“Our mission is to make the built environment people-aware. Our vision is to replace passive infrared. That, by definition, is a horizontal vision. By definition, you can't have applications for all those different types of end users."
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Episode 91 is a conversation with Rags Gupta, President of occupancy counting startup, Butlr.io.
We walked through Rags’ fascinating career path through many different types of entrepreneurship and eventually into the buildings world to hang out with us.
Then we dove into Butlr’s approach to occupancy data, how they’re different, why they take an API-first approach, and the trends they’re seeing in the market today.
Without further ado, please enjoy the Nexus podcast with Rags Gupta.
Mentions and Links
- Butlr.io (0:36)
- Brightcove (2:52)
- Telstra (3:23)
- Humatics (3:36)
- One to Ten by Rags Gupta (8:08)
- Georgia-Pacific (19:48)
- The Lens (28:29)
- Acquired Podcast (41:20)
- Will by Will Smith (41:40)
- Atomic Habits by James Clear (42:35)
You can find Rags on LinkedIn.
- Butlr's founding story (13:22)
- Butlr and their products (21:00)
- Why Butlr chose to go the API-first route (25:23)
- Use cases and Butlr partners (29:03)
- Carveouts (40:59)
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 happened. That was a conversation with rags Guppta president of occupancy, counting startup butler.io. We walked through rags as fascinating career path, through many different types of entrepreneurship and eventually into the buildings world to hang out with us. Then we dove deep into Butler's approach to occupancy data.
How they're different, why they take an API first approach and the trends they're seeing in the market today. So without further ado, please enjoy the nexus podcast with [00:01:00] rags Ghouta. Hello, rags. Welcome to the show. Can you introduce yourself for
Rags Gupta: us, James? Great to be here. A rag scooped up. I'm the president of butler.io.
James Dice: Awesome. And we're going to unpack what that means. I'd love to hear a little bit more about your background before we jump into Butler. Obviously Butler is a smart buildings technology, and most of your background is from outside of the industry.
In fact, you and I met when you were just kind of getting into the industry and you were like, let me ask you some questions about how this thing works. well, let's start with your present role. So I was looking at your LinkedIn and it was like the world's record for most present roles like that.
So what are all the things that you're up to besides
Rags Gupta: sides? Yeah. So, so, I would say like the overall theme for me is, is I love partnering with fellow entrepreneurs to help them achieve their mission. And so that can take different forms from being an [00:02:00] advisor or a passive investor as a, you know, like an angel investor.
All the way to getting full-time getting involved and you know, into the business. Right. So, you know, little bit more background up in, in texts and uh, late since 1999. So a little over 20 years cut my teeth during the.com boom and Boston. And having been through that, that was, you know, sort of everything else seems like a cakewalk, Frank.
Uh, It was just like this nuclear winter, which, you know, have a lot of scar tissue round, but, but it was, it was formative, but yeah. Anyway, I spent the first part of my career in the early days of the web and the internet and right when commerce was starting to happen and subscription models and, and so on.
And then. After that was at the early days of SAS and cloud-based applications. So, it was part of the early team at a company actually here in Boston called bright Cove, which was um, a pioneer in online video distribution. So sort of like a B2B version of YouTube. And we, we ended up taking [00:03:00] that public seven years later.
And and by then I kind of moved on, did it start up that we ended up shutting down and then was a board member of one of bright coast partner companies which in, in ad tech, in video ad distribution and hop there, hopped in there full time. Work with the entrepreneur and we, we grew it and we sold it later two years later to Telstra.
And so anyway, just long story short, I've been sort of doing this thing for a while and in a, in a multitude of industries after that I moved back to Boston and was in this indoor positioning. Um, Startup out of the MIT ecosystem called humanics. It's a very high precision positioning systems, you know, really deep tech and, and, you know, helping, you know, figure out the product market fit for the technology.
And then since, and so, kind of to tie the thread back to Butler. That's really where I, I, my eyes were open to sort of this, this world of sensors and connected sensors and positioning systems. [00:04:00] And and so when I got introduced to Butler it, you know, immediately certainly resonated kind of what they were doing and the possibility, and that vision really resonated for me.
James Dice: Got it. Okay. Can you talk about just a little bit of the sort of early motivations for getting into entrepreneurship?
Rags Gupta: Yeah, I had a college professor my senior year in college who taught this course called high tech entrepreneurship. This is 1998 when it was not a thing, it was just it, you know, it w it was, it was totally, there was, you know, no one would have told you what a start-up what meant.
