

So I had three careers before I hit 30, one as a management consultant at McKinsey. A second one is a civil servant and then a third one in property technology. And what I've loved is that I've learned an extraordinary amount from all of those things. Each one of them makes me better. Should I end up back in one of the other two. I think employers of the future aren’t going to want to see someone who's been in the same company, in the same career for 30 years. It doesn't show a breadth of experience and adaptability that will fit with a changing business world that all of us are going to face over the course of all of our long working careers.

So making a shift into a small startup might seem like a daunting prospect now, but as long as you're confident that you're going to be able to learn from that, as long as you're confident that you're going into a team who have a growth mindset and care about personal development, there's no way that it won't help you in your career. Even if it happens at that startup, it doesn't become the next Google, it will still have been a really advantageous thing for you to have gone through.

 

Louisa

Okay. That's a good bit of advice as well for those listening in, unfortunately this is bringing us to the end of the podcast. It's been a pleasure kicking off season 3 with you William, everyone listening in., what's the best way they connect with you and learn more about WiredScore.

 

William

I’d love it if you connected with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter @WPNewton, as far as WiredScore itself, please do sign up to our newsletter on the WiredScore smart council. We've got some really exciting announcements coming up in the next few months, and it'd be great to have your listeners a part of it.

 

Louisa

Awesome. And we'll  thank you so much for joining us and everyone please follow WiredScore, whether it's LinkedIn or Twitter updates and William looking forward to your global domination, best of luck with that. And I will catch up with you after the show. Thank you very much.

 

William

Thanks Lu

 

Louisa

Thank you for joining us this week on the podcast and a big thanks to our special guests. Make sure you visit our website, www.lmre.co.uk, where you can subscribe to our show or you'll find us on iTunes and Spotify, where all good content is found. Whilst you're at it, if you found value with the show, we'd appreciate if you could rate and review us on iTunes, join us next Tuesday, and I'll catch you later.

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