Connecting the Dots for a Happier Workforce: A Q&A with Office App
CEO Thijs van der Burgt reveals the key advantages for getting ahead in the PropTech market
Picture an office.
You’re probably imagining a room filled with desks. Some rolling chairs assigned to each. Maybe nice, big windows — if you’re lucky.
But what about an app that connects and automates most everything during your workday — from automating parking in the morning, to ordering food at lunch, to sending out a reminder notification for your post-work drink meeting?
Most of us use apps on a daily basis, but they still aren’t part of our initial thoughts about the workplace.
Office App from Amsterdam is out to change this, but not just so we can have better mental associations with the word “office.” There’s a real problem to be solved, and that’s the happiness of employees and building tenants.
Could an app that connects, engages and serves offices and buildings be the key to creating the happiest workforce the world has ever known? Co-founder and CEO Thijs van der Burgt believes so. Find out why in this Q&A.
Tell us a bit about the backstory of Office App. How did things come together?
When I started, I was doing a freelance assignment at Philips — the lighting company. I had never worked in a larger office building before, so that was my first time in that scenario. What I did have is a lot of experience with technology and how it can help create different experiences for people.
I entered an office building and saw that there was a very poor experience for people working there; from a technology perspective, there were a lot of different systems that people were using.
I saw an opportunity in the ever-changing technology available to us, and also because more and more systems provide APIs that enable connection to other systems.
So this sparked the initial idea.
Yes. We started looking at larger landlords to see if they were interested, and they were. We found a partner, WTC Schiphol, near the Amsterdam airport. They wanted to build a product with us to integrate into systems that they use on a daily basis, and on the frontend, provide a very accessible system that is easy to use for people working there.
This had a main focus on everything related to facility, community and services. With facilities, you can think of booking a room, reporting a problem, getting access to a parking space.
With the community aspect, it’s much softer and focused on the main question: how can we build community and make people feel more connected to our office building? Providing a community and making sure it’s thriving — that is what enables connection.
The last thing is on a services side. As a consumer, you’re getting used to ordering food or a taxi through an application. In an office building, those systems are not there. So we either integrate or provide that functionality from our backend.
We started the company about 4.5 years ago and are currently live in 12 different countries, all in Europe. We’re gradually expanding in those countries with a main focus on making sure that the people in buildings are having a happier office life.
How have you watched the market change since you started? What has gotten easier and what is still challenging? I’d imagine there are some new challenges, too.
When I first started, there wasn’t anything called PropTech. What we see now is that by integrating with all these different systems, we not only provide a better experience for people, but also a higher building occupancy rate for landlords and even higher service levels. That means landlords can increase square meter pricing because it’s an attractive building to be in.
But what has changed is that more and more software companies that we integrate with started opening up their APIs. This enabled us to have a central place when it comes to data. We’re gradually adding more data points to our backend system. This gives us insights into how people are experiencing an office building, how people are using an office building and how — as a landlord or corporate — you’re able to improve the workplace.
There are also a lot of real estate decision-makers who see that technology is here to stay, and will drastically change the industry.
I’m not saying that people should be worried about their jobs, but that technology is going to be a central part of their daily work. There’s going to be a lot of new business models for them, and ones that will be updated.
How do you win against competitors in this market?
I think there are two things: we focus on integration. It’s difficult to make sure that you optimize your backend system in a way that allows hundreds of integrations at the same time. Making sure that people, without any lag or bugs, are able to use the system — that’s one of the key things we’re very good at. On the other hand, it’s our execution. If the platform is not being used, it doesn’t have any value. For us, it’s key that people actually start to adopt our technology.
What is the role of a VC in allowing you to differentiate and reach these goals?
In the case of JOIN, we’re at a phase where we have to grow exponentially. We have to structure our business in a way where, instead of having three launches in a month, we have 30–100 launches per month. Our organization needs to complete the shift to being a very efficient and predictable process.
With the knowledge that a VC like JOIN has in scaling quickly, they can give us insight to make sure we do this in an efficient way instead of having to learn the hard way from mistakes.
We’ll of course make mistakes still, but it’s important to minimize them. This helps us grow faster.
For more information on Office App and building elevated office experiences, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.