And he really opened my eyes to this other career path, besides banking and consulting, and some of those other companies that were recording on campus. And it sounds crazy at the time, but we had put together. The senior project. And it was for essentially reverse IP lookup to provide geographical information of website visitors.
And he offered to help us. We weren't prepared for that as a, as a team. And, [00:05:00] and, and it sounds kind of crazy cause now that's what kind of, what teams do these days and, you know, do a lot of work with MIT students and they're always looking at forming companies, but back then it was sort of crazy.
And so. Didn't do it. It's it sounds silly, but I was too risk averse at the time, like right. As a, whatever, 22 year old, but it opened my eyes and, and to this world. And so, I ended up joining a management consulting company and within nine months realized it was not the place for me. I really liked building things.
Kind of operating and just having that ownership. And so I left and pretty much took one of the first things that came my way, which essentially this chief of staff role at this, at the startup in Silicon valley. And so, and since then, it's just the, the, I just love. Taking things and building and scaling them and trying to find new ways of doing things and providing value.
And so, [00:06:00] there's, there's always the ups and downs. You know, that's what, that's what startup life is all about, but it is you know, wouldn't have it, any other. Very
James Dice: cool. Yeah. Reminds me of, you know, I haven't started a bunch of companies, just, just this one. But it reminds me of my early experience.
I took, I had one elective in college, so I went to a Jesuit university and studied engineering. So engineering, there's not much electives and then the Jesuits kind of ticket and then making sure that you, they, they decide what you spend your electives on, basically. So I have one course, and so I, I took an entrepreneurship course.
And one of the things that I did was partnered or volunteered, I guess, is a better term for this two person solar startups. This was in 2008. So it was just kind of taken off in the U S and I basically for like eight weeks, just cold called people. And I feel like whenever I, you know, my first 10 years of my career, [00:07:00] Kind of, like you just said with a management consulting, it just like, wasn't totally a fit because it wasn't building it.
Wasn't creating something from scratch. So kindred spirits, I guess.
Rags Gupta: Yeah. Yeah. It it's it, you know, it's not to say you can't do that with an older company. In fact, I think companies have gotten a lot more entrepreneurial. In the last couple of decades you know, I tell people, gosh, like we have, we have big companies coming to us, wanting to work with us and like, with, with like, you know, offering up meetings with senior people, like.
This was not, you know, you were lucky to get a response from a junior person in the early two thousands from anybody you pitched. Right. So it's great that way. I think companies have recognized it. And the question is like, how do you best set yourself up to do that? And sometimes it's buying companies as partnering with them or, or starting your own, but that's the, you know, that's the way the world now, it's just it's innovation and leveraging technology and and that's not, you know, it's only.[00:08:00]
James Dice: So speaking of entrepreneur entrepreneurship, you released a book in the fall, a one to 10, we'll put a link in the show notes. I'd love to hear a little bit about what the book's about and what, why, why you wrote it.
Rags Gupta: Yeah, yeah, it is. Here's the here's that prop I mentioned So it was a pandemic project.
Might not find myself as in free time and always wanted to write. And I used to write a lot back when kind of blogging first came out. And and like I said, I've been working with entrepreneurs as an advisor and board member and whatever it was. And what I tried to do was actually distill a lot of those learnings.
You know, into things that could be kind of more easily shared or digested, right? And so it was sort of a way to scale myself. And as I went about it, it kind of realized that there was, there was sort of a thesis forming and the forming of a book. And so I went with. So the core thesis is, and it kind of ties to what we just talked about, which is that it's actually easier than ever to get from zero to one.
And I [00:09:00] define that as you know, starting with nothing and creating something, some version of a product, getting some funding, getting a few team members, getting some pilot customers, right? Like I said, companies are leaning into innovation. They're going to fund pilot projects. You have platforms and platforms on top of platforms like the AWS snowflakes, and you can get a hundred thousand dollars of free AWS credits without really trying.
Right. You know, and, and it goes on from there. Right. So it's just so much easier now to get that first. Something out there. Right. And yet it's harder than ever to get what I call from one to 10. And that can mean one to $10 million in ARR, in terms of revenue for harder tech companies that can mean one to 10 deployments.
And really it's this like proxy for this phase. It's like the kind of adolescent phase of a startup where it's like you kind of growing up, you're maturing. It's no longer just like throwing a bunch [00:10:00] of bodies at something you've got to have a process you got to have. And so there's, there's a lot of like growing pains that you go through in that journey.
