Selling into the multi-dwelling unit (MDU) rental market has always been difficult for integrators. Developers want certain basic controls for the public areas, but due to the ephemeral nature of the tenants, they typically avoid any expenditure on control systems at the individual unit level. For integrators, the scenario is also a quandary. You can target the developer upfront during construction and make some money, but lose out on any long term potential revenue from individual tenants. Or, you can target individual tenants with smart home options and fight the constant battle of selling to new occupants as the tenants’ turnover.
Enter StratIS with a seat-license Software as a Service (SaaS) business model. Neither integrators nor property managers/owners share in the RMR, but they fit into the business model from an installation perspective and the ability to rent/lease their “high-tech” units for more money per month, plus have global control over individual units' systems.
“We had no idea how challenging access management and control is in multifamily and student housing.”
The company, which is run by CEO Felicite Moorman, was born in June 2015 from its sister company, BuLogics, a hardware development company that leverages the wireless technology standards to design and create IoT products. BuLogics was the developer of Somfy's Tahoma automation system in 2010.
BuLogics has co-created, designed and built many wireless hardware products on retail shelves today with Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi protocols, but never was in the software side of the business. Several years ago, BuLogics got a request to create a simple energy management and access control system for both residents and property managers that maintains tenant privacy but offers global control. The company spun out StratIS as a software company and got to work.
“We had no idea how challenging access management and control is in multifamily and student housing. The number of roles and permissions and use cases and edge cases a profound,” admits Moorman, who is also CEO of BuLogics.
Fast forward to today and the company has deployed its SaaS system in more than 200,000 apartments and student housing living spaces in just two years.
“Integrating with any doorlock in a multifamily space is unique,” Moorman says. “They have requirements related to fire ratings, one-motion egress doorlocks and interconnection of multiple doorlocks. We have seen occupancy permits denied because the building owners don’t have master credentials.”
Generally, she explains, multifamily property managers and owners are wary of any system where multiple people can have a key because security is a big liability for them.
“Every time somebody puts a keypad doorlock on a multifamily residence, you are basically putting a key-creating kiosk in the front lobby,” Moorman says. “I can give that code to my bad boyfriend, my dog walker, my dry cleaner and my mom. Suddenly anybody has access to the property.”
Pricing Models & ROI
The pricing model for services was another obstacle, according to Moorman, explaining that half the battle was getting MDU building owners and property managers past the mental hurdle of SaaS and an ongoing “seat license” relationship with a vendor. To do that, StratIS prices its monthly services aggressively.
Property owners/managers pay a whole fee per month (billed annually) that rivals the pricing of other wholesale SHaaS (software as a service) providers.
The pricing, Moorman says, is “super disruptive.”
Some MDU owners itemize the SaaS fees for their tenants, building in some margin for themselves. Typically they charge $15 to $25 per month, or simply increase the monthly rent by $65 or some other amount.
She says the operational efficiency gained by the property owner/manager being able to globally control thermostats and doorlocks has about an 18-month ROI for smaller properties and even less for larger ones after buying and installing the hardware.
“If you're managing, 1,500 door locks which we have these properties or 1,500 thermostats, you're going to get your return much faster. If you're in student housing, the ROI can be instantaneous,” she says. “And we are going to increase the value of your property.”
Where Do Integrators Fit In?
From an integrator perspective, StratIS currently has 250 authorized dealers installing doorlocks, thermostats and more for the company in MDUs across the U.S.
“Integrators are selling and installing better-margin, more-intelligent hardware. They are responsible for installing all the hardware, including doorlocks, thermostats, and site-wide Wi-Fi or mesh networks,” says Moorman. Based on all the potential system variations and options available, installation can be complex.
That’s one reason Moorman refers to the role integrators play as “priceless” in the success of StratIS. The company has a partnership in place with Honeywell, and Moorman says the Lyric thermostat has been “re-created” for multifamily usage.
“Honeywell is doing amazing things with it. What used to take 15 minutes per unit, per install is now instantaneous. And that changes everything. The labor cost to install in these multifamily spaces can't be double the cost of the system,” she comments.
“They're even creating service contracts around what we provide with ongoing support fees. So, we're enabling the installer market today,” says Moorman.
Some installers just want to focus on the HVAC portion, others just on doorlocks. In those cases, StratIS will refer them to partner with other integrators in the network.
“We are relying on the relationships we have built with our partners in the marketplace… it is a win,” she says.
StratIS is pre-commissioned for rapid install, with “Install & Go” technology, for minimal resident disruption, according to the company.
She says installation of the StratIS system at the higher-ed dorm level has been successful, but in most cases the system remains completely silo’ed and not integrated at all with the full campus IT system that includes student’s personal information, mass notification system contacts, etc.
Regarding the Amazon Alexa integration, Moorman says StratIS has seen a huge shift of demand for installations of voice control in the past six months.
Currently, the StratIS system cannot integrate with any whole-house control system. So any MDU with the likes of Crestron, Elan, Savant, Control4, RTI, Lutron, etc., cannot be integrated.
“Installing our system would preclude an integrator from doing any sort of a control system of the thermostat or lighting in addition to StratIS. It's got to be one or the other,” says Moorman.