STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: NEVER GET LOCKED OUT OF YOUR
(SMART)HOME AGAIN

BLAKE MILLER, CEO, HOMEBASE, contributor

By September 22, 2017, 3:00 pm EDT

    Smart homes are the talk of the consumer housing market, and for property managers, landlords, and rental property owners, there’s a big opportunity to manage their units in “smarter” ways. Homebase provides smart apartment management solutions for new and existing residential communities. It’s a win-win situation: property managers enjoy seamless control across buildings, making it easy to stay in touch with residents, manage payments and maintenance requests, and control smart devices such as locks, lights, and thermostats. Residents get all the great smart home devices, including climate, lighting, security, and more, as well as innovative, connected amenity services. Techweek’s Prab Kumar sat down with Homebase CEO Blake Miller to learn more about how he’s making property management “smarter.”

    • Prab: What are three stats that show how important your company’s impact has been or signifies the growth your business/market has seen?

      Blake: Most people spend only about 5-10% of their day outside, meaning they spend over 90% of their time indoors. In cities, these people are in apartments or condos, and their place of work. With urbanization, there are millions of people moving into these cities, creating a need for over 460,000 new rental homes every year till 2030 according to the National Multi-housing Council. The buildings that we occupy need to become smarter and more efficient to sustain the demands of this growth.

    • Prab: Tell us a little about your company today.  What is the hair on fire problem being addressed?

      Blake: Homebase is an intelligent building and community management platform for the multi-family and student housing industry. We want to make the built environment and the people who occupy it better connected and more efficient while driving a greater sense of community.

    • Prab: How did you discover this problem and why did you tackle it?

      Blake: After working to develop and deploy the Kansas City Smart City Initiative, a 2017 Edison Innovation Award winning project, I realized one of the best and quickest ways to make a city “smart” is to do it from the inside out. So we partnered with Sunflower Development in Kansas City to build Homebase.

    • Prab: How has the business evolved? What were some of the key milestones as you scaled?

      Blake: First, we wanted to see if we could build a prototype that could manage a fleet of smart home devices in a building. Since then we’ve built amazing partnerships with OEMs & further developed the platform to manage any connected device in a building & deliver services through the platform for residents.

    • Prab: What’s the size of the problem? How big is this industry?

      Blake: The market is BIG. There are over 20M apartment homes in the country alone, with 4.6M new homes needing to be built by 2030 to meet demand. That’s just apartments.

    • Prab: What are the important trends that will shake up this industry? What will the industry look like in 5 or 10 years?

      Blake: With urbanization and the emergence of the Internet of Things, we’re in the right time, at the right place, to solve a huge problem. Design of the built environment will rapidly change because we will have data about how people actually use buildings. Smarter buildings will make cities inherently smarter.

    • Prab: How crowded is the space? What’s the competitive advantage behind your product or service that you believe makes it a winner?

      Blake: When we started there were maybe 3 or 4 competitors in our space. Since then one has even popped up in our city. What we understand about the Internet of Things gives us a competitive advantage. The secret is that it’s not about the “things” at all, they’re just tools to produce outcomes for users.

    • Prab: Great insight. Who are your customers and how do you make money?

      Blake: Our customers are real estate developers and property managers. We make money through the sale of hardware and software services.

    • Prab: How do you attract customers, and how well has it gone?

      Blake: Many of our first customers were also our investors, so we’re building solutions that give them a competitive advantage in their projects. Now that we’ve launched our product, we attract customers through OEM partners and other channels. We’re growing as fast as we can get installer crews on site.

    • Prab: Tell us about raising capital – What was the experience like? What did you learn?

      Blake: I’d say the biggest thing I learned while raising capital is that you have to find your own tribe. After partnering with Sunflower Development we made a strategic decision to raise the rest of the investment round with strategic real estate developers. Most generally thought we were cool, but that maybe we were a little crazy because that wasn’t how “real estate worked.” We ended up finding investors who saw the future we are building and now we are able to grow together.

    • Prab: How many people are employed by you today? Are you hiring – if so who should apply?

      Blake: We have a team of 7 and are absolutely looking to hire to sustain our growth. We’re looking for empathetic software developers looking to create the future of living using the Internet of Things. And we’re looking for growth minded operators for our support and sales teams.

    • Prab: How have you managed culture as you scaled?

      Blake: We’re just starting to scale & it’s taken us over a year to get here. Our team has been heads down building product to get us to this point. So culture has been GTD mode. But as we scale we know we have to evolve our culture to meet the demands of our customers & ultimately the residents who use us.

    • Prab: Three words to describe the company culture today?

      Blake: Run Your Race.

    • Prab: What would be your company’s mascot?

      Blake: Well, our team consists of Jayhawks/Wildcats/Tigers. I’ll go with JayCaTigerHawks

    • Prab: When it comes to imaginary animals, I prefer the liger, but to each his own. Thanks Blake!