And I break it down to like three legs of the stool that you need to have to be able to get from one to 10 and then beyond. So the first is product readiness. Where do you have something that can go from pilot to production that's being used and actually can be stamped out at scale, right? Not at massive scale, maybe.
You're not like handcrafting every single one and then sort of like babysitting at every single all the time. Right. You're you're actually inserting it works. Right. That's like the first, there's a lot more to unpack behind that, but that's like product readiness, right? The second is repeatable sales and specifically non founder sales.
Right? So in general, you know, as a founder, you're selling the vision, the dream, right. People are buying into it, the early adopters in this next phase. It's like, can you have people you hire? And then eventually can you have [00:11:00] people you hire who they themselves hire people to sell this? And it's no longer the vision it's it's around values around ROI can be whatever your pitch is.
Right. It's it's but it's different than like the founder sell. And then obviously there's like unit economics that goes around. And then the third is, is really, can you scale your human capital, which is like, so, so, or design, can you come up with a cadence to run your company in terms of having accountability and autonomy?
Can you keep it your culture and you hire the right people? Can you, and fundamentally as a founder, can you figure out the roles of your co-founders and yourself and and scale yourselves, ultimately, because again, like. You know, I work with some, you know, I've mentored some earlier stage teams and it's all great, right.
When you start out, but then sometime. Most, most, you know, most of what happens is with, with, with founding teams they'll have one person that's like the CEO, right. And then the other, the [00:12:00] co-founders then to find other roles, right. That also like leveraged their superpowers and are great for the company.
But sometimes that's not necessarily understood upfront and that can lead to churn and friction and tension and, and all of that. Right. And so, again, Founder transitions happen all the time. They're really natural. But what I try and tell people is like, have those conversations. It's like a relationship, have the conversations up front and, and on regular basis, because not and if you keep pushing it off, then, then it's going to just be awkward at, at, at best.
And, and it can be value destroying at worst and, and, you know, no one wants me and wants to have that. So anyway, I kind of pull it all together and then just to like finish the thesis. You know, I argued like if you can get to 10, it's that much easier to get to a hundred or wherever you get to. Right.
It doesn't mean it's easy, but you built the muscle to delegate to, you know, have a cadence. You built them, you know, you've started to build a lot of muscle to mature. And [00:13:00] so, you know, that was you know, part of the, sort of the journey. And I just work with a lot of startups in that phase. And so, it was very resonant for me to, to do some writing around.
James Dice: Oh yeah. We'll put the link in the show notes. I haven't checked it out yet, but it's in my, it's in my Amazon cart, which is what.
Sweet. All right. Sounds good. All right, so you're writing the book last year. I'm presuming, and at some point you jumped in with Butler. I'd love to hear how you got involved with them and kind of what the founding story of the company is.
Rags Gupta: Yeah, yeah. So I was actually writing the book and in 2020, during the pinned up the first bits of the pandemic.
Late 2020. I got introduced to Butler through one or one of Butler's VCs who I've known actually my last company humanics. And so given my kind of background in indoor positioning and, and spatial intelligence, he said, Hey, rags had left to like, you know, meet the founder, let me know what you think. Well, I did.
And [00:14:00] I immediately hit it off with a founder and was, and, and, and I started working with them as an advisor. And as I got to know him in the business, more, the technology more, I got more excited about it. As a little bit of an aside, indoor positioning has been you know, is, is both held a lot of promise, but it's also had a lot of disappointment along the way because inevitably.
There's there's always some kind of gotcha. In terms of scaling. So it could be cost. It could be the amount of infrastructure you need. It could be having to have a symmetric system where there's a wearable on someone on, and that's not ideal for certain situations could be accuracy. There's sort of always some part of that equation that might be kind of thrown off.
Right. And, and it just limits the market then for that technology. Right. So, you know, Very expensive Bluetooth systems where everybody has to have a tag on them. Right. And that's for like, you know, it's, it's, it's for like, you know, say babies and [00:15:00] patients and hospitals. Right. Well, let's, let's look a high value, enough use case where you can justify that infrastructure expense.
Right. But to get it wide, widely adopted, it's been challenging. And so you know, I'll kind of come back to it. What I recognize, I thought recognized Butler was the possibility to really have a lot more scalability in terms of a fundamental technology. So Butler was spun out of the MIT media lab in 2019 by Hong Kong, Damon, Jenny saying they were, they were doing research out of Kent Larson, city science group, and really doing research in home automation and and, and sort of similar and use cases like having the home be responsive to its individuals.
