b Erik: Paul, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast.
Paul: Thank you very much, Erik. I'm absolutely thrilled to be here today.
Erik: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this one. This is an area that we are really looking forward to getting into deeper over at IoT ONE. Paul, before we jump into your story, I've invited one of our new partners at IoT ONE, Darwin Wang, to join the conversation. So Darwin, let me ask you to give a quick introduction to yourself before we head over to Paul.
Darwin: Sure. Hey, Paul. Hey, everyone. I am Darwin. I have recently just joined Erik as the partner to lead the Proptech practice for IoT ONE. Previously, as of end of April, I was the Chief of Staff for the Technology Advisory Team at JLL. Our team mostly covered EMEA and AIPAC. Previously to that, I was the Global Desk and Head of Strategy for a design construction firm. So that's going to be an experience. I think it will be pretty interesting to hear what Snapfix is doing. So yeah, I am a huge evangelist and proponent of the use of technology in the real estate sector. So I'm excited to join Erik and excited to participate in this discussion.
Erik: Great. Thanks, Darwin. Thanks for joining.
Paul: Thanks, Darwin.
Erik: Okay, Paul. We're going to dig into the business of Snapfix. But before we go there, I'd love to hear a little bit about your background. Talking to a founder, it's always really interesting to understand why you chose this problem of all the different problems you could have devoted this portion of your life to solving. So can you give us a little bit of a walk through of the founding of the company?
Paul: Sure thing, Erik. I grew up on a farm. Well, I was one of 12 kids, believe it or not. So we used to joke that we had a soccer team and a substitute when we were all growing up. Then growing up in a farm taught me very, very early on the importance of teamwork and enough wasting time. We always had a huge amount of work to do, and we were always looking for innovative ways to do stuff faster so we could get it done quicker.
I studied computer science then in University College Cork. I spent the next 15 years traveling the world. I spent 10 years in New York. I spent some time in Germany, in Mexico City. I spent a year in Australia working on a lot of very, very exciting IT projects. In parallel with all of that, which grew out of the farming business, I've always been involved with property management, property development with my family. About six years ago, I was really, really getting frustrated as I was managing a number of residential and commercial buildings. A lot of requests were coming in from tenants, and I was making requests of contractors. There was a lot of emails, posted notes, WhatsApps, taps on the shoulder. Everything was just going on, and everything just seemed to be very, very disorganized and inefficient.
I looked to the market to see if there was a simple solution out there for this. The common denominator is all with both sides of it, from the tenants to the contractors, was everyone was using WhatsApp. WhatsApp is the most amazing platform in the world for chat, but it wasn't fit for purpose for managing tasks, and particularly in the built environment. So I set about a mission to create the simplest facilities and maintenance platform on the planet, using all the features and wonderful look and feel and experience of WhatsApp, and Instagram, and social media type apps and bring that into the built environment.
Erik: Yeah, I love on your LinkedIn profile, you have almost a little poem here which is, "Everyone can take a photo. A photo speaks a thousand words. A photo speaks every language. And everyone understands the simplicity of traffic lights." It's written as a poem on your LinkedIn profile. But it makes a great deal of sense, the way you've just explained the logic behind the solution. I guess you've set up the business in 2019. And WhatsApp, I'm forgetting exactly when it was established. But I feel like it was probably in the market for almost a decade by then. Why do you think this solution hadn't been created and wasn't already on the market when you had your personal search for a solution?
Paul: Yeah, definitely before 2019, WhatsApp has been quite successful. I was tracking the data on it. Now I might be wrong about the exact numbers. I think back around 2018, 2019, it was transacting about 60 billion messages per day. I think now, obviously, it's probably 100 plus billion messages per day. So the world had started to shift to communicating using photos in messaging. So I really, really look to that insight for the solution for the future.
