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How Are Building Management Platforms Changing The Way We Live? With Jessica Beck And Marcela Sapone

25.5.22

Louisa is joined by Jessica Beck, Co-Founder and COO and Marcela Sapone, CEO and Co-Founder of Alfred for the 5th episode of season 9. During this episode, they discuss how building management platforms are changing the way we live. Taking a deeper dive into how Alfred came about and in which city it all began, they also touch on what the product is, what trends they are seeing, and why Alfred acquired a property management company. They wrap up this riveting chat by talking about their journey as female founders and what is next for Alfred. The value bomb from this episode is, “Once you build an asset, you need someone to manage that asset.”

Resources:

Companies Mentioned:

Shout Outs:

Key Insights From This Episode: 

  • The people who were able to make it all work had one thing in common: they got really comfortable with asking for help as well as comfortable with the idea of a team backing them up. – Marcela 
  • We’re so used to technology in every aspect of our lives. But real estate has been very resistant towards tech enablement and is really quite behind relative to other categories. – Marcela
  • My advice to founders would be; it does take time but if you build a relationship and you go building by building, one building to ten buildings, you not only build a great relationship, but you actually get to build a great product and you get to learn and work with your customers to bring something to market. – Jessica
  • This space is extremely fragmented. There’s no single platform and there’s a huge opportunity to put all of that under one umbrella and deliver a one stop shopping fully integrated experience. – Jessica

About Our Guests:

Jessica Beck, Co-Founder and COO at Alfred 

Jessica Beck is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Alfred. Beck leads Alfred’s day-to-day operations and under her direction, Alfred has grown to be a leader in hospitality, successfully rolling out a national resident experience and building management platform with hundreds of thousands of units managed. 

In an effort to expand Alfred’s footprint, Beck has negotiated and developed partnerships with some of the country’s largest real estate developers, expanding Alfred to 44 major cities across the country. 

Along with Alfred’s Co-Founder, Marcela Sapone, Beck supports founders who want to live more consciously through WHITESPACE Ventures, a seed investment firm focused on design-led tech for better business. 

From SXSW to the Sante Fe Institute’s Annual Business Network & Board of Trustees Symposium, Jess speaks regularly on entrepreneurship and building scalable solutions in the sharing economy. Beck holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in economics from Williams College, where she was captain of the women’s rugby team and graduated cum laude. 

Marcela Sapone, Co-Founder and CEO of Alfred 

Marcela Sapone is the CEO and Co-Founder of Alfred. Sapone launched Alfred with a mission to make help a universal utility in every home. Since 2014, under Sapone’s leadership, Alfred has expanded to serve more than 135,000 residents in 44 cities across the United States and Canada, and has been named as Fast Company’s Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in 2018, 2019, and 2020. 

As one of the first leaders in the sharing economy to advocate for fair compensation of service workers, Sapone adopted the company-wide policy of hiring all Alfred staff as W2 employees. Sapone has worked with the U.S. Department of Labor and the White House under the administration of President Barack Obama, as well as The Brookings Institute and The Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities and Financial Security Program, to advance these efforts of economic security for the future of employment. Along with Alfred’s Co-Founder, Jess Beck, Sapone supports founders who want to live more consciously through WHITESPACE Ventures, a seed investment firm focused on design-led tech for better business. 

Named one of Goldman Sachs’s “most intriguing entrepreneurs,” Sapone writes and speaks frequently on principled leadership, human-centered technology, and her commitment to being a steward of good jobs and meaningful change. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, Quartz, and Recode, among other highly reputable publications. She has been included in Fast Company’s Most Creative People list, featured as the face of Consumer Tech in Forbes 30 Under 30, and was also a winner of Connect Media’s Women in Real Estate Award in 2021. Sapone serves on the Norwalk Zoning Commission, where she supports initiatives and creates opportunities for urban development and growth. Sapone earned her BA from Boston University and holds an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School. 

Alfred 

Operating at the intersection of real estate and technology, Alfred is the leading resident experience building management platform that is changing the way we live. Founded in 2014 by Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck, Alfred’s mission is clear: to create an industry shift in real estate, transforming renters into residents and apartment properties into neighbourhoods. Named by Fast Company as one of the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World, Alfred has been recognized as a leader in the on-demand and in-home economy, investing in the local ecosystems and neighbourhood businesses that give meaning to our communities. Alfred to date operates in over 135,000 residential units in 44 markets across the U.S. and Canada through strategic partnerships with international real-estate operators, such as Brookfield, Hines, Related, RXR, Greystar and Jamestown. To learn more, visit www.helloalfred.com.

About Our Host

Louisa Dickins

Louisa is the co-founder of LMRE, which has rapidly become the market leading global PropTech recruitment platform and search consultancy with operations across North America, United Kingdom, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

To promote the industry she is so passionate about, Louisa set up the Global podcast ‘The Propcast’where she hosts and invites guests from the built environment space to join her in conversation about innovation.

About LMRE

LMRE is globally recognised for leading the way in Real Estate Tech & Innovation talent management.

From the outset our vision was to become a global provider of the very best strategic talent to the most innovative organisations in PropTech, ConTech, Smart Buildings, ESG, Sustainability and Strategic Consulting.