Kind of long story short, they couldn't find a sensor out of the box that did what they needed to do for these projects. So sensing humans and differentiating between humans and animals and, you know, Just things like that. And so w w w which didn't involve some significant compromise, whether it was on cost or privacy or, or ease.
And [00:16:00] so they leveraged research that had been done at MIT to really create this a sensor that leverages thermal. So it's a it's it's thermal sensing fundamentally. And so it's looking at. The, you know, essentially pixels of heat in the environment. And then a lot of the secret sauce is actually the the, the algorithms and the machine learning that happens to extract intelligence out of that.
So really fundamentally what we're doing is we're looking at pixels of heat and we're extracting that and saying, that is a human, and this is how they're moving. And once you have that nail, that's like the primitive then with context on top of it, You can provide other types of value or other types of applications, right?
So that's like the other, the other, the other kind of breakthrough that the, that the, that the team achieved was to be able to make these sensors. And you can see them in my hand here to make them battery operator or wireless. Ironically, we'll actually be coming out with a [00:17:00] wired version later this year due to some, you know, w with some of our customers requesting it, but this thing wireless it lasts you know, a year to two years, depending on kind of how often you run it And so as a result, you can pop it up above a door, on a ceiling in, in, in seconds or minutes, just did an install last week, where we had these magnetic mounts and it just snaps right in to a ceiling grid to a duct or a pipe and you're done. Um, And so you don't have to have all kinds of wiring, especially for retrofit.
That's been a big issue. And so that was the other part of the sort of scalability that was remarkable was just having a system like that, that we'll be able to you know, operate uh, wirelessly while also operating in real time. So, you know, you're not doing a poll every 15 minutes or something like that, just to keep the.
James Dice: For those of you that are just only on audio rags was holding up one of these sensors and they're about the size of your Palm, basically. Right? And this is a
Rags Gupta: really small, small, small computer [00:18:00] mouse,
James Dice: just for the visual, for those of you that are in the car or on the subway or whatever.
Rags Gupta: Sorry. Proceed. I ended up doing some due diligence with, in the Butler and help them pull a seed round together with some VCs that either I'm affiliated with, or I knew. And and then soon thereafter ended up joining full-time. So this is my day job. This is what I sort of think about at night.
And and, and, and it's been great since we. You know, it it's a, it's a horizontal technology, right? Occupant sensing can, can apply to a bunch of different environments. And so we went on this discovery journey last spring and into the summer as to like which markets really, you know, kind of focus on first.
we looked at retail and higher education and a
Rags Gupta: bunch of different, you know, in manufacturing, logistics, and, and we Really got conviction that the workplace and buildings and commercial buildings, commercial real [00:19:00] estate was the first place to really, you know, where, where, you know, we could see a lot of demands.
And and product market fit. And so that's how we connected and and it's been, it's been great ever since we started to work with you know, sort of three major players in that value chain. So we work with occupiers. So, you know, tenants of, of large real estate portfolios that are looking to understand how their space is used.
We're working with. Landlords and property owners. Is that again, trying to understand how the buildings are operating with occupancy being one piece of it. We're not, we're not certainly providing the whole piece. And then thirdly third parties that are you know, you might call them like a data layer on top aggregating data and providing value.
Add on top of that. So last week we announced a partnership with Georgia Pacific who are using our occupancy data into their colo smart restaurant monitoring system to make it smarter, essentially. And so that's, that's, that's, you know, that's overall kind of [00:20:00] who we are, you know, our mission is to make the built environment, people aware.
You know, it's crazy that. We there's all this capital stock and these buildings, and they're not really responsive to the inhabitants inside. And that's like, our vision overall is, is, is to make that is to make the buildings a lot more responsive.
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 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
Cool. Yeah. I have some questions about the, like the product and the company.
[00:21:00] Maybe we could just start by like walking up the stack. So you talked about sensors. He added cause I hate pronounce it. Okay. Heat acts, sensors basically sensing the environment for body heat. Right. Can you talk about how that sensor differs from other. Occupancy sensors are counters
Rags Gupta: on the market.
Yeah, sure. So besides the
James Dice: wireless and the really easy to deploy piece of that.
Rags Gupta: Sure. Yeah. So the, the, the, the most widely deployed occupancy and kind of in a way, spatial analytics sensor out there is. The old school PIR sensor. Right. I have a bunch of them in my house for like a security system and you see them everywhere, right.