As an industry in particular, and having been in software development for over 25 years, I saw that every system I ever worked on was forms-based. It was quite rigid. They were quite complex, and they didn't very often have the end-user experience at the fore of the design. I decided to put that at the fore of the design for Snapfix. I put a lot of research and a lot of time into studying how Steve Jobs and Jony Ive worked on the iPad and the iPhone. I really took on board some of their key messages about relentlessly eliminating everything that's not absolutely essential, and just keep iterating through that. The analogy I normally give to people is: Microsoft Word, a wonderful product. No question about it. We all pay for 100% of it. We use 1% of it. In Snapfix, we just want to work on the 1% that all of our customers will use.
Erik: Yeah, it's such a fascinating industry because it is — I don't know if it's the largest industry. If it's not the largest, it must be the largest among the top three industries globally. If you think about just asset value, real estate must be number one. But when it comes to technology adoption, you think huge, very expensive assets that are very costly to maintain. There must be a huge appetite for new technology to help with efficiency. But then, when you actually look at adoption, it always seems like it's quite a painful process to get a new technology into the real estate industry.
What do you think it is about the industry that makes it, as you said, a lot of technology is developed maybe without the user in mind? A lot of laptop solutions, despite the fact that you have people constantly traveling around to site. I think in a lot of cases, it's just failure to adopt which might be coming back to the root cause of the solution, a failure to build solutions that the actual users in the industry can adopt. What do you think is the root cause of the challenge of getting this industry to digitalize?
Paul: I think there's a couple of ways of looking at that. I definitely have a strong view that the industry has been poorly served with — not to be too blunt about it — just terrible software. It weighs 15 ton to try to rollout a piece of software in a construction or engineering company. You have to hire people to roll it out. You have to hire people to administer it. And it just turns into this ballooning cost all of the time.
In parallel with that, obviously, with the advent of smartphones and apps, the expectation I think that the world is moving very, very quickly too is towards simplicity. We all are very emotionally attached to WhatsApp, and Instagram, and Snapchat, and TikTok, and these types of solutions. It's bringing both of those together, bringing a brilliant design that's well-proven in the consumer space and bring that into the business space. But bring it in with diligence and with beauty and with emotion which has brilliant design and, again, with a relentless focus on eliminating everything that's not absolutely necessary. I think those are key parts to it.
I think the audience that we meet all of the time now, we started out working with hotels. Hotels demand high quality, absolutely beautiful buildings. They operate 24/7, so it was a great place to stress test Snapfix. They have a large audience and multilingual teams. Some of the most emotional feedback we've received from our customers would be from members of the team who may not speak English or whatever as their first language. And they can now communicate super effectively with the maintenance teams and the management teams and everybody else using the current photos.
Darwin: I think that really took a lot of courage for you to decide to adopt this mobile-first strategy when you started this company. Because quite honestly, what you're saying too, as far as someone like you who was traditionally a B2B software engineer and also especially for the real estate industry, a lot of entrepreneurs would be tempted to build a product that's really for the desktop. So the fact that you chose this mobile-first strategy from the get go, it took a lot of courage. So I wanted to understand a little bit more of how you've done your user research initially. How did you validate the product?
Paul: Great question, Darwin. Well, at the very, very, very early days, I decided that if I have this problem, and it was a big problem for me — I was managing multiple different types of buildings in different locations. I have a small team geographically dispersed. I said I'm not the only person with that kind of problem. So when I built the prototype initially, I showed it to a lot of construction engineering facilities management, service providing companies, and hotels. It was the hotels that really their eyes just popped open. We decided then, when we kicked off Snapfix formally, to double down on hospitality.
Now, when we started in September 19, we got off to a really, really flying start. Hotels were really, really liking it, spreading the word right up until the middle of March 2020 when every single hotel in the world is shut down. So I got to tell you. I cried on that day. Then I adjusted myself off the next morning. Originally, we had always designed Snapfix for every type of building, every type of infrastructure, and every type of equipment. But we have decided to focus on hotels. So on March 16 or whatever date that exactly was, we went wide and started attracting office buildings, residential, apartment buildings, factories, retail stores, even mines in Africa. It was a great proving ground. There was a lot of poor fortune obviously with COVID. But the fortune for us as a company was: it proved to us that customers all over the world — we're now on five continents — that they would see Snapfix, understand it, trial it, and pay for it. That was very, very important for us to prove that very, very early on.
