8 minute read
December 7, 2020

Optimizing Building Performance with Deb Noller of Switch Automation

This article originally appeared on www.buildingproptech.com, a retired blog where I interviewed proptech founders on how they were building and growing their businesses.

Switch Automation is a smart building platform that helps owners and managers optimize building efficiency, sustainability and comfort.

Hey Deb! How did you end up working in PropTech?

I studied national park management in the eighties, then later did a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in computer science. I met my co-founder, John Darlington, when we were both programmers and our shared desire to make a positive contribution to the world soon inspired us to go into business together.

Back in those days, we created technology solutions that helped track, manage and optimize outdated shipping processes. Before long we saw an even bigger opportunity to improve efficiencies in real estate management. John and I were later introduced to building products and automation because one of our customers imported a product into Australia, and its control function didn't work with Australian lighting systems.

I first started working with large real estate companies in 2010 - it was a total revelation to me that many of these businesses were still running on technology from 1990.

What problem are you working to solve with Switch Automation?

Technology and big data are transforming the way we live, work and play. Facilities management hasn’t changed however - it’s still riddled with archaic spreadsheets, inaccessible data and clunky computing architecture.

According to research, 40% of building occupants are dissatisfied with the temperature and air quality in their buildings, and the building sector is responsible for 40% of energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.

It’s time to improve the way we manage buildings, and Switch is leading that charge. Our software platform combines deep building performance insight and control to help our customers monitor, benchmark, and optimize their real estate portfolios.

How is Switch Automation financed?

In addition to our growing recurring revenue, we recently closed $5M in a Series A2 fundraising round with lead investor Gaw Capital, a private real estate and equity company, as well Allectus Capital, MetaProp and RealTechX.

This will fund Switch’s growth strategy into the Asian market, helping us to double-down on software development and expand our sales and marketing efforts. This is a true partnership with Gaw Capital - we’re bringing the smart building technology and they’re bringing the customers and capital.

You’ll see the Gaw team really embracing the Switch Platform and rolling it out across their portfolio and we’re tremendously excited for our next stage of growth throughout the rest of 2020 and 2021.

👋 Hey reader,
Colin here. If you're building or growing a real estate or hospitality tech company, you should sign up to my newsletter Proptech Growth Strategy Brief. Every week, I write a 3-point growth strategy for a real estate or hospitality startup, just like this one. Join the fun!

What is Switch Automation's growth strategy?

In North America, Australia and New Zealand, our main source of revenue growth continues to come from existing customers looking to expand their ongoing smart building operations. We find that our customers typically choose to scale up their Switch integration as they get to know the Platform’s capabilities and the Switch team. We’re also strategically increasing our partner program, which has never been more crucial to growing our market presence.

We see a huge opportunity to own the smart building technology vertical in the APAC region, and to use our platform to help commercial real estate owners and developers improve their buildings and start to connect the offices and the infrastructure of the future. What we’ve built today, and what we’re bringing to the market in Singapore, is a world-leading smart building solution that will allow our users to understand their spaces like never before.

What tactics have you tested for growing your user base and revenue? What has been most effective?

We’re careful to stay focused on customers, even in the middle of a global pandemic. There's nothing more compelling to investors than momentum, traction and revenue.

What has been the hardest part of building, growing or monetizing Switch Automation?

“Finding a way when there is no way.” That's a famous line from Ben Horowitz's book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and it's a book that I recommend to any startup founder. Horowitz says that your first priority as a founder is to make sure your company doesn't run out of money; and the second is to hire great talent. Moreover, founders need to show real resiliency, and keep their dream alive when it seems like there’s no way to move forward.

What insights about real estate and technology have you came to realize whilst building Switch Automation?

Real estate, as an asset class, is the largest asset class on the planet - we spend more money there than anywhere else. But real estate’s adoption of technology has traditionally been very slow. In fact it's not just last across all of the industries for tech adoption, it's dead last, but all of this is finally beginning to change. So what’s causing the change now?

Research indicates there’s going to be more than 8 billion IoT devices operating in commercial buildings by 2022, and all this data is expected to create new business models and revenue streams that we have yet to imagine. When the Google Maps API was created, the tech world had no idea how this invention would go on to form the foundation for countless groundbreaking location-based products in the following years, powering everything from Uber to Pokémon Go. Smart building tech is just as promising, and at this early stage it’s difficult to predict the vast range of ways this technology will go on to be utilized in the future.

The technologies are now more available. They are more cost effective. They’re more deployable and increasingly interoperable. And this is finally being recognized by the property and service companies across the industry.

Where can we find out more about Switch Automation and connect with you?

Find me on my LinkedIn profile.