To open, you know, to turn lights on and off. Then you got to do that dance to, to turn them back on, like when you, when you're sitting still. But. Just last year. It was, it was the 40th anniversary of [00:22:00] technology was first invented. Right. So it's, it's, it's super widely deployed. And so, and in a number of different applications and yet it's this, as someone said, the world is tired of PIR, right there, there it's, it's there's, there's not much intelligence.
It's just a one or a zero. It can't tell how many people are there where they're moving. It can't differentiate between, say a person and an animal or whatever, there's this, it's just, it's just a very, it's sort of a, a dumb device, but it, it is, it has been very widely to deploy. Right? So our vision really is to be that next generation type of PIR sensor, right.
To provide intelligence and therefore make the built environment people aware. So you, you asked sort of like what we capture, so we're capturing fundamentally. You know, we're understanding occupancy. We're also able to understand pose. So if someone's standing up or sitting down or lying down and even sort of surface temperature as well, and when you start combining those things, there are all kinds of applications that are [00:23:00] possible either for ourselves or for our partners.
So, you know, one, I would say, you know, one other thing to call out is. Fundamentally ours is a horizontal vision, so we're not, we're not going up the stack and planning to build visitor management systems and iwi messes and space management, you know, or, or things like that. We're rather looking to partner.
With the Georgia Pacific's with the maps of, and deal our groups of the world that pull our data in and have that, you know, end user application for whether it's, you know, smart cleaning or smart HVAC or our, you know, whatever the capabilities are. But, you know, in terms of differentiation, Privacy is core to what we do.
We're not physically capable of capturing PII, so we're not, you know, it's like, you know, so, so that's like one thing that's core. Second is you know, we're a kind of you know, it's like one system that can cover the major use cases in a building. What I mean by that is.[00:24:00] you've got threshold sensors that count ins and outs you know, across the threshold and those tend to be LIDAR based or camera based.
Those tend to also almost invariably be wired systems. We can do that, whether it's wired or wireless with our heat sensor. Second is you've got sensors. That'll do kind of open areas or or room level type of sensing, right. Occupancy sensing. And again, today, the kind of state of the art quote unquote has camera based systems, which can be expensive to wire up and certainly by rooms.
Whereas, you know, we're able to capture room level occupancy and open area occupancy like kitchens and things like that. And then the third category in buildings is, is just desks where you'd had the traditional under the desk, PIR sensor. And so, we can cover that use case as well. So you have a sensor above a bunch of, you know, bank of desks and can CA capture that way.
So with us, you're not mixing and matching. It's just the same sensing system that does those different use cases. [00:25:00] And then that data gets expressed. Both through a simple dashboard we have for like basic occupancy and room utilization that we provide our end users and then also through our API. And we're really very much an API first company to, you know, provide API for, you know, to, to our our partners.
Right. That'll pull it into their own applications.
James Dice: Got it. I'd love to, you probably would guess this, but I'd really love to zero in on the API first aspect. Because that's a rare thing. So I've done sort of a analysis of the occupancy sensing market, looking at all the different startups that it's definitely the minority of companies that have chosen to be API first.
Why did you guys decide to go that route?
Rags Gupta: Our mission is to make the built environment people aware, right? Our vision is to replace PIR, right? That by definition is like a horizontal, it's like a horizontal vision. And by definition, you can't have applications to [00:26:00] all those different types of end-users to achieve that vision and mission.
Right. You're going to have to partner with people that can actually take that data and insights that you provide. And and then package that up and sell that into the end. Right. Given the vision and the mission, it's something where we've, you know, we've really come to terms with like, look, we don't want to build yet another desk booking system.
Like that's not how we can add value to the world. Right. We can add value by providing great. Accurate time non-US occupancy data at a fraction. Oftentimes it's an order of magnitude, lower cost than what's out there today. And that's also a big reason that, that our customers are choosing us.
And that's what really motivates us. Cause we've, we've heard so much that. People want this data. They've tried pilots of other types of systems, but it's just very expensive and they have a hard time justifying, you know, scaling it out and rolling it out and like, [00:27:00] PIR.
We just want to be like that to go away. Just like, like this should be, this should be accessible and you should be able to have a business case that can support. Getting access to occupancy data that's that's, you know, accurate and insightful. And so, yeah, that, that means API first. That means, like I said, you know, we have people mixing us with IQ data.
We have people mixing us with other sources of potentially occupancy data, like bad. We have folks using us for informing building controls and HVAC. Uh, We're actually working with a major HVAC uh, OEM right now in that regard. So, and, and we always say, we'll, we take pains to say, you can have our dashboard.
