“You need no more evidence than the fact that McKinsey estimates that its largest practice within three years will be sustainability to know that the ESG transformation is the new digital transformation."
-Will Cowell de Gruchy
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Episode 70 is a conversation with Will Cowell de Gruchy, Founder and CEO of Infogrid.
We talked about Infogrid's founding story, and how they've shot up out of nowhere in the last three years, and have gotten so much early traction.
Then we took a bit of a deep dive into several of the use cases Infogrid's solutions enable. I loved the specifics, so definitely check out how they're enabling time savings and helping automate human processes at the heart of facility management.
Mentions and Links
You can find Will Cowell de Gruchy on LinkedIn.
- What is Infogrid (11:30)
- The founding story (12:07)
- What Infogrid does today and how much traction they have (18:07)
- To what Will attributes Infogrid's incredible growth (25:14)
- The top 5 use cases Infogrid deploys and a few of the weirdest they've done (38:06)
Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!
James Dice: hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.
James Dice: This episode is a conversation with Will Cowell de Gruchy, Founder and CEO of Infogrid.
We talked about Infogrid's founding story, and how they've shot up out of nowhere in the last three years, and have gotten so much early traction.
Then we took a bit of a deep dive into several of the use cases, Infogrid's solutions enable, I loved the specifics. So definitely check out how they're enabling time savings and helping automate human processes at the heart of facility management.
Without further ado, please enjoy the nexus podcast [00:01:00] with Will Cowell de Gruchy.
Welcome to the nexus podcast. Can you introduce.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: Hi, James pleasure to be here. So I'm well, Carolyn Grucci I am the founder of a company called Infor grit. We will I'm sure. Talk about it at length later. Just start by saying yes, that is a ridiculous surname. Yes. It's been the bane of my life.
But at least it's interesting in the days where you used to get a lot of physical mail you know, instead of spam email, physical mail, spam. The amount of permutations I got on it. Where am I? How old? The blue cheese kangaroo sheet, Calvin blue sheet, Cal bell, the grouchy. So yeah, I feel like I should have got extra marks in every exam just for having to take the time to write that at the top.
I just go by, well now, so that's
James Dice: helpful. That is helpful when I was a kid. You know, whenever I would get moody, my friends would call me grumpy, Jim. And that was actually when I first saw your last name, I thought like grouchy was in my head. I was like, I wonder if he gets, you know, shit for, for.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: As you can probably tell from the accent.
[00:02:00] I am British born now, a us resident, but ancestrally we're French. And when we were in France, our son name was spelled G R O U C H Y, which is just grouchy in English. So when we moved over about 200 years ago to the UK, we dropped the off. It's pretty.
James Dice: Got it. That makes sense. Very cool. So where are you, where are you located now then?
And where, where were you from?
Will Cowell de Gruchy: So I'm currently talking to you from London uh, really changes week to week um, where I am, but I spent about 50, 50 of my time between London and predominantly Eastern seaboard us. So, yeah, it could be, Atlanta could be it could be Florida, New York or increasingly large amount of time in Chicago.
Hoping to move to Texas next year. Austin, if if everything goes to plan And originally, so I was born in the I was a Navy brat. My dad was in the Navy. I was born in Portsmouth and south coast of England, which is sort of the home of our Navy. Uh, Moved around a bit for the first uh, sort of five years of my life while he was still in [00:03:00] the Navy, then sort of settled in that, that kind of area until I was 18.
When I went off to Oxford for university. Cool.
James Dice: My only connection to Portsmouth is uh, when I played college soccer football for you, and Callum Angus from Portsmouth uh, UK was one of the best players I've ever played soccer with. He hit Portsmouth, this amazing, amazing player.
So he's probably not listening to this, but And maybe it'll get around them at
Will Cowell de Gruchy: some point, you know, I I was watching some us soccer games. Cause you know, you got full on league now and stuff. It's really starting to take off the games on the other downstream the gym. So they have the sort of sports screens up and they're playing these different soccer games while I was running very high scoring compared to English matches that like one nail or illegal or, you know, nail.
Five to three or something more interesting to watch. Absolutely.
James Dice: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's the defense isn't as good, but it could be that we have great orphans over here [00:04:00] too.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: Who knows? Yeah, no, I think it's, it's, it's typically just cause they're a little bit less far along in that journey of a game.
And then when everybody works it out, they tend to get a bit more boring, but yeah. Yeah.
James Dice: Cool. Well, tell me about your, your background. We'll get into info grid obviously in a minute, but can you talk more about your background before.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: Yeah, for sure. And actually you sort of to interlink in a way, because it's because of that, that journey I went on that that immigrant came about, but I would say that I had a relatively eclectic background.
So, as I mentioned uh, went to university in Oxford and graduated in 2009 in the midst of the financial crisis. And I think it's fair to say that, you know, it's a fairly traditional university. And like when you go that you get put on one of three treadmills, generally like consultancy law or finance, those are like the careers that are sort of most smart.
I think, I think if you were there now, like big tech would probably be there too. You're sort of, you're, you're fine kind of companies, but at the time, those [00:05:00] seem to be the only questionable. So, I being a history major, I ended up on the finance route and uh, Despite it being the midst of the biggest financial meltdown in our living history, he still somehow managed to get a job in finance upon graduation.
So I went to work for a company called fidelity, which is well known in the U S as well. So it's fidelity international, which is a sort of a MEF facing branch. And I was looking after global emerging markets equity research, basically. So that was Great grounding, but definitely not. My longterm cooling is what I would say.
So as you've probably been able to tell from the first couple of minutes of this podcast, I'm quite a gregarious individual. I'm very outgoing. I draw energy from interaction with other humans, and that is not something you get an abundance of in an analyst role. You know, it was me, my three screens, my cubicle, and I actually tracked it one day.