Erik: Well, let's get into the solution. We've already described a little bit of the philosophy around it. But then if we look at, let's say, the jobs to be done. You have on your website work orders, planned maintenance, asset management. Fire safety seems to be the big topic. Can you walk us through the scope of the product, and then how is it used? How is it different from a traditional software that somebody might be using in the industry historically?
Paul: Sure, so key for us is that it has to be simple to download, simple to register, and simple to get up and running. That's why the comparison with WhatsApp and Instagram is very, very relevant. We usually start with a customer who identifies Snapfix as a possible solution. They download it, and then they start walking around their building. They start snapping. They just start taking loads and loads of photos. They're all classified into a red traffic light section. Then they start getting a feel for, okay, a number of these are priority ones. So with a single tap, they can prioritize the ones that they want done right away. They can share it with members of their team. In Snapfix, it's super simple to add additional users, either by email or their phone number. Then they progress onto green. After a very, very short sometimes number of minutes, sometimes hours, they start seeing all of the items moving in Snapfix. It's like this living being of: you're seeing a lot of my issues. Oh, they just disappeared. They're gone to green. It's a continuous effort, of course.
We'd like to inform our clients that with using Snapfix with your team, you can leverage the eyes and ears of everybody in your building at all times. That's very, very powerful. For example, you could have somebody on the sixth floor. If they spot something, they just take a Snapfix. They keep walking. They walk away. They keep working, doing whatever they're doing. That is now logged with a single click. Of course, you can use your voice as well. You can say into Snapfix, "Leaking tap in room 14," and it will create a work order from your voice. That's where people typically start. We just started recently with Hilton Hotel. Within 10 days, they had about 400 tasks in green. So there, it just proved that their audience gravitated to Snapfix very, very quickly, and they got it instantaneously.
Step two then would be around planned maintenance. Obviously, people have to do fire safety checks on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual basis. That's as simple as taking a Snapfix and scheduling it for the period that's required. That also comes with a checklist feature where you can associate the checklist items with electronic smart tags. So when you're doing your fire walk, you just walk around the building at a pretty good pace with your phone out. You just touch your phone on these little electronic tags on each fire door, and it shows by the end of it that Paul McCarthy completed 100% of the fire walk at that point in time.
Then people very, very quickly, just like WhatsApp, they gravitate to other uses of Snapfix. If you think of WhatsApp, it's always a series of groups and a series of users for a particular purpose. It's the exact same thing with Snapfix. So we would have customers increasing the usage from guest requests or tenant requests. So they get logged in a particular folder. Lost and found is the surprise one for us in hotels. We didn't even think about it from day one. And next thing, we started seeing all these lost and found groups appearing, where a member of staff finds something in the hotel. They'd just Snapfix it. It sits there. Then if the guest asks any other member of staff anywhere in the hotel, "Have you found my watch, or my phone, or whatever," they can just look at Snapfix and see if it's there in red. When they identify the guest, it goes to yellow. When it's given back and returned, it's in green. So the traffic light system lends itself to any type of task management.
Erik: Okay. Yeah, I love this kind of concept of framing an industrial solution around the simplicity in the user experience of WhatsApp. I'm surprised more people don't do this, actually. Darwin, I know you spent a lot of time looking at solutions in the industry. Have you seen other solutions that you would look at as kind of applying consumer UX best practices in the real estate sector?
Darwin: There are a few. But ones that are so beautifully designed as Snapfix, it's a rarity. I do see that with Snapfix. You guys are doing a lot of things that really address this pain point for hotel operators. But I'm wondering, Paul, with increasing trend especially when you're entering offices and retail asset types, with these asset types, we're seeing an increasing adoption of integrated CMMS systems. So I'm just wondering. Are you guys being able to plug into those systems or have plans too in the future?