It's web-based, it's, it's slick. It's nice. But we do not like our our strategies to not be the single pane of glass. Like we don't have to be that single pane of glass. And we were talking about this earlier, sort of in the sidebar. I found as a newbie to this, to the space that that layer is a lot [00:28:00] more crowded.
Like you've got idea of WMS is that are moving into like desk and visitor booking and vice versa. The space management companies and, you know, everybody sort of has a different angle in, but fundamental and 10 experience. And so, and, but fundamentally you still need occupancy data to drive a lot of those use cases.
And that's where we, you know, we sit and we set ourselves at it.
James Dice: Yeah. And, and our members know that I wrote about this last fall. And, and the lens at which we'll put a link to that in the show notes for them, if they want to revisit this. But the value of occupancy data is so much bigger than you can write.
Then you can create an application for right. It far exceeds the value of one application, one use case. And so it's almost like gets in the way, if this is why I wanted to talk to you about this, it gets in the way, if you're trying to lock, lock it down for one use case, and you're not fully focused on the API and [00:29:00] providing it to whoever needs needs that data.
Rags Gupta: Yeah. I mean, we have three buckets of. Value proposition or use cases that this, we know that we sort of bucketed in three, right? The first is, like workplace planning and you know, and kind of, you know, asset management, if you will. Right. And whether you're an owner or an occupier, right.
You know, owners like how's my building performing, or how what's the traffic like in the suites and things like that. Right? The occupiers, you know, answering real estate questions, you know, the questions with data driven decisions, like, should I extend this lease or not? Or should I reposition this space to be more collaborative?
And a bit of an aside, James is like the, workplace is a product like the building's a product and. It's like, again, as a newbie, the lack of instrumentation on these products has been pretty surprising to me, right. Coming into this, like you would never launch a website, like an e-commerce website without instrumenting [00:30:00] it, to know how it's being used.
Right. And then make decisions on that. But yet, you know, you sort of had this in with a lot of the building stock out there. it's like, it's a product, it's got a value proposition. It's got customers, it's got competition or substance. And I think like, and actually some of the more forward thinking workplace people we work with they're thinking about it that way.
So they're starting to like, think about cohort analysis and retention rates and things like that for their product quite like quite right. Like they should, and then they should report out on that, you know, based on that. So anyway, kind of zooming back out. There's the workplace and, and planning a bucket.
The second bucket is, is employee your tenant experience. Right. And, you know, you talked a bit about that, actually. I think in last week's podcasts that you had with Joe and again, this is like, it can be from wayfinding to telling and bookings and all of that. And so, you know, part of our value proposition is it's passively collected, right?
So no surveys, no having to like behavior change of like checking in or QR code. It's just like you're in a [00:31:00] room it's occupied. It shows us up as occupied and an app or in the screen. Right. It's it's just your presence. Right. And then the, and then the third bucket is around facility management and building operations, right?
So that's like your smart cleaning, your smart HVAC and and other types of applications around that. And so to your point, occupancy data, we see cut across those three categories. And we're working with companies and third parties in those areas that can take this data. And, you know, we can join the create value.
James Dice: Fascinating. And I think it's also like, it's not just that it can provide. Data to all of those different use cases, it's that you can also solve for the overlaps between them. Like, when we think about indoor air quality and energy, like things like that, it's kind of at the intersection of all of them as well, which is fascinating.
Rags Gupta: It's true. Yeah. And I think it's, it's still early days in that. Right? I don't, I haven't seen, but I think that's absolutely the case. Like we were talking about [00:32:00] to someone about, Hey, could you combine. Yeah. Kind of occupancy and air quality. And what other things can you combine? Right. So I E like, can you look at.
Did meetings last shorter, because like, it was such stale air or something. Right. But, you know, or, or, you know, or, or like the use of meeting rooms. Right. Because, and can you correlate that to both occupancy and the air quality in that? Right. And then are those then indications or proxies for.
Productivity or employee experience or things like that. I think we're very in the very early innings of those kinds of data, but but it's exciting to think about what could be done with those and not to mention you're looking at other data sources, like, you know, room bookings or zoom bookings, and, and seeing how they, you know, how they potentially.
James Dice: Yeah, I'd love to hear if you can share what you can share on, like, what, what traction do you guys have had so far? You know, what partners, like [00:33:00] what types of building owners and why are they sort of picking, picking Butler?
Rags Gupta: Yeah, I mean, so, you know, like I said, we're working with. Companies.