I spent 48 words to another human being all day and I was kind of like, yeah, I'm not sure this is my long-term. So very, very first of all, very grateful to have been there at that [00:06:00] time, and really learned a lot, a great amount around some of analytical rigor about what it's like to be within a large organization.
How uh, publicly traded companies are viewed by big institutional investors. All of which is really valuable. But I felt like I was missing a couple of really core skills for what I want to do long term, which I think, you know, this is a bit of rose-tinted spectacles looking backwards, but in the back of my head, I've always wanted to do something entrepreneurial and maybe we can kind of circle back to the why around that.
But as I thought about this and kind of work through my graduate scheme that I was thinking, what, what is it that I really want to get? My next career move to come to set me up for, for longer term. And I realized there were, there were a few things. So, I was definitely looking for practical teamwork experience, which I really wasn't getting like notion as a part of a team, but kind of, we just had our own stocks and we covered those, you know, it's like dead or your own region.
You cover those uh, then really I wasn't getting any leadership experience at all, practical or otherwise. Right. And I definitely wanted to [00:07:00] come back. I wanted a bit more intellectual variety stimulation because although the job that I was doing was relatively challenging to get your head around.
Once you had, it was a relatively repetitive process, you applied the same methodology to two different markets. Um, Then I missed the camaraderie of Oxford. Oxford is a collegiate university. So you, you tend to be in groups of a few hundred in your year group, and it's it's very close and you live very closely with them within university accommodation in my instance, for every year of my time there.
And so not, not dissimilar from being in a, in a fraternity. And then finally honestly I was in my early twenties. I wanted some adventure. So, all of those roads sort of led me towards the military. And I thought I would join the army and become an officer go through. Sorry. But I did have one consideration around that, which I just couldn't quite reconcile my head with, which is, you know, when you joined the military, as I'm sure it's true in the us as well you sign up for a minimum of four years, right?
Because they invest a lot in training you and so forth. So it's not like you can just give your notice and walk away. Yeah. And that's it, you, you, [00:08:00] you are in for a minimum four years and it's a very physical and disciplined environment, especially the beginning. Right? So, I was like, well, before I went to minimum four years, I better check, you know, if I like am, can handle that kind of physicality and discipline.
So where can I get that kind of experience in the world without being in the military? And so, After random encounter in a bar in Australia or on a holiday, I'd heard about these, these mixed martial arts training camps that they have in, in the jungles in Thailand, basically where, you know, a lot of the UFC fighters and things go to train.
So I was like, I could do that. Why not? I have not sort of a, that was my idea. And yeah, it was. Obviously just like the military, but there's a lot of similar things to basically how I think the army was probably obvious or they say, you know, you've got to do these press ups are going to hit you with a stick.
I'll show you the stick. Okay. I'll do the press ups, not allow the stick anymore in there in the army, but same kind of thing. And I ended up loving it, you know, I intended to go for a month just to test. And after that month was up, I realized, okay, I'm definitely [00:09:00] going for the military thing. But I love that.
And the process to, to blow it down. It's very rigorous. It's an eight stage application, including eight cumulative, eight days of residential assessment. And for most of it though, it's just waiting, right? Like waiting for slots to come available on those, those assessment centers. And so, and so I had about six months of waiting.
Well, why not just stay here? And so I debt, right. And and so I ended up doing this sort of six months and I only intended to do the training. Uh, But then after you, this sort of thing, six months, I kind of slept, walked into having a few competitive fights. So it gave my mother a heart attack.
You know, I wouldn't say it happened in Los frisk. Korea lost my first bite by getting choked unconscious, but when my second one, at least but loved it just really, really glad I did it. And even the, even the fight that I lost, which was definitely one of those sort of David Goliath stories. I was David, but you know, Goliath really won.
I'm very proud to have kind of got into the ring against the odds. And there's some similarities there, I guess, to the world of startups, but then yeah, it came back, you know, redoubled in [00:10:00] my belief that that the military makes sense, went through Sandhurst, which is 11 months intense training and anyone who says it was fun.
It's too far away from it. I'm not quite far enough away from it. Yeah. I'm still like, yeah. You know, it was great and it was formative, but it was 11 months of unrelenting misery. Let's call a spade, a spade here. So did sound fascinated for years of what's called regimental GT. So two being on my regiment, I was a tank commander and Richmond called the Kings roses.
I, it used to be horses now. No, thanks. Was amazing. You know, got to go all sorts of places overseas from, from the middle east to Eastern Europe, to Canada, the Philippines, Kenya, all those kinds of things. Amazing time. It's amazing people. The beauty of the army is you, you immediately go into command out of Santos steaks, right out of Sandhurst.
I was in command of 16 men and four main battle tanks. And then in my subsequent pasting postings or two years uh, I was in commodities. So that was great, but I definitely felt like, after those first four years of Richmond's or beauty, I had kind of juice the orange. So let's say 90% for the [00:11:00] kind of stuff that I was wanting to get out of it.
And that, and the subsequent jobs I might've had within the army have been more building the skillset towards a long-term career in the army, which, which wasn't wasn't one. So at the end of 2016, I left and actually went back to the world of finance initially into what's called commercial due diligence for private equity deals.
So I worked for a consultancy and broadly speaking, we would, we would go into businesses and assess whether or not they were as good in practice as they looked on paper uh, when they were trying to track to either buy out or investment. And it's actually, it's actually through vest that that integrate ended up coming about.
So I'll just briefly pause. What hypocrite is in a nutshell, and then go with that. So, and figured we, we exist to help our clients who are anyone who deals with a large amount of real estate. So that could be companies directly who are obviously operating their own real estate. It could be service providers.
So particularly facilities managers by hard and soft versus managers globally. Or landlords. So the owners of large amounts of real estate, we help those companies to capture data where [00:12:00] it doesn't currently exist and use it to solve real world problems. And those real world problems tend to be around the state's premises, facilities, management, and upstream to the broader ESG agenda.