Paul: We're already integrated to a number of them. We've got a number of clients who have these — again, I call them the 16-term CMMS system. They're real heavy systems. Very often, the mobile smartphone experience isn't the best. We have a lot of customers that want to use Snapfix out on the floors, but they do want the data captured back into their corporate CMMS. The solution was architect it from day one using APIs. So we're unbelievably integration-friendly, which is great. For integrating into existing systems, that can be bi-directional, as well as integrating into smart devices.
A smart device, for example, a unit that detects if an emergency exit door is open for longer than 45 seconds or whatever, can ping a message to Snapfix. Instead of sending an email or a text to somebody, it actually creates a work order in Snapfix. Meaning, that somebody has the responsibility now to take action. So we only really want to get a ping from smart devices when an engineer or somebody needs to work on something.
Erik: Okay. That's interesting. We were actually just brainstorming or discussing some of the challenges with property developers here in Shanghai. One of the challenges that came up was just the proliferation of user interfaces. So if you want to have a leak detection sensor, you want to have an air quality monitoring sensor, you have these different IoT devices that are collecting data and then sending you indications of operations. Then each of these will have its own application. And so in UX. You then have to manage this, which adds a lot of complexity.
It sounds like you're starting to integrate those in. What does that process look like today? Is it a negotiated process? Do most of these have APIs where you're just able to cut into the data stream, or do you then have to have some type of relationship with the solution providers in order to be able to integrate them into the Snapfix and alert around the data coming off of these devices?
Paul: With most of the systems we've integrated today, they have pretty well-established APIs. A recent one comes to mind, a building management system that monitors the temperature in different zones of a building. When the tolerance is exceeded, it pings a message into Snapfix. It automatically creates a work order. The facilities manager knows he or she has to check on something. All of the detailed data and analytics is still in the BMS or is still in the software for that smart device. But it's just a ping to create a work order with a full audit trail and accountability that somebody needs to address it. It's where we come in. It also avoids having to have 15 apps on your phone, one for each device. You just really want to know the exception condition when an alert goes off or an emergency case has been raised. Keeping it all in one simple interface is hugely valuable to our customers.
Erik: I guess languages are going to be a big issue here as well. I mean, if you're talking about the US, it's probably English and Spanish. But you mentioned that you're on five continents, so you're getting into a lot of different regions. I think one of the challenges in real estate is that each region has — I mean, they vary dramatically in terms of not just the languages that are spoken but also regulations. If you're talking about fire safety, education levels of maybe onsite staff. If you're talking about Singapore versus Vietnam, it's kind of two Southeast Asian countries. What does localization look like for a solution like Snapfix? Do you find that the same solution can basically work with just some simple translations of the UX, or do you have to actually do any significant amount of localization under the hood in order to make this a global solution?
Paul: As you can imagine, when you think about it, we have a very, very little language in Snapfix. We allow people to create groups. They can obviously use any language. They can create tags which could be room locations within the building, or different assets, or asset categories. All of those can be entered in into any language. Obviously, the universal symbol or the universal language is the photo. So a lot of the activity is already in the photo. The voice feature that I mentioned earlier allows you to say, "Leaking tap in room 14," to create a work order in Snapfix.
Our next step for that is transcription, which we've got already working on. It's in QA. So it will include the text in the task and then translation. We're using third-party services for all of that. We're keeping it super, super simple, super intuitive but also super configurable so that people can use any language they wish.
Erik: Okay. Then when it comes to under the hood and stuff like fire safety, users just configure it to their requirements. There's no necessity to put in the local regulations.
Paul: Correct. We don't provide any data. So we provide the templates. You have a group called fire safety check. Your tasks are your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly list. Your checklist of activities within each check will be what will be local to the jurisdiction. Then everything gets moved from red to yellow, to green. So there's consistency around it.
