4 min read

#72: 2021 tech trends, ESG startups, and gamifying energy efficiency

Plus Jim Whalen on cybersecurity and more
“First, I would argue that we don’t have smart buildings… We’re in the first or second inning of that journey.”

—Jim Whalen

Good morning!

Welcome to Nexus, a newsletter, podcast, membership community, and online school for smart people applying smart building technology—written by James Dice. If you’re new to Nexus, you might want to start here.

Here’s an outline of this week’s newsletter:

  1. 🤔  On my mind this week: Our friends in India
  2. 💡 Insights: ESG startup trends, Cybersecurity with Boston Properties SVP Jim Whalen, and how to gamify energy efficiency
  3. Brand new stuff: A new podcast with Investa Property Group’s Shen Chiu
  4. 🧱  Foundations: The first two steps in making the business case
  5. 🌎  Diversions: Andreessen Horowitz on trends in corporate tech stacks

If you missed last week’s edition, you can find it here.


1. 🤔 On my mind this week

Starting Nexus has led me to many fruitful new friendships for which I’m extremely grateful. As we near the final stretch of the pandemic here in the US, our friends in India are enduring a rough second wave.

If you’re interested in helping out, join me in donating to GiveIndia.

2. 💡 Insights

Only the best smart building resources we consumed this week…


This Time Is Different: How Automation Can Win the Fight Against Climate Change—A look at the world of ESG and software startups from early-stage venture firm Base10. They unpack six different types of automation opportunities:

I’m curious about the potential connection between carbon offsets and building energy efficiency. Does anyone have any insights on this?


The Gate 15 Interview: James Whalen, Technology and Cybersecurity Leadership—SVP and Chief Information & Technology Officer of Boston Properties Jim Whalen talks about changes in facilities, changes in security, threats facing facilities, and broader implications.

“First, I would argue that we don’t have smart buildings… We’re in the first or second inning of that journey.”


Incentivize or Die—Propmodo’s Lauren Long with a nice roundup of all the different ways owners and occupants can be incentivized toward energy efficiency.

This could add up to a lot of money, roughly half of buildings in the city have a D or F rating. “[NYC] buildings are now clamoring and struggling and rushing in an all hands on deck manner to figure out how they can start correcting systems or efficiencies that they’re building now so that they aren’t subjected to the fees,” said Alex Zafran, Senior Consultant at Aurora Energy.

This installment of NEXUS is free for everyone. If you would like to get full access to all content, join the NEXUS Pro community. Members get exclusive access to the Nexus Vendor Landscape, monthly events, weekly-ish deep dives, a private chatroom, and all past deep dives.

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3. Brand new stuff

Everything Nexus created this week…


PODCAST—🎧 #047: Shen Chiu on Investa Property Group's smart buildings program and the IB Index

I don't really want to come up with a nice little one line of what a smart building is. I want to say: what's the value for that business?”

Shen Chiu shares how Investa Property Group sees value in smart building technology and much more.


VENDOR UPDATE—Even though the Nexus Vendor Landscape has 150+ vendors on it, I still learn about new companies/products to track every week. Here is this week’s discovery:

Refined Data—Canadian operations, risk, and compliance software for commercial real estate portfolios.

👉 This is another example (of many) that shows how the marketplace for back-of-the-house workflow-focused software is too messy to put into the traditional broad categories: CMMS, IWMS, etc. This is why I use the Nexus Framework to evaluate software rather than rely on these outdated buckets.

4. 🧱 Foundations

Bite-sized learnings for newcomers to the smart buildings industry courtesy of the Nexus Foundations course. To be notified when we launch Cohort 3, join the waitlist here.


One of the biggest mistakes we make when trying to get smart building technology projects approved: make a fluffy business case.

And what I’ve learned is that the definition of fluffiness depends on your financial stakeholders’ definition of fluffy.

In other words, fluffiness is in the eye of the beholder. Some want to see cold hard cash money and some are okay with intangible benefits that may or may not hit the bottom line.

So the first step in making a business case is to find that person that makes the financial decision. And step 2 is to find their spot on the fluffiness spectrum.

5. 🌎  Diversions

Technology resources from outside of the built environment. What might we apply in our industry?


How Tech Stacks Up in B2B—Interesting analysis from Andreessen Horowitz on how businesses’ tech stacks are changing as we come out of the pandemic.

“The events of 2020 affected different companies in different ways, depending on size and industry. But the scale of disruption and change to the way we do business has meant that companies of all sizes and across industries have needed the foresight and flexibility to adapt quickly to what the future will bring.”

OK, that’s all for this week—thanks for reading Nexus!