Written by Stuart Foxman

Office buildings are more than just places where people work. Tenants have a connection with the area. They see the same neighbours every day, and often eat and shop from them. “It’s a community,” says David Abrams.

He’s one of the founders of Hilo (hiloapp.com), an app that aims to foster tenant engagement, and create more connected communities.

Abrams says the app addresses three challenges. One, building managers and owners want effective communication with the people in their complex. Two, those occupants and visitors want access to timely information about the building and local offers. Three, retail tenants want incremental revenue from anyone working in or passing through the building – what Abrams describes as “a massive built-in economy.”

Hilo is the solution – a hub for people to connect to their “home” office tower (and other neighbouring buildings).

Everything is customized for the building owners or managers. The platform can be used to provide information on building services and amenities, special events and initiatives, and tailored promotions and incentives.

The idea for Hilo came from Abrams’ industry experience. He runs a marketing and communications firm that serves the commercial real estate (CRE) sector. The other founders are Oz Solomon, who has a background in technology, and Kirk Stephens, who brings branding and design experience.

The team started software development in January 2018, and launched their first building in midtown Toronto in August. There are plans to expand Hilo to other North American markets. The company recently secured a contract for a building in downtown Ottawa, and is working on a pilot in Boston’s Seaport district.

Throughout the process of getting Hilo going, Abrams consulted widely with other founders and investors, who he says have been very generous with their advice and expertise. He praises the pay-it-forward nature of the start-up community.

Abrams also affiliated with ventureLAB in Markham, which is dedicated to helping technology entrepreneurs. He regularly attends CREtech conferences to stay connected to the proptech industry.

While a lot of buildings have some kind of information management system, they’re usually aimed at just a few key contacts within each tenant. The Hilo app is more consumer-focused.

Abrams says Hilo is tapping into a need to create stronger bonds and opportunities between building operators, tenants and retailers. It’s not just about the office building, it’s about relationship building.

Think about the ability to access exclusive offers and rewards from your building and nearby shops and services. To find everything from food to fashion nearby. To quickly reach building maintenance, get help from security or ask about parking. To be rewarded with invitations to programs. And to stay up to date with critical news about your building. All from a mobile app.

A tech-enabled network of connected communities, suggests Abrams, will create a more personalized and rewarding workplace experience.

“I think in 3-5 years there won’t be a building without something like Hilo,” he says.

Photo credit Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real