And. You might be wondering, like how on earth did a guy from, you know, finance in the army with a history major, get interested in in the water facilities management, which I do appreciate, it's kind of a weird thing to have gotten interested in. But it hasn't kind of, by accident, let's say uh, was working in commercial.
Yes. I was doing market research and competitive research at a desk, but I was also physically going to visit a lot of different businesses on a weekly basis to look for problems, frankly, you know, so everything from, you know, they say they're going to warehouse full of shoes. Show me the warehouse full of sheets to, you know, where they adhering to health and safety guidelines, where they are meeting their compliance regulations, where they operating their facilities as effectively as they.
Hmm. Okay. Why don't you just really quickly in the process of doing that was just how bad frankly, every company was at the capture and use of, well, really any data, but especially real time data. [00:13:00] Uh, And that they've just, weren't using this effectively to, to then run the facilities managers. And that struck me as crazy, right?
Because this was 2017. So the internet of things was not, you been around for decades. And we were that existing at that time in an age of hyper powerful cloud computing, miniaturized devices, omnipresent connectivity. So thought how, how, how can it be that then. Using this. Why, why not? And I was lucky enough to be able to ask that question of a lot of different companies without looking like a weird, like, why, why are you not doing this?
And the answer that came back was remarkably consistent. They said, well, look, it's either too complicated, too expensive. Or usually it's both of those things. So realize that it was perceived as not scalable. And the real competition here was inertia, but it was like a clipboard from the fifties. And so, It was just right for change in like sounding the real estate is the largest asset class in the world.
It's where we as humans spend 90% of our time and it's accountable for 39% of global emissions. That's a pretty insane thing [00:14:00] not to have digitized. And so that was kind of the first kernel and then got more specifically interested in facilities management for a couple of reasons. JLL have the statistic that I heard at the time.
And it's 3 30, 300. Now that says for any given real estate, on average, the company will be paying corporate real estate. The company will be paying $3 per square foot per year in energy and utilities, $30 per square foot per year on rent and maintenance with space, but $300 per square foot for the people within that space.
And so, there's been and I think James, you yourself come from an ESCO background, right? There have been people going after energy savings at buildings for decades, right. That part is not new it's is certainly more in Vogue recently with the advent of, you know, net zero pledges and so forth. And he, but even with increasing energy prices, as we see something across north America and Europe uh, it's still very hard to generate.
Really strong returns on investment of any kind of technology in that space, because [00:15:00] energy is cheap ultimately. And we can debate for days, whether it should be and whether it should be taught carbon taxes involved. But the reality is it might midair businesses. Whilst many of them have fantastic, their good intentions around reductions of their carbon footprint and other environmental initiatives.
They are still businesses and ultimately bottom line is can, right? So I was a realist and I realized if you're going to deliver a. It needs to have some kind of a ROI for the client. And it's far easier to generate an ROI from a $300 per square foot spend than it is from a $3 per square foot spec.
Right? Cause if you say 1% of that $300, it's the equivalent of a hundred percent of energy. You never can spit save that. So that's facilities management, right? That is people in spaces. So that starts to get really interesting. And the second thing is the homogenates of it, because it doesn't matter if you are.
So first office, a retailer hospital Everybody has some kind of facilities manager and you know, what they care about broadly, the same things everyone's got toilets that need cleaning a leak is a leak, no matter where you [00:16:00] are, everyone needs to care about air quality in their building. Cause we're all breathing the same air when we go in there and many more beyond.
So that meant that a, a product belt aimed at facilities managers had massive reach across different verticals. And so, that's how we approached this from the beginning. Another question that people then ask is often, well, you're not technical in background. Like you don't have any IOT background.
Why would you think to do this? Am? I would actually rebuff that and say, that's the advantage because what I've found in doing my research for this business was. Over and over again, you'd find really over-engineered solutions for people who'd spent 40, 50 years working in no yet they'd found a technology taken it and then tried to shoot one it into a problem.
Right. And that meant that it was over engineered. It was too expensive. It was impossible to install. Like it wasn't, user-friendly those kinds of things. I came at this from a respect of, yeah. I'm Joe blogs on the street. If I don't understand how to use this, how on earth is my facilities manager, my nurse, my cleaner, my security guard, going to pick this up and use it.
And you need them to be [00:17:00] able to use this. Otherwise you can't get the majority of the value that is available. There are not $300, right? So it's all about making their jobs better. Like repeat, replacing really menial, laborious, predominantly compliance checks so that they can get back to doing their core jobs.
And. And so going at that from a what's the problem and how do we solve it? Perspective has actually been a massive advantage. And uh, you know, and what we do is listen to our clients and then we don't build what they say cause it's that Henry Ford, you know, if you ask my clients what they want is a faster horse, but it's taking the crux of the problems that we hear time and time again, distilling what it really is and how we can fix that.
That's kind of how we approach things. So. Yeah, in a nutshell, that's a quite large nutshell. That's my background and how I went from army to to the world of, of buildings, IOT.
James Dice: Awesome. It's such a great, such a great story. Thanks for taking us through all those details. I think my own like nerd, founder in me is like wanting to ask you nitty-gritty [00:18:00] details on the early days.
But I think for the audience's perspective, we should sort of zoom in on what is info grid today. Like, can you talk about, you know, how it exists and what the, what the product is like today?
Will Cowell de Gruchy: Yeah, I absolutely say we are software, so software as a service platform powered by machine learning and AI.
Level at our core. What we do then is we are totally agnostic to physical device. But we work with their network of sensors. They can be pre-existing in your building or we can supply and commission them into the building for you to solve problems. So if you come to us and say, right, and, and this is a popular one at the moment for obvious reasons, but I want to understand the utilization of my building.
The first thing we'll say is why. And you'll say, well, I think that I'm cleaning it too much and I have too much real estate space that is fixed desk. And actually people want to use it as meeting rooms and then a post capable that. Okay, fantastic. We will then drill into what is the simplest lowest cost and therefore most scalable way to get you the data that you need.
