Building Engines: A Property Management Software Success Story
Building Engines was founded in 2001 by John Childs and David Osborn.
Childs had an extensive background in building renovation and servicing the local Boston real estate community, while Osborn was an experienced attorney and tech entrepreneur with a track record of leadership starting companies.
Childs and a friend came to Osborn looking to a develop a PIM (Personal Information Manager) for property managers. Osborn ultimately expanded the concept to include developing a comprehensive operating platform for real estate managers. With the rapidly expanding influence of the Internet, the two founders saw the Internet as a means to transform an antiquated business.
“John was fascinated by technology and the application of the Internet as a way to expedite building management information,” said CMO Scott Sidman, who has been with the company since 2003. “Oz came up with the idea of applying the Internet and mobile technology to all of the daily activities of a professional property management team.
Back in the early 2000s, most commercial property management companies managed tenant-generated work orders with landlines and two-way radios while supporting regular preventative maintenance tasks with paper manuals and a bit of intuition. If any technology existed, it was “client-based”, installed on a desktop computer buried in a basement office somewhere. With building managers and engineers rarely at their desks, the founders knew that the Internet and burgeoning mobile technology could put real-time data and information instantly in their hands, whenever and wherever the needed it.
The duo founded their new company—Requestcom, Inc.—in early 2001, and launched their first products, the Work Order Management and Preventative Maintenance modules, in 2002. They won their first client, Meredith & Grew (now Colliers Meredith & Grew) late that year. While the company gained early success, the September 11 attacks shifted its thinking.
“9/11 hit and it changed the way that people access and enter buildings,” said Sidman. “A customer here in Boston told us that they loved our work order product, but they’d love to use our technology to control and manage the access of people entering the building.”
That November, the company released the Visitor Access Manager Module and began to grow rapidly. They continued the trend of adding and improving functionality, broadly expanding features related to day-to-day commercial real estate management—culminating in a full-blown platform. Now, with an integrated platform of powerful data and communication “engines," they changed the name of the company to Building Engines, Inc. in 2004.
In 2008, with Osborn as CEO and Sidman as VP Sales (Childs had returned to building restoration), the company faced another challenging time: the Great Recession of 2008 and corresponding real estate market crash. Normally, this is when new companies struggle to survive, but Building Engines thrived.
“Post-crash, we hit this inflection point when owners, usually focused on buying and selling buildings, turned their focus back to managing them,” the CMO said. “Transactional funding dried up, so the owners focused on promoting efficiency and ways to maximize NOI [Net Operating Income]. The logical answer was technology. We were well positioned when that transition came and the market started to buy. That was the beginning of our accelerated growth.”
For reference, some of the SaaS company’s current offerings include Tenant Service (work order management, resource scheduling, satisfaction tracking, and other service-related software); Risk Management (visitor access, incident tracking, certificates of insurance, and fire/life safety documents); and Maintenance (consisting of a vendor portal, inspection scheduling & tracking, and a preventative maintenance program). They also have a host of other features, like a mobile app and reporting & analytics service.
Despite its long history, Building Engines only recently took its first round of funding, raising $26M in 2016 with WaveCrest Growth Partners, a private equity firm.
“We were their first investment and it's been great,” said Sidman. “That's helped accelerate our growth and product development as we continue to look at our next evolution. We're really excited. They’ve been great partners.”
Since taking their first formal investment, the company has made a number of major decisions. Osborn stepped into the Executive Chairman role in 2017, hiring Tim Curran as CEO and Daniel Cozza as CPO. Both Curran and Cozza had recently developed and sold another real estate start-up—Vela Systems—to Autodesk. Building Engines also moved downtown from Waltham to a beautiful 16,000 square foot space, and recently acquired AwareManager—another facility software company—in May.
The new office, Sidman says, will allow the company to host events, have greater access to talent, and be closer to their client base, while the recent acquisition will give Building Engines additional expertise and more room to scale.
“Our acquisition of AwareManager is an expansion step for us,” Sidman said. “We think about things in terms of square feet—that's kind of the industry metric for everything. Before this acquisition, we were at about 1.7 billion square feet across the United States and Canada, which is somewhere between 17,000 and 18,000 buildings. We’re gaining around half a billion square feet more through the acquisition, so we will just cross the 2 billion square foot mark, which is a great number for us.”
Even with a growing number of real estate tech companies in the Boston area, it’s clear that Building Engines has solidified itself as a major player in the industry. It has a platform built on 17 years of innovation, a history of success-against-adversity, and an ever-growing team to take it to new heights. So, no matter how tight the competition gets or what other unforeseen challenges may arise, something tells me that its status as a meaningful company won’t be changing anytime soon.