At LMRE we are fully committed at all times to exceed the expectations of our candidates and clients by providing the very best advice and by unlocking exclusive opportunities across our global network in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.

Timestamps:

[02:10] Marcela: How did Alfred come about and how did you meet? 

  • I went to Harvard Business School and ended up sitting next to Jessica, we were both working 90-100 hour weeks. 
  • Our objective, both as individuals and personally, was to figure out if it would be possible to start our own adventure, build our own business and to find a co-founder. 
  • Our question was, “How can we enable women to stay in the workforce longer?” 
  • Our solution was, “Could we create a business that would put groceries in your fridge, dry-cleaning your closet, packages on your counter and have everything you ever needed at the tap of the button. And could that be included in our rent?”

 [05:40] Jessica: In which city did this all begin? 

  • We were one of the few consumer companies that originated in Boston as we were still students. 
  • We opened our next market in New York.
  • We have scaled to Canada and now we are in 52 cities. 

[07:25] Marcela: Can you tell us more about the product? 

  • We focus on the largest category and asset class in the world, which is housing and we are making it digital. 
  • We take technology and we take a resident first, very consumer perspective and we are disrupting the way that traditional property management happens in multifamily and single family build-to-rent communities.
  • At your fingertips is an application that allows you to buy services, to pay your rent, to book amenities, to book the Peloton, to book the workspace, to complain about something going wrong in your apartment and to request your packages to be delivered to your front door.

[10:05] Jessica: How did you go about bringing on your first massive client?

  • Our approach in working with the industry and gaining our first customers was really one of partnering.
  • Our first big customer was Related Rentals. 
  • My advice to founders would be; it does take time but if you build a relationship and you go building by building one building to ten buildings, you not only build a great relationship, but you actually get to build a great product and you get to learn and work with your customers to bring something to market.
  • We always took a partnership oriented, consultative approach. 

[12:05] Marcela: What are the major trends you have seen between Boston or New York in terms of what a resident is looking for.

  • In Boston and New York, one of our biggest categories in the service marketplace in terms of time-saving service, was dry cleaning. But in San Francisco, you have absolutely no dry cleaning, and in Texas pet care was our largest category.
  • In the last three to five years while we’ve been building the business, there’s been a tremendous amount of change in the industry.

[15:10] Jessica: What was the reasoning behind acquiring a property management company? 

  • One of the things that we learned along the journey is if you really want to change how people live and you want to do it past the front door of their home, you need to be much more connected than you would guess.
  • We realised in order to really deliver the product, we had to become much more integrated into building operations to create an end to end user experience and to deliver on top of that platform, you need to have a consolidation.
  • We learned that in this space, there’s so much fragmentation. 

[21:15] Jessica: How long on average does a resident stay in an apartment?

  • The average in the US, for annual churn in a property is about 45 – 50% a year and as a consumer business that means there is a lot of opportunity.
  • What we’ve found is when you put a community in a building and residents start to participate and their lifestyle starts to get automated they end up staying longer. 
  • In properties where we’ve been operating for some time, we’ve increased the  renewal rates for our partners by 5-10%. 

[24:25] Marcela: Any advice you can give to other female founders?

  • We try to ignore the fact that we’re female founders, we would never do female only panels or raise and go out and say, “Female led companies raising X amount.”
  • Focus on the business and the fundamentals of the business. 
  • Have an extreme level of patience and a level of acceptance.
  • Jessica: Being a founder is hard so find a good support system. 

[27:55] Marcela/Jessica: How do you support your growing team as well as retain employees? 

  • All of us on the planet are at a point where we’re taking a big step back to evaluate our choices.
  • There’s been a reshuffling of where people are putting their energy and the careers they want to be in.
  • One thing that is extremely clear is that connecting back to your mission and having an incredibly clear set of values as well as being as radically transparent. 
  • Being empathetic and personal with each member of your team and understanding their goals. 

[31:40] Marcela: What is next for Alfred? 

  • Slowly and steadily continually leading the category forward to become the leading brand in residential real estate as well as work with our stakeholders to move the industry forward. 
  • Continuing to add value to all of our customers

[34:15] The ‘LMRE’ part, Louisa asks the guests to talk about; 

L – Touch on the main lessons you have learnt throughout your career.

Marcela: First things first and one line to do lists. 

Jessica:  When you’re a founder, you’re kind of the captain of a ship and you see calm seas and stormy seas but you are always in both. 

M – Please give a mention to anyone / product / service.

Marcela: John Fagan, Co-founder & CEO at doorkee.

Jessica: Our whole team.

R– What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in PropTech?

Marcela:  We’re taking things from a piece of paper and turning them into something that you can engage with and interact with. 

Jessica: Echo what Marcela said. 

E – What are you excited about in the future of PropTech?

Marcela:  Getting through 2022 and 2023 and being able to reflect back and be proud of making it through a pretty challenging market with lots of ups and downs and twists.

Jessica: Keep pushing the envelope in the industry. 

[36:05] Jessica: Are there any plans to come to Europe? 

  • 100% Yes

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