So, you know, we've got, again, like three buckets of companies that are our customers or partners. Um, So the first is tenants and, and, you know, occupiers, right. That are trying to understand how their space is being used. And that can be from very simple reporting purposes, all the way to like space planning purposes.
So. We're working with a subsidiary of general dynamics for like, just like base building, you know, and, and sweet occupancy. We're working with slalom, which has a consulting firm you know, to help them understand how their innovation space is being used. So, and then some household names that I can't share yet, but some like large tech companies.
Tech companies by Def sort of in, by nature. They're very data hungry. So of course they're going to like be very open to adopting these things, but we've also found a lot of interest in financial services and telcos as well. They've just got large [00:34:00] footprints where again you know, a five figure investment in incensing can drive seven, eight figure decisions of for real estate and sort of a no brainer.
The second bucket is, is on the landlords. And what we found there is. There's there's like a couple of different use cases that, that mostly they mostly care about. The first is like just base sort of it's like written about it before James, like building analytics. Right. So before just understanding how the product is being used and especially using that for pricing or for potentially anticipating renewals.
Right. So again, like we, you know, we had there's one owner. Were they the fact that they had a, they had a tenant that was going to not renew their lease, but they actually pointed to occupancy data saying, look, actually people have been coming in. You may not know this, but people coming in. Right. So there's just like that base [00:35:00] understanding of.
They're using that data for pricing and for you know, for like, just when should you have the renewal conversation or those kinds of things. The second is is really sort of amenity usage and understanding like, Kind of what amenities are being used when and then potentially flashing that or providing that in a tenant experience app.
So there's one owner in the DC Metro area that that we're looking to work with. You know, that wants, that's a very, that's very much part of their use cases is amenity usage and both historically, and in real time for a better tenant experience. And then I'd say like, there's, there's a, there's sort of like a third motivation, which is.
This pandemic is, you know, again, it's sort of like a, a bit of a bifurcation where the, the, the properties that are seen as most tech forward, there's sort of this halo effect for them. Right. They can differentiate their product. In the market and and can use that to drive, you know, higher occupancy rates and lease [00:36:00] SOPs for themselves.
And so just like the fact that they're investing in, you know, sort of these types of sensor systems and IQ Part of that story right. Of being tech forward. And, and that's a con that's a space that I want to, I want to be in. Right. I just, I know that landlord has the right frame of mind. And, and so, that's sort of how they think as well.
And then the third bucket, you know, as I mentioned, you know, folks like Georgia Pacific DLR group prescriptive data they're using you know, real time occupancy data. To make better decisions for their customers, right? Whether it's like alerting custodial staff or activity or traffic based cleaning to making decisions on ventilation or, you know, energy and HVAC.
Right. And you know, based on this data. Right. And I remember um, the, someone who's been on your podcast Jim Whalen, and he wants told me that. It's always stuck. And I was like early on this space and he was very kind to spend some time with me to [00:37:00] educate me, but he said there's only two independent variables in kind of building operations.
Right. And you, you know, this I'm sort of, you know, but, but. The weather and it's occupancy, right? Everything else is dependent on that. That's always stuck with me. It's like, you need occupancy, you need, you need occupancy. It doesn't have to be our sense of all the way it can be mixed and matched with others.
Right. But you just need that and you needed accurate enough to be able to make good decisions. Love it.
James Dice: Love it. Any, any other things to leave us with as you guys kind of think about the future of Butler?
Rags Gupta: I would just encourage people to think about the office or the workplace as a product. And I think there's, and you've written about this again and, and the building that goes with building, but there's like, I think a new set of metrics and then analytics that I think need to be defined by the industry that need to emerge in the industry.
Because in like the workplace setting, it was sort of like the old school. Cause I asked them people like, how do you report out? It's either really [00:38:00] course like number of batch wipes or it's like people per square foot, or it's just, it's very antiquated and primitive metrics. Right. And actually, like, instead, what, if you could say, you know, the office.
This workplace generated X number of collisions this past week in terms of collaboration. And by the way, we tie that back to these programming that we, this programming that we ran during the week. Right. And so, as a result, let's actually do more of this or, you know, like, I, I think it's just like as a new set of metrics that need to emerge to really frankly tell the story better.
and understand the value proposition of the office, because before it was just like, it was, it was opt out, like you were just expected at your desk. Right. And you had to have a good reason to like, not be at work. Right. Right now it's like for most companies it's opt in. Like, you've gotta like, like, and that's why I like to think like a product manager.