Darwin: I think the topic that we just raised right now in terms of the differences of the users and how they behave, I like to know a little bit more. It's that when we're talking about adoption, ease of use is one thing. But having the incentive to use as the other. Most of the time, in my experience working with other building management type of solutions for the commercial space is that, the decision-maker — probably, the facility manager — is completely able to buy into what we're trying to do here. But the ground level staff, the electrical engineer, the carpenter that might need to come fix something up, they might not be willing or able to use technology. You're in places like we're saying Vietnam per se, for example. How do you give guidance to your customers to build best practices, to get people excited to really use this product?
Paul: Really, really, really good question. Very often, the facilities manager is not in support of any technology when we meet them first, because they have seen such horror shows. We've actually rolled out to a really, really large property management company who had stopped looking at solutions because they were also horrible and complex. Then somebody said, "Well, you should look at Snapfix." And now we're managing their entire property portfolio with pretty much zero-to-minimal training of any staff.
I think not forcing people down one avenue of use is really, really important. We're seeing a growing use of our QR code, for example. You can just put a QR code around your property. Somebody points their smartphone at a QR code, and they create a task into your Snapfix. That's super simple. Everybody can use their camera. Everybody can scan a QR code. Allowing some processes stay the way they are for the moment has also worked for us in hospitality. For example, in certain hotels, the housekeeping staff, as an example, aren't permitted to have phones on them. So the process between the housekeepers and the supervisors stays exactly the same, and the supervisors use the solution.
In relation to your example of a carpenter or an external contractor, we also obviously have a share feature within Snapfix where you can generate a PDF or an Excel of a particular task or a number of tasks, and just email them over on WhatsApp out to the person if they're not on the Snapfix platform. So we want to make it super easy for anyone to use it in a multiple number of ways. Our long-term vision is for Snapfix to be a platform. So if you want to use Slack, and somebody else wants to use email, and somebody else wants to use WhatsApp, you can all integrate in and collaborate using the Snapfix platform. That's a bit out there, but we're working towards it every month.
Erik: Okay. Interesting. At some point, in the not-too-distant future, you'll have an integration with these other communication apps. Maybe you can share information and then potentially also complete an order through those apps if you're working with people who have WhatsApp, for example, but not Snapfix. Is that the goal here?
Paul: Correct. The endgame here, one of the endgames for Snapfix is to be the global platform for getting things done. So it's the progress from red to yellow, to green irrespective of the user interface.
Erik: I've got to ask you then. I'm sitting here in Shanghai. What does the Chinese market look for you? Because it sounds on the one hand that this would be a perfect solution for the Chinese market. On the other hand, China is notoriously a challenging market for the European and American software to enter into. You have a foothill here? What does the market look like?
Paul: We do not. Not yet. As I mentioned earlier, the very, very most important priority for us as an early-stage company is to get to product-market fit. That's really, really around focus. So we've decided to push 75% of our focus on the hospitality sector for the reason I mentioned. It's a great stress testing ground, multilingual-teams and the highest quality. Our focus is on UK, and Ireland, and the U.S. as well. So that's where we're planning to get to product-market fit, and then expand globally. We do have customers coming in from all over the world. We do not have any in China. We have a lot of people kicking the tires in China. But paid customers, not yet. But that will be part of our plans in the future.
Erik: Got you. Well, maybe a follow up there would be, how you're selling this? Because this is a solution. I'm looking at your pricing page. It's very transparent, which is also a breath of fresh air in the industry. You basically have the pricing spelled out. It's free trial for seven days. $9.99 per user per month. $999 per year for unlimited, and then a custom solution. So you have a very transparent pricing. I could imagine then that your adoption could come anywhere from just one manager having three employees or three team members and saying, "Hey, let's use this to coordinate," all the way up to a Hilton saying, "We've got 5,000 properties around the world. We want to standardize." Or, a JLL for that matter saying, "We're managing properties for 5,000 companies, and we want to standardize our support of those companies." What have you found to be effective so far? Does it tend to be more bottom-up and then spreading through the organization, or you're going more top-down and talking to chains and then aiming to have more of a rollout across their portfolio?