And we will [00:19:00] use the best devices that, that are out there to government. Now that doesn't mean that it needs to be a sensor designed to capture. Occupancy data. We have an, I can actually hold it up. An algorithm that can turn a micro sensor like this two centimeters by two centimeters by two millimeters.
The only captures temperature into a 97.5% accurate desk occupancy reach. For those listening on podcast, it looks like a little Scrabble tile. That's not what the sensor is designed to do, but we are leveraging the power of cloud compute to be able to extract a more useful data point from a simple reading.
And why do we do that rather than buy something that is designed bespoke to capture data? Well, we do it because that allows for a much simpler and lower cost deployment, which is what you really need to scale. And because of this agnosticism, we then need to have what I like to call a translation service priority, right?
So this is how I do, I take lots of different data from lots of different manufacturers of devices and make it all speak the same [00:20:00] language. And that means all the same language that can be in the same platform or API. But also all the same language, so it can interact with each other. So sometimes it might be five different sources of occupancy data that we blend together.
Sometimes it might be occupancy data plus quality plus risk of Legionnaires' disease in your pipes or whatever it may be. But, you know, taking lots of different disparate data sources and allowing them to be interoperable, which is really key for the broader ESG agenda, which we'll come to in a bit.
So, yeah, we will understand what your problem is. We will then make a recommendation as to an overall solution and we'll provide that as a service so that service will include hardware, software uh, or Cal storage, customer support, all that kind of stuff. And they, they typically, as I said earlier, tend to revolve around uh, facilities management related use cases.
So that could be managing your water management plan and Legionnaires' disease. It could be your air quality in your office and risk of viruses. It could be you know, bright sizing your occupancy and using it to deliver smart cleaning, or it could be sort of more hard maintenance tasks or preventative maintenance of care, [00:21:00] equipment, leak, detection, that sort of stuff.
Basically anything that you need to know to, to effectively run your building. And then the, the aim is always. How do we automate away needless manual tasks make you more efficient, both from a labor perspective. So you can have your engineers or your onsite facilities managers spend their time doing their actual core job as opposed to going around with a clipboard.
And how do we that. Also generate, you know, environmental and health benefits along the way. So the point is you'll have an ROI from the use case going in, and then you have second and third order effects. And finally, you'll be generating a vast amount of data that didn't exist before, which you can interplay with the other data points that you're capturing through and for grid to make your buildings healthier, more environmentally friendly and and your team happier.
James Dice: cool. It feels like the main differentiator is around. Adding new sources of data than what was there before. Am I capturing that correctly? Like existing building automation or metering or whatever other [00:22:00] systems there are already
Will Cowell de Gruchy: installed. Yeah, exactly. So it's a certain size and certainly a certain level of modernity, many buildings will have what's called a building management system or.
No, this is really the bowels of the building, right? So that's controlling things like your heating ventilation and air conditioning is known as HVAC and it can be controlling your elevators and your escalators and so forth. Right. And so that's capturing some data, but they're very, very, you know, those systems tend to be installed at construction of the building and they, they can run into the millions of dollars and they tend any sensing that they do tends to be around then the operation of the bigger systems.
So they may have thermostats to help control each vacuum. That's right. And there'll be different levels of smartness around them. What we do then is the ability to, if you don't have one of those, create an alternative at a very low cost to gather that kind of data. And if you do have one of those augment it, and the other systems that you might have in a space with lots of debts, really key point about what integrate does is we recognize [00:23:00] that buildings are an eco.
There are lots of different things going on and will be lots of different things. Google, we don't seek to own all of that. We seek to help you capture real time data. And then you can use us end to end. We have dashboards and alerts and reporting and all those kinds of features if you don't have anything, but if you have a Kathryn system or a BMS or a tenant engagement platform or whatever, it may be, the data from our platform can feed into that.
Through our open API, we don't restrict access to it because we consider it to be your day. And then you can automate away tasks. So, you know, since it detects a leak, Catherine system creates a work ticket to go and deal with that leak before human Eversource, Sora that kind of thing. Got it.
James Dice: Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.
This course is also for you. The [00:24:00] alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the firstname.lastname@example.org lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview All right.
and, and where, what sort of traction do you guys have today? What, what countries are you in? What types of buildings are you in? What size is the buildings? It sounds like this might play across.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: So, we're into the hundreds of thousands of devices deployed over 20 million of square feet square feet of buildings covered, which represents thousands of buildings and that's globally.
Uh, So we originated out of London, UK. We now have offices in London various states in New York. Stephanie. Hot off the press, France, Germany and soon Asia Pacific as well. We're already operating in all of those regions though, because our clients tend to be global blue-chip companies or global service providers who obviously have real estate all over the [00:25:00] place.
Yeah. I grew up growing very fast. So you're listening to this podcast anytime that's not September, 2021. All of these, all of these statistics will be absolute. Yeah. So, uh, sort of averaging over a thousand percent year on year growth at the moment. Amazing.
James Dice: How do you look back? So you started this three years ago.
That's incredible growth for this industry. What do you attribute that.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: I think that there is a combination. So, as I say, the technology that sort of makes up the overall solution, especially in terms of IOT and sensors, that's, that's not new. What has really advanced in the last five years massively, and even in the last couple of years, since we've been going is the, the power of cloud compute, what you can achieve that.
So how can you leverage that data better? And so I think that the technology that you needed to be able to deliver that, that that's available to us. And that's been obviously incredibly powerful then I think that we took risks at the right time. So, you know, we started from this philosophy that this is very [00:26:00] important that this is going to be a big thing before.
Became obvious to the sort of wider market, which he clearly is now uh, that meant that we were kind of in the right place at the right time when tidbit we have technology is when everybody starts to go, oh wow. We can't put people on the ground. What can we do to kind of look after our facilities when no one's there.
