While the pandemic completely shook up many aspects of our lives it also had an impact on the way people approach housing.
For quite some time demand for real estate has been pushing the industry away from long-term obligations to more flexible possibilities. In return, owners and developers introduced new ways to adapt to ever-changing client base needs.
To find out more about the mentioned offerings, Cybernews team reached out to Lukas Balik, CEO of Spaceflow – a digital tenant experience solution that lets owners control their properties and lets occupiers use their spaces all on one platform.
What is the story behind Spaceflow? What has your journey been like since your launch in 2016?
After creating my first project in 2015 – Delast Design, which focused on modern interior design and accessories – I noticed the lack of digitalization in modern residential and office buildings. The “Space-as-a-Service” trend had just started to spread from the United States to the rest of the world. After consultation with experienced realty experts, my friend Jan and I saw the opportunity to fill in this hole in the market with our own digital platform.
An essential part of that vision was our first angel investors’ profound knowledge of the market and their advice on where it’s headed. It’s how the idea of Spaceflow was born and what we used as a starting point. After we formed a company, it quickly gained traction. It was noticed by VC investors who shared our vision and our main goal: to offer an interconnected digital environment for every building.
Can you tell us more about your platform? What technology do you use to improve the tenant experience?
Spaceflow builds a digital connection between landlords and tenants. It brings a variety of operations to the fingertips of the occupiers, such as reserving meeting rooms and parking spaces, paying for services, joining community activities, and getting informed about what is happening in the building. Spaceflow also serves as a platform for IoT and other smart building integrations like keyless entry.
On the flip side, as a building owner and manager, you can manage all that, offer a better service, and see clear analytics on how people use the building. That might sound obvious, but in fact, up until recently, building owners and managers had no data on property operations.
In your opinion, what are the most challenging issues that organizations face on their digital transformation journey?
Market fragmentation is the real issue right now. There are many different hardware manufacturers, operating systems, and services property companies have to choose between. They usually don’t work well together because there is no room to co-exist for them, and no digital environment that connects them all. So buildings use this and that, depending on their needs. It’s a very chaotic puzzle.
We are trying to simplify that with a digital layer in every building that can integrate many different PropTech products and solutions for overall easy and effective interaction. But that's just one side of the coin. The other is that we also need more tech-savvy people and talent in our industry to really address the digital transformation and make it work.
How have recent global events affected your field of work? Did you introduce any new features to Spaceflow as a result?
The pandemic has only accelerated the use of digital tools in every sector. In our case, with the effects of the pandemic, some of the existing features of the Spaceflow app found a new use case and greater importance. The visitor management system has allowed space managers to keep track of visitors in the building and see all relevant data in real-time: guests invited, check-ins, visitors on-site, and those who left the property.
Other useful features, the keyless access system and the occupancy monitoring system, which were originally just conveniences, have since helped minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 as they enable building occupiers to monitor the number of people per square meter in a room and track the flow of the people.
It is evident that building communities is one of the main goals at Spaceflow. Why is this practice so important?
Customer expectations have changed. People no longer want to buy or rent an apartment or an office solely for the space itself. With the massive rise of technology in the past years, they got used to expecting more. They’re not paying for just the apartment, they’re paying for an experience, convenience, and a spot in a real community with everything that entails.
The “Space-as-a-Service” trend means that alongside the space in the building, people also get all the relevant amenities and are no longer just passive users of the space. It also provides a new method of monetization and digital administration for landlords and owners, who can offer better services and a higher quality experience. Space-as-a-Service, in our case, means a user-friendly digital platform, smart building features, services, cloud integration, mobile payments, and more.
What other aspects of our daily lives do you hope to see digitized soon?
The “no keys needed” approach started with digital passes, like entering the office or your apartment with only your phone. Of course, there are numerous mobile apps for ordering food, cleaning, transportation, and many other services. But all of that is yet to come to the buildings themselves.
Our vision is to digitize the tenant's whole journey and enhance the experience from the first day to the last one in the building. Imagine a solution where you can deal with everything, from signing and storing the contract, and access to the building and community, to booking premium services and sharing your satisfaction on a social wall, or reporting an issue. “Your building in one app” is our motto and we’re getting closer to it every day.
In this age of ever-evolving technology, what do you think are the key security practices both businesses and individuals should adopt?
Customers demand a flawless, hardline sense of security, especially from technology providers. Full compliance with GDPR and taking it seriously is a must. Protecting the privacy of Spaceflow customers and partners is a priority and one of the guiding themes of our Code of Conduct.
Additionally, we train all of our staff members on this issue to make sure that everyone at Spaceflow is aware of and in line with the security practices.
What do you think cities are going to look like in the next few years?
First of all, there is one huge trend that is connected to everything else. Mixed-use development is growing, meaning that individual buildings are increasingly used for office, residential, and residential functions, all at the same time. The impact of blurred lines between workplaces and homes on real estate will be massive.
This is indeed closely linked to digitalization and smart cities. As a second trend we also have ESG and a strong movement towards green practices and living, influenced by corporate and government environmental initiatives. The combination of all these trends is something that will be influencing how cities will look in the next few years.
And finally, what’s next for Spaceflow?
Spaceflow has global ambitions, so the main goal for the upcoming years will be expanding our teams worldwide to support the platform and its integration into as many buildings as possible. In May 2022, Spaceflow raised €8 million in Series A round led by the Swedish investment group Hydda. The partnership will make Spaceflow stronger through integration into Hydda’s ecosystem of other products and connections with leading real estate companies.
Hydda is growing rapidly and aims to become Europe’s largest PropTech group, which is a prime reason they are heading for a European IPO with its whole PropTech portfolio. With help from our partners, we want to accelerate digitalization in the real estate industry and work as a bridge between PropTech companies and the variety of different solutions on the market.