Paul: 90% of it is bottom-up. Again, it's more to do with the stage of growth of our company. A lot of those top-down conversations can be very time-consuming, can be quite expensive, can be quite laborious. We prefer that you give the example of the Hilton there. We prefer a couple of dozen Hiltons to start using it and really, really start the buzz going, and people get excited about it. Then when we have those top-down conversations, we've got a body of amazing customers that we can point to. We are in some top-down conversations, including with Skanska in the US. Some of their innovation teams, for example, they see just a giant leap between the existing complex systems with 50,000 features, that most people don't even use anyway, to a relentless focus on what's really, really important with the likes of Snapfix. So there's a few of those top-down conversations going on, but I just have to manage those carefully. Again, it's a resource-constrained issue just for the moment.
Darwin: With your product, I can see that with all the tech stack you have, I think I can see it being used in the construction phase as well. Have you guys ever thought of providing these to clients when they're in the handover stage or even for project management companies that are on construction sites and going through, let's say, an interim or some type of inspection on the construction side?
Paul: Yes, I did mention Skanska there. In my view, there's two sides to the construction opportunity. One is recording the as-built progress. So you're building a partition wall or something like that. You photograph it on a Monday. You put the insulation in on a Tuesday. You put the wiring in. You put it on a Wednesday. The plumbing goes in on Thursday. So you're photographing it continuously, the as-built progress, which is very, very important for building control and compliance. That's one side of it.
Then at the very end of the construction stage, there is the punch list/snagging. In Europe, they call it 'snagging phase' where you're just photographing an enormous volume of little things that need to be fixed. That's actually how a lot of our new billed hotels come on board. They come on at the tail end of the construction phase, and then continue it into the maintenance of the hotel itself.
Darwin: Yeah, I'm just putting myself back 10 years ago when I was a project director on a construction project. We used to just take photos with our phones and then go back to our computers, and put these these photos on Excel sheets and putting them next to floor plans. It was a nightmare. Have we had something like this, it would have been able to make my life a lot better 10 years ago.
Paul: I agree with you 100%. We have a lovely engineering company customer. They put in conveyor systems into factories and mines and places like that. They walk around the conveyor systems, or they did walk around the conveyor systems taking photos for about half a day, and then go back to the office for a day and a half cutting and pasting them it into some report. Now that latter day and a half doesn't exist anymore. They just take all the photos in Snapfix, and they can create PDFs, reports, whatever they want to organize instantaneously.
Erik: Paul, this maybe a bridge too far for Snapfix. But when I think about the Chinese version of WhatsApp, WeChat, one of the real breakthrough innovations there has been the e-commerce module — the ability to just dramatically simplify the act of buying something. I know this is much more complex in a B2B setting. But certainly, let's say there's financial transactions recorded to or related to some of these events. So they need to hire an agency. They needed to procure materials, spare parts, et cetera. To what extent are you interacting with financial systems, whether it's making a direct procurement or logging a cost into an SAP system? How does that interaction with financial systems work today?
Paul: We've taken the first step with it. It's around tracking the time and the cost of a particular task. Obviously, that can roll out to a project and all the rest of it, and that can integrate into a financial system. That side of it is fine. Looking at what you were mentioning at the onset of the question, where we've got a project going on at the moment — I like to use the term machine learning rather than AI. It's just my preference — where when we see a photograph of something, you got a photograph of a light switch, well, there's an instant opportunity there to purchase that from a certain supplier or whatever. But at this point in time, I think we'll be using third-party services for that. But getting more capability out of each photo is a big part of our future as well.