And we had massive relationships with a lot of those companies and they said, oh, well, why don't we look at expanding this simple grid thing? So that was definitely, definitely a tale. And then the whole process of COVID Has really advanced the ESG agenda. The whole marks were there before, but what we saw in the initial months of caveat is when the stock market really fell off, ESG positive stocks really were more resilient and then delivered better growth and returns over the subsequent years.
Hmm. When Al starting to see really large amounts of ESG related debt instruments, go out into the market, which is important for real estate holders. We're seeing premiums being attracted on ESG friendly properties. So that's higher occupancy rates. That's higher. Fees being [00:27:00] paid per square foot. And then we're starting to see government action around penalizing, poor performance around health and wellness and, and environmental sustainability.
So all of that has meant that the large companies and real estate owners of the world are suddenly going. We need to take ESG seriously and appointing a lot of people. And and so, you know, that's been, been our vision ever since my personal passion. Is uh, and, and, and always has been the preservation of the natural world.
Right. So I sort of mentioned earlier in our conversation, but I always felt like I was going to be an entrepreneur. And, and again, you know, I'm slightly painting this backwards. So I don't know if you'd asked me at this time, whether I really knew all of the details, not saying now, but when I was 18, I went and did some volunteering with with an organization called rally International, which is, which started.
And they went out to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and did various different projects say one social building a school uh, one which was sort of personal strength, building, tracking case to case, but one which was all about natural preservation [00:28:00] working on a newly formed national park where there.
Costa Rican, what we were doing, there was things like clearing, watering, holes, clearing paths through the park to keep people in the right areas and then helping to reentry species. And it was both the most rewarding and the most frustrating work, because in the one sense you have this huge sense of satisfaction.
You know, I've really done something today. Uh, But another time. All I've done is what I could do with my two hands. Right. It was so immensely non-scalable. And so I then was looking out at these various amazing entrepreneurs out there who were having all these kinds of big impacts impacts on the on the plan.
Going, wow. They really are having influence at scale. How do how do you get there? And I sort of felt that there were two routes politics or, or entrepreneurship, and you know, I didn't feel that the politics was to me. So, it was really entrepreneurship. And I think what you can get through entrepreneurship is a platform.
So where you are able to commute. Much like we're doing now on this podcast to a wider audience. [00:29:00] Um, You get uh, an element of, you know, if the more successful you get, the more people are willing to take your call and actually discuss things. And then finally, you know, things go, well, you might get a bit of your own financial resources.
You can dedicate to the wards, the causes that you care about. And so that, you know that for me, with things like stopping deforestation, stopping extinction of species, rewilding of land, preserving the oceans, and of course sitting over the mall, climate change. So, that to me was always burning away in my back in the back of my mind thinking how did we get there?
And so this ESG agenda that we now see changing very rapidly, the face of business has been a passion of mine for a long time. And so it's yeah. Another component of, of why we've got to is everybody within our business. You know, now into the hundreds of people we are passionate about this stuff.
We really care about the mission of what we're doing. So yes, each building block, each use case generates a financial ROI for our clients, but it's also building towards making those buildings healthy and sustainable. As I said earlier, 90% of our time spent in building. [00:30:00] 39% of flavored missions. He put a big dent in night.
You put in a big identity. One of the biggest problems I want have faces and. And so let me give you an example. We have a, we have a use case. It's all about monitoring Legionnaires' disease, which is a waterborne disease that thrives in stagnant, tepid water. So what you need to do is basically make sure your water, is it the right temperature, either nice and cold or nice and warm hand running frequently.
That's often done by sending somebody every month to go and run all those. Because the taps aren't smart. And you have no idea, even though you strongly suspect that, say for example, in an airport, they are being run all the time. You can't prove it and say to be safe, you send someone to go and do it.
Well, just think about how wasteful, okay. You are sending a human out to spend hours of travel and labor time to do a task. Basically just running a tap and scribbling something on a, on a clipboard, but that human probably went there exclusively for that task in a gas powered vehicle. So that's unnecessary emissions.
And then they're running these taps, which has water just down the drain for no reason. [00:31:00] And that water probably been heated by natural gas. So that's more unnecessary emissions. And I can actually quantify this. We had a recent financial services client where we deployed to some 560 sites with them and they're doing it because they save about $3 million a year.
Against an investment of about $700,000. Right. But they are also saving 8.5 million liters of water per year. Wow. 800 tons of carbon emissions per year. So that's not the primary reason. Well, that is a massive positive contributor to the overall yes. Gen ESG agenda of that. And this is my sort of general view on how you do things like sustainability doesn't need to be antibusiness.
You can do things in a smart way. Leveraging technology that achieves a positive business outcome. And the sustainability agenda. And I think that's a really good example of it. We also do in the process of putting our system in it's gathered a huge amount of data you didn't have before, before we had one data point, right.
That clipboard reading every month. Now, again, I'm reading every 30 seconds and that can help you to do all sorts of things from preventative maintenance of [00:32:00] the system, et cetera. But then when you get more data, so that's great. I know what my risk of Legion is. Then when I know how many people are in my building as well, I can correlate those data points and they'd become one plus one equals three.
Then I can add in maybe my cleaning schedule. And then I can add in my air quality, the outdoor conditions, et cetera. And someone can build up a really big holistic picture of how well my building is doing against sustainability goals and what I can do to fix that. So back to your original question, and I appreciate the answer has been something of a long one.
Why, why do you think that we've been able to be successful in this time? A combination of right technology at the right time when, when he came about so a bit of luck and a bit of making our own luck and then a real dedication to what our technology can achieve. It's, it's it's not a job. It's a mission for not only me, but the entire company.
And I would say. We haven't achieved anything yet, right? This is, this is not even the beginning of our journey. And I truly believe that we can change the world for the better and, and help us to enjoy all of the modern comforts that we have in our buildings, [00:33:00] but in a much more sustainable way that we don't need to sacrifice the climate for all, for our next generations.