What is the value props is your product and how are you measuring that? [00:39:00] And what are the changes you're making and how are we measuring that right there, those changes. And so that's just like, w I guess that's what I would leave. Leave, leave you with. And in your audience.
James Dice: Cool. And so collisions would be like zero collisions would be like, I'd go to the office.
And I sit in my cube, I don't talk to anyone. And then I go home and then you could basically look at the sensor data and say, well, actually this person was getting coffee and they ran into this other person and they talked for two minutes and then they moved on, right. To be able to quantify. Yeah,
Rags Gupta: exactly.
Like quantify interactions, quantify, focus time. Cause like, if you're just like at your desk, okay. That's focused time. Okay. Like, let's understand that. Should we have more of those? And then, you know, you can mix that with other data sets, right? Whether it's energy, whether it's indoor air quality, whether it's you know, surveys, you know, there's, there's, there's a lot there that you can do once you have access to the data.
Right. And then you can start making more data-driven decisions. And, and again, like, [00:40:00] Helping helping people understand the value of this. Right. I've been in the suite, C-suite at, at, you know, the software businesses where real estate was kind of seen as a cost center.
Right. You just sort of had the vibe that it was a cost center. Right? Well, I actually think like real estate in the workplace can become a profit center. If you can actually articulate. Like what it does for productivity, for collaboration, for engagement, with visitors and so on. And so far it's been very anecdotal, right?
Oh, like, you know, it's a really nice feel when we walk into the office or, you know, we had a great demo and there are a lot, or there was a lot of people at the like free pizza day. But it's very like anecdotal or you sort of like the old, clipboards and clickers and how people are using it.
And, I just think that's going to change. And and so, you know, that that will require systems of intelligence to understand what's happening and then provide that out. And we're hoping to be one of those awesome.
James Dice: You ready for [00:41:00] carve-outs. So I've been, I was telling you, before we hit record, we used to do two truths and a lie.
And then at the, at the end of every year, the beginning of every year, I like to ask people what they're looking forward to. Well, now we're like all the way into 20, 22. And so we need a new end of the show, casual thing to end with. And so we're going to carve outs and I got this from the acquired podcast, which I've been totally benching on lately, and I love their carve outs at the end.
Mine is and these are basically. Things that you think the audience should know about and then mostly not from smart buildings. So just things that you would tell a friend, Hey, you should listen to this or you should watch this or whatever. So mine's will Smith's autobiography. It's called well.
And I would definitely listen to the audio book. It's about 16 or 17 hours. So he like goes back to his birth and like tells all these stories. And so if you're a nineties kid like me and grew up with the, you know, the fresh prince of Bel air reruns on TV this is a great look [00:42:00] at, you know, just an icon in, in our culture.
And he tells all these amazing stories and he gives it from like a. Personal development standpoint. So he's, he's like, here's what I learned. And then he got a zooms out and like gives the lesson as well. So it's, it's fun. It's fun from a he's the narrator and he's a great narrator standpoint, but it's also fun from like, oh, that lesson sort of applies to my life as well.
So I'd recommend
Rags Gupta: that for everyone. Yeah. Nice. I'll have to check that out, but I like will Smith. He, and he's a, he's a Philly guy like me. So, yeah, so mine would be, I recently finished James Clear's atomic habits and I've heard about it and I finally picked it up and you know, for those not familiar, his notion is.
Just by small changes of habit, not big ones. And he has like systems of like how to instill the good ones and not, and you know, not the bad ones. Those things compound over time to lead to like big results over time. Right. So if you can just do something [00:43:00] 1% better, or if you didn't start. You know, for me, one of the, the, the two, the habits that I've tried to like do is one, I'm doing a plank every day for two minutes.
I read an article. It's like, what happened? Just do that, just do that. Right. Cause it's just like, it's just. It's full body. And it's just an amazing thing. If all you do for F of exercises, like two minutes of plank, you're like your gut, right. The second is to meditate and, you know, it's like have a much more regular meditation practice.
And again, I try and, you know, if it's like a minute or two, it's better than zero, you just got to show up. Right. And so, I think I'm a big believer in that just from having read the book. So it's a quick read and. Yeah,
James Dice: I'd recommend that book too. It was instrumental in helping me figure out how to have a writing practice. Like what you just said. I will show up every day. And if I write 10 words, then that is the checked off day of writing.
So, yeah. Well, while the rags well, thanks for coming on the show.
Rags Gupta: Appreciate it. [00:44:00] Pleasure. Thanks James.
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.