Erik: And this topic of machine learning or maybe generative AI especially, the image recognition, could be interesting if you could systematically record those. I know that you do have a reporting feature, that I guess reporting typically works well when you have highly-structured data. Then it breaks down when you have less structured data, which image would certainly fall into it. But if you're able to use a generative AI system to recognize and say, okay, this overall set of properties, we've had 6,000 instances of x based on photo evidence, that could be quite powerful addition to traditional reporting. Are you looking to this topic, or do you see promise in generative AI for interpreting photos and converting them into structured data?
Paul: Believe it or not, we have it already. We haven't released it to our customers just yet. Two sides to it. What I mentioned earlier, leaking tap in room 14, if you say that with your voice, we can present a photo of a tap. We've actually held back on that for a moment. Because prompting people with images, and the image doesn't physically exist in their building was just a step too far. So we've stepped back from that.
The more advantageous side of it is when you take a photo of that leaking tap. If we have seen in your database, in your private and secure database, we've seen that tap before, we can auto-tag it instantaneously, basically taking clicks away from you. The previous 15 times you photographed that tap, you shared it with Terry, your electrician. You tied it to plumbing. That's an evolving process based on volume of data. We'll start by suggesting those tags to our customers. Then eventually, we'll remove the suggestion and just auto-tag. So yeah, we're knee-deep in the research at the moment.
Erik: Yeah, cool.
Darwin: Being able to share a photo of what something is supposed to look like, I'm sure it'll be a blessing to a lot of your hotel customers, especially the front desk. When the hotel's front desk is processing checkout for a customer or a visitor, and then discovered that the room there has a broken TV or a broken glass, being able to just go on Snapfix and pull out photos of what it's supposed to look like, I'm sure that's a blessing to front desk trying to explain these things to clients.
Paul: It is. So we would love a lot of companies, not only hotels but also office fit out and retail stores. They will create a group in Snapfix called 'brand standards,' and they will photograph all of the various parts of the building or a particular room. And if there's new staff and they want to know how to dress the bed or how to leave the sink area, it is there so precise as to where they want every single item left. Photo-based training is very, very effective there as well.
On the flip side, we do have quite a number of hotels as well who photograph every room after it's been cleaned so that if there was a complaint — let's say, when the next guest moves in and says the TV was broken or whatever — well, it wasn't broken when we left it 45 minutes ago or whatever. You know what I mean? Or something is no longer in the room that may have accidentally or intentionally fall into somebody's suitcase, that kind of thing. So you get it. You can get a very, very quick visual inventory or condition survey very, very simply as well.
Erik: Because of the simplicity and in your plans to integrate into the broadly used communication apps in the future, do you see potential to allow the users? I guess whether it's a hotel guest, maybe a frequent guest of a hotel chain, or I run a business, and I rent an office. And occasionally, I want to complain to building management around the toilets. But it's not that convenient to track down somebody. So it'd be certainly more convenient if I could just snap a picture and then send that to the landlord. Do you see room to provide access to certain functionality to the tenants or the users of the building?
Paul: Yes, I mentioned QR before. QR for us is the first step on that road to allow any guests in any room to report something. We will have customers who would have these on posters or stickers around the property, around the room, and also displaying the QR code in their audio-visual system in the case of a hotel.
Down the line, I do have a design in process where your GPS location — you're taking a photo right now of something. Your GPS location will prompt you to say, "Are you in this building or that building?" Or maybe if you're in an office building, there's multiple floors. You can communicate with the building manager that way. But definitely, I have a firm and strong view that every building in the world should have a QR code to allow any visitor to communicate with the building manager. Because basically, what we're doing is you're expanding and you're leveraging the eyes and ears of everybody — all your staff, all your visitors — in a building to help you make your building as good as it could be at all times.
Some fire safety officers and consultants that I meet with also suggest that when you scan that QR code, in addition to allowing you to communicate with the building manager, the building manager should communicate some critical information to you. This building is very compliant, and the occupancy of this building is 400 people. You can make an informed decision whether you want to enter the building or not. So there's a little bit of a two-way street there.