James Dice: awesome. Great, great long answer a little bit. What strikes me also like a core piece of the success and you correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm just kind of repeating it back to you is that you developed a low cost and sustained or scalable solution as well. And what strikes me as like two core components of that?
The ability for this to be low cost is. This sensor. So you held one up for people that can't see. It looks like a little scrambled piece. I want you to talk about the sensors, but it also strikes me as like there's a certain amount of install and design cost here that if I, if I'm correct about this, you guys are designing one.
Calling it, this use case that anyone can, any client future in the future can then use. So you're sort of making the design aspect of smart buildings sort of scalable as well because you're kind of designing it and then making it so that it can be rinsed and repeated across [00:34:00] any building. Is that
Will Cowell de Gruchy: Exactly. Right. So, so let me, let me answer your first question first and then I'll come to, to the second piece. So, It's talking about quote, unquote, the senses that we are agnostic to hardware. So we are not a manufacturer ourselves of hardware. What we do is go out, find what we believe is best on market to achieve what we want to achieve.
So that's simplicity and low cost. We also have a couple of other key parameters. Security is a very, very important point around internet of things deployment. Everyone's heard the story about the fish tank that took down the casino, right? So, That means for us typically that will connect to the cloud by cellular so that we don't need to go onto our client's networks.
So we often make that a requirement of the devices that we're providing. We also massive fan of wireless. So wherever possible, completely wireless battery operated with multi-year lifespan is really important. And so what we then need to do is like working within these parameters, we need to find devices that we think are excellent to deploy in space.
Most of the time they won't give up, you know, in their core design, exact data point that the client [00:35:00] needs to solve the problem. So that's where we then apply our secret sauce if you will, our intelligence, right? So that's everything from assimilating and converting that data combining with other pieces to running that through machine learning and AI, to turn it into something.
So, you know, a reading of temperature becomes 97.5% accurate that Scott occupancy the same sense it can be used. Understanding whether or not water is moving within the pipe. So, so those, those are sort of the patented pieces. when, when we talk about the sensors the key thing is, is that real ease of install and, and being at a price point, that's that all swap or whilst being secure.
So we're always, you know, anybody who is listening is, is in the physical manufacturer of sensor space. We're always up for talking to. New players in the space and, and putting them into our ecosystem and assessing whether they might be a good partner for certain use cases. And then on to your second point about the sort of scalability of it.
So, so that's exactly it, you know, We're in the world of data. Everybody always talks about data, but one, and of course we have billions and billions of hard data points, sensor [00:36:00] readings, right. And those are very important for our machine learning algorithms to continue to learn and improve. But we also have a lot of software.
We have just spent a lot of time site with a lot of cleaners and security guards and nurses and facilities, managers, engineers. So we understand what the problems are. We understand how they use or don't use software, why they haven't used previous solutions. And then when we build, we build with that in mind, right.
So, what you get is not something that everybody's a hundred percent happy with, but then everybody's 80% and that makes it transferable. And so that means when somebody comes to us, it doesn't matter whether a retailer or an office or residential, we can say, well, look, we understand this problem, and this is the solution.
And it kind of holds regardless of what it is. And then, because we don't restrict the onward use of our data, you know, fully open API. In fact, you know, the, the phrase of our data is wrong. It's, it's our client's data. Then if they want to go that last 20% and really customize or [00:37:00] personalize that they can build their own application and integrate and start their own data lake or whatever it may be, but they can use us end to end if they want to.
So that gives it, this, this repeatability and scalability, not only to other buildings. That type. So say we built a solution that worked for an office, but then also into other buildings as well. And so that also gives us the ability to work abroad so that we can bring in lots of different use cases with the same toolkit.
And everybody now has fatigue about the number of logins that they have to have in applications and so forth. So we're really trying to minimize that, but at the same time, Minimize change management by not making people replace everything they know and love already. Particularly in facilities management, lots of people have workflow tools, cap, fan systems, et cetera.
We look to augment and IM and integrate with those rather than than replaced.
James Dice: you have all these use cases, right? I'm picturing, I don't know how many do you have, how many use cases are like in the lab?
Will Cowell de Gruchy: So, that's a bit of a, how long is a piece of string [00:38:00] question in the sense that like, Hey, we've got a a sense of that can tell you whether an object is present or not, right?
So that could be your bike. It could be a fire extinguisher. It could be whether or not somebody's stolen your sandwich from the fridge. So you know, how much of those are use texts is, but if we were to boil it down, it's about sort of 30 or 35. Really repeatable and off the shelf use cases. Got it.
James Dice: And what are the, can you talk about like, what are the top, maybe three to five.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: people are doing. Absolutely. And again, if you're listening outside of 2021, and this will probably have changed to are really top of mind for lots of people, especially in the corporate real estate space. So offices at the moment. So that's occupancy holistically. So occupancy, less debt glaze everything from how many people are in my bed.
To which floor are they on? Which subsection of the floor are to even which individual desk or meeting room and how long were they in? So any kind of division of that same holds for shopping. [00:39:00] How many of you were in the mall as a whole versus in a target. Right. So that is something that people are really keen to understand in a post pandemic world.
But this is so what's that like, what do you actually do with that? Right. Th very common one is right-sizing, they're gonna say so they wanna understand what they're using so that they can either downsize the amount of buildings then, cause they realize they're not using them all. Or they can reconfigure the buildings.
They have to have more collaboration space or meeting rooms or whatever. It may be. Another one that, that we deliver in conjunction with our global facilities management partners, which is basically all of the large acronym based facilities managers. So you can think of uh, is smart clinic. So what's.
And how do I clean, only what's been used and therefore reduce the wastage that comes from it's not even a hundred percent clean, but 120% clean is the average cleaning regime here in Quebec. Right. Whereas the average utilization and the utilization is different than occupancy, right. Because when you think about occupancy, that is, I've got 10 desks that can be used for 10 hours during the day.
