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PropTech in Utah: The Built World is Coming

This article was published in the Winter 2020 issue

by Emily Fonnesbeck and Matt Knight

When you woke up this morning, was it with the sun and to the sound of roosters crowing outside? Was it to the clang of that old alarm clock with the bells on top? Not likely. You probably reached over and silenced your smartphone. Then you started your morning routine, which may or may not include checking your email, starting your coffee machine, adjusting your smart thermostat before you leave the house, using your car’s navigation system to check on traffic, and make a few calls on the way to work. Technology- it touches virtually everything we do, even if we don’t realize it. In the tech industry, there are acronyms and buzzwords emerging all the time, and one of those newbies is proptech.

Proptech, short for “property technology”, is revolutionizing with the way people buy, sell, rent, and manage real estate. Proptech benefits most parties involved, from builders, to developers, management companies to investors. We’re all about efficiency, and we’ve seen that technology can give us a major leg-up in ensuring that we save time, money, and energy. While proptech is a somewhat vague term, its umbrella is wide and welcoming. Many startups have appeared and seen success through this shift in not only technology, but also the mentality of the real estate world. One local company, no longer a startup, but a thriving business, is PassiveLogic.

Passive Logic is at the heart of property technology through their building automation and lifecycle management platform. Although building and construction seems to be changing and moving, under the surface, we’re using most of the same methods we’ve used for over 50 years- perhaps even longer. Contractors oversee the installation of an HVAC system, but as far as efficiency and control- that’s not really in anyone’s camp. Everyone does their job and then it’s left up to the building manager to make sure it all works together like it should, right? Sort of… but not really. “Smart” systems are sometimes difficult to navigate, poorly retrofitted, are unreliable, and produce subpar results. PassiveLogic starts from the ground up- and can even retrofit a building- using a totally automated system. Information is relayed in real time, and adjustments are made according to building dynamics. The system essentially automates automation.

Working with contractors and installers, PassiveLogics systems are quick, easy to install, and incredibly efficient. On average, a building improves energy efficiency by 30% automatically. PassiveLogic uses what they call a digital twin- a system that actually understands the connections between the building systems, its occupants, and the equipment inside. It generates its own analysis and adjusts accordingly. It’s sort of like setting your smart phone’s alarm to your favorite song instead of waking to the clanging of the bells on your ancient alarm clock day in and day out. You’re still using an alarm clock, only way better. This leg of proptech is applied mostly to commercial spaces but is moving towards smaller spaces and multifamily units. The industry is ready, and companies like PassiveLogic are gearing up to meet and exceed any expectations we could have dreamed of.

“Proptech is only growing,” says PassiveLogic CEO Troy Harvey. “We live in buildings and we work in buildings, and we don’t even know how they work or that they could work so much better. People are starting to see it. They’re starting to turn their attention to what is being built and what is happening. We’re just at the beginning of what is going to be happening in the building and real estate space because it is such a cornerstone of the world economy.”

Growing it is. PassiveLogic recently welcomed a $16 million series A funding with RET Ventures, a Utah-based investment firm working with leaders in the proptech industry. Amid fears regarding the future in a Covid-world, RET is investing and supporting companies within the real estate market. Solidifying their confidence in market growth, RET has continued to invest, supporting innovation and disruption in the field. “We’re seeing changes due to Covid, most companies have gone to some sort of remote work,” said Alec Page, Vice President with RET Ventures. “We’ve seen companies pivot and prioritize flexibility and remote working as employees need to take care of their families, but we’re also seeing these businesses keep a workspace for those who need it. Some employees want an option to come into the office, and having that option is huge. Coworking is having a moment, and it’s growing. It’s becoming an amenity. Companies will have smaller offices in multiple locations rather than one giant office, and proptech is a huge part of that shift.''

Although 2020 has been a rollercoaster year, we’ve witnessed proptech and real estate markets not only hold steady, but grow. At the end of the day, maybe we can thank Covid for pushing us (or maybe launching us) out of our comfort zones and accelerating some truly amazing growth. RET Ventures and their investment in PassiveLogic shows that there are VC’s ready and waiting to invest in proptech businesses. At Silicon Slopes, we’ve seen tech revolutionize an industry over and over again, and PropTech is no exception. We’re working on a PropTech community chapter to embrace and enhance our use of technology in real estate. If you’re interested in the Silicon Slopes PropTech Chapter, email Matt Knight at matt.knight@siliconslopes.com or visit, siliconslopes.com/proptech/ for more info.


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PropTech in Utah: The Built World is Coming
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