Erik: That was a great point. A lot of hotels, for example, there might be 20 guests going through the self-service gym before any employee enters. And so you want ideally guest number one to identify something's broken before the next 19 come and have that problem. So this idea of having all the eyes on the problem is a great concept.
It sounds like you've covered a lot of ground in the past four or so years now. I know you raised around last year, I imagine you have — I mean, it sounds like you have already an ambitious product development roadmap, also an expansion roadmap. What is it that's most exciting to you about the future? Are there particular new developments that you're going to be launching later this year? Is it more about market traction and new market entry now? What's keeping you busy or up at night?
Paul: I've never been more excited about Snapfix today than any other day in the past. Well, I think the thing that keeps me most excited is the future of the smartphone. Today, as an example, we capture a photo on a GPS location. That's all. Fantastic. But in a number of year's time, given the additional devices within our phones, we'll be capturing the air quality. We'll be capturing the temperature. We'll be capturing the pollen count. All of these different sensors within our phones will provide additional data for our customers, and we will be able to offer 10x more value based on the analytics of that data. Because it could come to pass, of course, that when the temperature reaches 85 degrees and something, then this piece of equipment fails. Well, you don't get that today on a photo on a GPS. You get that from the additional data points.
We're very, very focused on trying to help a lot of buildings go green, and be the best they can be, and be the most efficient they can be at all times. All of that leads into it. But the power of the smartphone, this thing that everyone's walking around with in their hands, this supercomputer, is the most exciting thing. Because, again, people plus smartphone equals smart building. With no wiring, nothing new to install, let's leverage these supercomputers and all these people going around buildings. And if the solution is simple, we can leverage all of the power to create smart buildings.
Erik: Yeah, fantastic. That's very interesting. I think a lot about I'm probably a little bit too old school actually still in my thinking. I'm always thinking about centers now embedded in buildings and so forth. But you're right. The smartphone is going to become more and more of an operational sensor for our lived environment. We all have to be thinking about how to integrate that into our solutions.
Darwin: Just imagine the AR glasses that are coming in, the new Apple glasses, right?
Darwin: It's going to even change the world even more.
Paul: We haven't even talked about that. The future of AR and VR will just change everything yet again. So it'll be absolutely phenomenal. You'll be able to see floor plans. You'll be able to see behind the fabric of the building into the structure of it. It's just 1000x expands the amount of data we can be looking at.
Erik: So that's been a notoriously hard one to forecast. I guess, as a startup, you do have to be careful with your capital. Augmented reality glasses on service personnel would be just fantastic tools. It's just the question of when that tool is going to reach a price point and a reliability level and a comfort level that it's widely used. Do you have any thought process on when that might be, or are you just going to be monitoring the market year after year and trying to be ready when it reaches that level of maturity?
Paul: Obviously, Apple has just come out with their headset there recently or their ski goggle view of it. We're just going to watch that space. I think just like with integration to any other systems, when an engineer needs to capture something, or record the progress of something, or complete something, we'd like to be that system of record for that red, yellow, green progress. We won't be getting into the AI or VR space anytime soon. There's experts, companies out there who are fantastic at that. But integration into them, yep, all day long.
Erik: Yeah, exactly. Great. Well, Paul, a fascinating company that you're building. I feel like we have a pretty good understanding now. Is there anything important that we missed?
Paul: We're just excited to keep simplifying it. I use the percentage at 78%. We're at 78% there towards simplicity. So every single month, we try to simplify Snapfix even more. I've instructed our product manager to remove 10% of Snapfix every year so we don't carry all technology or unused technology forward. We put in some features during the COVID period. They're all coming out now. That kind of thing. So it's with an obsessive focus on staying super lean, getting as close as possible to your camera roll to the user experience of WhatsApp and Instagram and the like. So yeah, that's pretty much it.
Erik: Yeah, great. Well, I love that philosophy of simplicity, Paul. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today.
Paul: And thank you both. Thank you, Erik. Thank you, Darwin. I really, really enjoyed the conversation.