[00:40:00] So I've got a hundred units, right. So, If Joe blogs comes in and sits at a desk for two hours, that's 2% occupancy because he has to use two of those a hundred units. Right. But if he happens to have spent 30 minutes of each of those hours at a different desk, is that four different desks for for 30 minutes each, right?
Then that's 40% utilize. Because that's four desks that need cleaning. So the average utilization number of desks that have been cleaned isn't hovering in the 25 to 30% rate regime for, for most of our clients at the moment, occupancy rates are much lower 10, 10 to 15%. Someone gets some, you know, that that's obviously an average across thousands of sites, but and some are much higher, but, you know, especially with the onset of the Delta barrier, there was a sort of easing back in and then.
So right. 25% utilization. That means 75% of desks being cleaned that won't use at all. That means a huge amount of labor, a huge amount of chemicals, a huge amount of trips to get people out of there don't need to happen. And then obviously with that cost. So that's one of the things that, [00:41:00] that um, we see on top of uh, occupancy.
So that's a use case, but if you put an occupancy, you don't have to pay more to get that use case, right. You unlock the same ability and using the, the, the, that one sense Uh, utilization generally occupancy than air quality. Uh, So we have, you know, air quality from things like particulate matter CO2 the OCS, which is volatile, organic compounds.
So, you know, if you spray an aerosol or, or open a can of paint and you smell it, that's VOC. And then we use, we use that to degenerate a virus, risk indication. Uh, So how risk. Occupants of this building of transmitting bars. It's an indication rather than a, you know, FDA approved system. And it's based on a number of known public factors, but it's, it's useful to help with things like ventilation.
So that's definitely a top of mind with me. And then the last one is, is water management plan or Legionnaires' disease. So that's a respiratory disease, which has come into even more focus after COVID, which again is a disease that affects your respiratory orchids. So those have been [00:42:00] the four most popular at the moment, but shooting up the agenda now is preventative.
So how do I, how do I get to my footprint before it fails? And how do I roll that out without having smarter? So all the equipment that's been in since the eighties, how can I retrofit that, you know, for 50 bucks and make it smart maintenance possible.
James Dice: Okay. Okay. So what would be an example of that?
Like a pump that doesn't have any data coming out of it, you would then add a cart. Couple of sensors on a couple inlet and outlet pipe and see,
Will Cowell de Gruchy: what would you typically would only need to be one? So you have, you have an asset. This there's usually one of three ways that you can know whether or not that's, something's not, not well with it.
Uh, Temperature vibration or energy draw, or a combination of all three. And then again, a proprietary algorithm and our side will tell you if something's deviating from what should be, what is expected for that asset. And give you a warning. So, so that sort of retrofit will then tell you something is wrong.
Send an engineer. What it's not gonna say is it's specifically this bearing within the machine. But it's going to give you that full warning before the first, you know, [00:43:00] of it as the whole thing failing, and you're not having a cooling for the for the whole. True story. We have a client that currently has a building completely down and it's averaging about 95 degrees is in Chicago.
Because they have two buildings, three chiller units, two of them failed unexpectedly. And and so that's like the most compelling case you can have for putting a simple sensor. Right. Because I built that on. Non-usable
James Dice: beautiful. All right. So when you have two different, so you mentioned the, the occupancy data can be used for.
Maybe an asset manager planning out space, or it can be used for the cleaning person that's showing up at 9:00 PM to run around the office. How does your platform serve that data to two different end users? And how does that thought process.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: So actually in, in, in the examples that you've used and you could do both of them through, through the platform.
Uh, So those would be sort of fully end to end design use cases. So we have software functionality that would allow you to do that, but if you would prefer to do it in another [00:44:00] way, which is often the case, With occupancy, you can extract the data in a number of ways, right? So you can download it directly from the platform or you can integrate with either real time or historic data API.
And then you can go run that through whatever kind of analytics software you want, whether that's one of the big business intelligence platforms or it's your own proprietary thing. The point is it's data, right? So once you've used it and you'd use the invigorate system to install any sense of that you want by any manufacturer, make it very simple.
And the process of doing that, you'll then know where the sensor is. Who's got permissions to it. What kind of alerts are set around it, et cetera, which allows you to then use it for a bunch of different different uses. Right? So for. That could go and integrate with your janitorial team's existing workflow system, or you could use our daily generated reports to help, The point is once, once you've captured the data you can use it for whatever use case you want now. And then of course, is this whatever. So if there's a use case that's generated later that we, you know, you haven't thought of right now you can use the same historic data to help [00:45:00] benchmark and that's the real power of this.
So you're, future-proofing yourself. You're not only giving yourself the range of use cases now, but also what might come in future as well. Super
James Dice: interesting. How about a few of your weirdest use cases. So those are the top five. There's got to be some weird stuff happening.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: Let's hear it. Yeah. So, so we've certainly had some, some pretty interesting approaches to I'll give you one that we didn't pursue for various reasons that was Deploying two chicken houses.
The working theory was that the chickens that are getting sick get hotter. So they wanted a very granular thermal profile of the chicken house to try and understand. Uh, What was going on there? So we didn't, we didn't end up pursuing that for a number of reasons, but that was certainly, that was certainly a novel request.
One that we did do a pilot with and uh, ran into a problem we didn't expect was an operator of gym equipment wanted to know precisely what was being used for how long. So, [00:46:00] you know, how many, how long were people on the exercise bike or the the treadmill or the. Running machine or what evidence.
So in most of those, you know, if you're putting your foot in a consistent place or your bum and a consistent place then you can give her a sensor and it will will tell you what we didn't anticipate with people stealing them. Because you're like, what on earth would you use this for? It's completely functionless, unless it's a part of the bigger system, but I kid you not, it took three minutes for the first one to get stolen on our test deployment, but we actually watched the person steal it.
