Welcome to the ‘Commercial Bulletin’ with Emma Callahan, a Q&A focused on changemakers and leaders in the commercial real estate space.
The objective of these interviews are to gain deeper insight into the current state of the industry and the emerging trends that are shaping its future. From the impact of new technology on property management to the changing demands of tenants in the modern market, our Commercial Bulletin gives you an inside look at the complex world of commercial real estate.
This week we have been in touch with Roei Friedberg, CEO at Aura Air.
Aura Air created the world’s smartest data-driven air purification system, one that cleanses indoor air while vigilantly monitoring its quality in real-time. Aura Air’s award-winning and patented technology filters and disinfects indoor air through a unique four-stage purification process that captures and kills 99.99% of viruses (including SARS-CoV-2), bacteria, germs, and allergens. Founded in 2018, Aura Air is now purifying the air in homes, hospitals, schools, businesses, hotels, restaurants, buses, and nursing homes in more than 50 countries around the world. Aura is headquartered in Israel with global offices in the US and India.
Tell me a little bit more about your organization, a brief introduction
I’m Roei Friedberg and am the CEO, of Americas, at Aura Air. I joined the company four years ago, initially as the VP of sales and Business Development. In the last few years, I have been managing and overseeing the operations in the Americas. In regards to Aura and a bit about the organization, we were founded almost five years ago, with the vision of providing a safe and healthy indoor environment, but also educating people on what you’re breathing. We help people see the unseen, which is the physical parts of the air instead of the environment. We’re a pre-pandemic company, and as you can imagine, COVID accelerated alertness to this topic. We are now a global company operating in over 90 countries, in different industries and vertical markets. The US is one of our main markets.
What key industries do you sell directly into or interact with the most?
On the commercial side, it could be commercial real estate, office buildings, multifamily, and public sector asset-classed buildings. This encompasses government buildings, including federal, local, city, state, and schools, those would be our main clients. For example, you’re from Michigan (Emma the interviewer originates from Michigan), and one of our key clients is Detroit Pistons. We are installed in the entire headquarters. So our product is seen in a variety of verticals.
How did you first start your career in the Smart Air space?
Aura Air was founded by two brothers, Eldar Shnaiderman and Aviad Shnaiderman and they both have extensive knowledge in the HVAC industry. They have a family company in Israel. They essentially said, “We’re going to take the low tech of our Father, and progress it to the high tech.” They combined their knowledge and founded Aura. I joined the company because one of the Co-Founders of the organization was my commander in the military in Israel. We both served for an amazing few years. I served for seven years, and he served for 11 years. From this, he brought me into the company to build operations, business development, and sales globally. That is how I joined the organization. From being here for several years, I can say that I love the vision of the company. What we’re doing is helping people to be in a healthy environment, and additionally educating them.
What are some of the challenges you have faced within the sector and why are solutions so pertinent for health and our future?
I can say that, which I mentioned briefly earlier, we’re a pre-pandemic company. If you are reviewing the need in the market, I will focus on indoor air quality and the HVAC market, as it is changing a lot. This is because, before COVID, we started to see the beginnings of a trend in focusing on well-being, and also sustainability trends were starting to develop within the spaces. You would see organizations saying they want the employees to feel safe and healthy in workspaces. Results were seen in a Harvard survey. Before the pandemic, they asked people and companies in the US what was the most important thing for you in their workspace. What ranked first place was indoor air quality, and this was even before COVID. After COVID, it shifted the market to be more focused on indoor air quality. However, nowadays, we’re in a post-COVID situation. So we are going back again to those fundamentals of well-being and sustainability. I would say that’s the challenge because people are intimidated, they don’t want to hear much more about COVID. They also do not want to feel like you’re trying to play on this COVID fear ticket anymore. Additionally, we are a high-tech solution. We are not a standalone product, it’s a more holistic solution. We are providing the ability to monitor, integrate with the building management system, and collect different data to create reports in relation to ESG. So it’s much more holistic than only cleaning the air inside of a room. That is a challenge on the technology side.
Since positioning your career in Smart air/Proptech, how have you seen the space grow?
The market is growing rapidly. Due to the awareness and the fact that during COVID, a lot of new companies started to evolve. I think in the next few years we will see a consolidation of the market. I believe several players will join together. However, the market will continue to grow day after day. In the US, for example, the federal government including stakeholders in the White House heavily pushing for improving indoor air quality. They have just added a clean building act and program to make sure organizations are going to have a safe and healthy indoor environment. They have given hundreds of billions of dollars to schools to deploy air purification solutions. Which is very cool to see. So I predict the market will only continue to grow year after year.
I did see that you were able to present your solutions to the White House which is very exciting, how did that go?
It was very exciting. I was happy to see that they’re so proactive and continuing to educate on the subject. We are currently working in, aforementioned, almost 90 countries. To see what the US is doing, it’s amazing. I wish that each country in the world was so proactive in providing and allocating the budget. Of course, if you don’t have the budget, it’s tough for people to invest and maintain the progress we are seeing.
Expand on the technology that your organization implements in the real estate space and how you differentiate it from other offerings in the space.
Aura from the beginning decided that the technology should be holistic so you can not just purify or only monitor. You have to integrate completely in order for you to provide a solution. The systems need to monitor in real-time indoors, understand what’s happening outdoors, and then use different methods of purification and disinfection on an ad-hoc basis. Lastly, you need to integrate with other platforms within the building so you’re not a standalone product. You need to communicate with different systems whether it’s HVAC, the building automation system, a smart thermostat, or smart building automation, and that’s how the product was developed. Aura is an IoT technology, that hangs on a wall or ceiling, connected to Wi-Fi and a power outlet. One device will cover up to 1,000 square feet. It monitors in real-time: indoor air, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, VOCs, relative humidity, temperature, particulate matter, and also provides outdoor data. It will then use four stages of medical-grade filtration and disinfection, which were proven to be effective for COVID, influenza, and RSV. Lastly, everything will be connected to a centralized dashboard with an API. So imagine you have a client with several portfolios like Brookfield properties. They may have 100 hotels in a certain area, you can open your dashboard and see all of the locations and receive alerts. From this, you’ll be able to see reports and control your locations.
What does the coming year hold for your company? What are your expansion plans?
In the next few years, we are continuing to expand and grow. Our goal is to become a market leader, together with more partners in the field. We are here to stay and have plans to grow globally not just in the US. We have a company in India, and another subsidiary company in Israel that oversees Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. So the next few years are an exciting time.
What have been your learnings when it comes to attracting and hiring the right talent?
Originally, we were trying to hire through LinkedIn. This involved doing our own campaigns on LinkedIn, and it was not very good. We have found it much better to work with professionals (like yourself) to hire, especially on the more specific hires. I learned this unfortunately the hard way, and I had to change my entire team this year. This was due to talent not being a great fit. However, that is a lesson learned in the future to bring professionals to help you hire rather than trialing profiles of candidates that do not fit in the organization.
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