But uh, even left the building. and the reason wasn't actually that people like wanted to take it, right. It was that they were looking at their seat and seeing something like this and be like that doesn't belong in there, taking it off and then pocketing it without thinking about it.
And then they would walk off with it. So, so maybe stealing is a, is a overly harsh term, but anyway so yeah, that was, that was. And then you basically, you name it. People want to know it. And there's always this trade-off of. Okay. But yeah, [00:47:00] we had another one the other day. I want to know whether the plants have been watered, but this wasn't in a, you know, in a coma.
Uh, Vertical farm, like that's mission critical. This was just like the ornamental plants in an office. And I was like, that's great. But how many of you got there on average? About 200 better offices, like, okay. So if you wanna pay for 200 subscriptions to do this, just to know whether or not that that's been watered and then when it comes down to it, of course there's no ROI there.
So people, they perceive it. And that that's the kind of stage that we now as a company, I like. You know, we, we're not static product. If there's a new use case out there we'll work with you to solve the problem. If there's an scale to it, I always give an example in terms of like, say one instance, there's at all our haptic button, right?
So I'll say like, okay, if you James want a button, field desk, that's like press and somebody brings me a coffee from the local. I'm not going to build that for you because it's not enough scale to it. Right? And this is what you want me off the podcast. But if I am a service office provider who has a hundred thousand meeting rooms globally, that wants a functionality that says Ben coffee to this meeting, because then they'll charge [00:48:00] for it.
We'll move back. Cause that's got a nice scale. And then you, James can benefit from the fact that that functionality exists. Right. And that's kind of how we evolve, not user centric.
James Dice: I need that. I haven't, I have a coffee shop, a block from my apartment here. If they would bring me a latte every few hours.
That'd be sweet. Exactly. I love it. Uh, Very cool. Anything else to leave us with? Uh, This has been super insightful. Thank
Will Cowell de Gruchy: you. Yeah, I would just say, look, whether it's invigorated or no. The, the digitalization of buildings is, is essential. And the transition to, to an ESG friendly and sustainable planet is, is just inevitable.
Right? You need no more evidence than the fact that McKinsey estimates it's largest practice within three years, we'll be at sustainability practice to know that the ESG transformation is the new digital transformation. So if you are anyone who is involved in a large amount of real estate or facilities provision to them, and you're not thinking about that, [00:49:00] Give us a call and we'll sort of give you a few ideas of what other people have been thinking about and, you know, just food for thought or give somebody a call.
Cause I think over the coming years it will definitely be essential.
James Dice: Awesome. All right. Ready for teachers in
Will Cowell de Gruchy: alive? Yeah, absolutely. First one, I Have a favorite ancestor. And that ancestor led a cavalry charge at the age of 84. And the history books record that the parish gloriously in that process not recorded, whether of that, that was a result of an arrow or a heart attack.
But uh, That's the first one, but number two I I'm completely allergic to Chile. Um, And so it had to be really, really careful because even a small amount, it's not like, Allergy it's that it will just make my face really swell up and very hard for me to to talk and so forth. [00:50:00] So yeah I think I fare better in, in the U S than I do in the UK where we have a lot of cultural influence from, from India.
And the third one is that I am well well remembered within my regiment there was a deployment, a training deployment that we went on on our tanks. And it was with a friendly allied force. You can't be allowed to use that the training area in the process of coming in for this exercise, they're probably about a hundred tanks, which only says training area.
Only one of them ran over the really solid. Metal perimeter fence in the process of trying to turn in though. And that was my tank and the result was a poor allied soldier had to what's called stag on or stamp duty all night because the, the perimeter was no longer secure. So that was wonderfully embarrassing for me.
And I will never live it down.
James Dice: Yeah, this is a tough one. I honestly don't know. And I'm going to guess that you're not allergic to chili. [00:51:00]
Will Cowell de Gruchy: That is true. I am not, I love Chile. Love spicy foods does come from the cultural influence you know, that there are Curry houses everywhere in in the UK. We have our own blend of it, but perhaps that you love it.
And then I really love Mexican and TexMex. So I'm in my happy. When I'm in a fight and, you know, we just don't do it as well in the UK as as you guys do in the states. So, um, place that,
James Dice: yeah, it would be tough for you to live in Austin if you couldn't do chili.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: That's. Exactly, exactly. But,
James Dice: The Indian influence reminds me of the, one of the episodes of Ted lasso.
It's Ted lasso and a popular show in the UK.
Will Cowell de Gruchy: Very funny. And then there's one that there's one other product that's actually very popular in the U S as well. Um, That is a result of the sort of British history in India. And that's the IPA which stands for Indian pale app. And. That's because it was a particular side veil that was brewed to [00:52:00] lost the, the, the long journey down around the south of South Africa and onwards to to India.
So it's brute brewed in a certain way originally because of that journey. Uh, And now like personally, my favorite type of affair and that's something I do love within the U S is the massive proliferation of craft beer. When it will say, though, You all have strong constitutions because the average ABV is like, 8% or 16% proof, right?
8% ABB and 16% free. Whereas it's probably more like a 4% air thing. We do a session parallels and IPA's better. So I come back to me like, you go to a restaurant, you're like, oh, I'll have the paleo. And you're like, how much is it? They're like, yeah. 9%. I'm like, cool. I'll have this one. I'll be off to bed.
James Dice: That that is very, very true. Also my favorite, my favorite beer is the IPA. So yes, didn't know that though. I think I learned that at some point and you're reminding me of that fact. So
Will Cowell de Gruchy: anyway, probably sort of the detail of it, but that is
James Dice: in general is just, well, thanks for coming on the show. This has been.[00:53:00]
Will Cowell de Gruchy: Yeah, absolute pleasure. Any time and yeah, as I say, if anyone's got any questions, whether it's about IPA's or API APIs just let me know that again, that was an accidental zinger. Wasn't it. So, um, brilliant.
James Dice: All right friends, thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus Podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus Newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry, please subscribe at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.