When reports of a mysterious and deadly virus began to circulate in early 2020, Josh Gross, a software designer and the board treasurer of his condo in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, saw a possible opportunity. It quickly became apparent to Gross that annual meetings at co-ops and condos would have to be postponed or radically overhauled.
Gross, 31, is no stranger to doing things virtually. Since 2013 he has worked remotely running a company called Planetary, which designs and builds websites and mobile apps. His coworkers are scattered across the globe. Given the improvements to technology during the company’s seven-year existence – and his deep familiarity with virtual business meetings – Gross thought it might be possible to conduct annual meetings remotely.
“I spoke to our property manager, Andi Necaj of Century Management, about his experience with annual meetings at his other buildings,” Gross says. “I learned that the election rules are pretty well defined, and it’s easy to build software around that. I was able to codify the similarities in co-ops, condos and condops and turn that into software.”
With Century’s help, Gross was able to run simulated virtual meetings to refine the software and identify bugs. The software, dubbed BuildingBoard.com, debuted in November – too late for the 2020 annual meeting at Gross’s 48-unit building. “Our condo did a virtual meeting via a patchwork of a conference call with some polling software. There was a lot of manual work involved,” says Gross, who was re-elected to a second term as treasurer.
As the annual meeting season progresses, Gross reports that a growing number of boards are signing up for BuildingBoard.com. Boards that use the software will collect proxies before the meeting, and then the rest will be done digitally, including check-in, display of candidate profiles, voting and vote tabulation. The property manager can introduce candidates on screen and run a Q&A session, if desired. The cost is $1,000 a year for buildings with 75 or fewer units, $1,500 for all others.
Gross is encouraged by the early response. “If you can attend a meeting from anywhere, you won’t need a proxy to vote,” he says. “You won’t need to rent a meeting room. It saves time and money, and it’s easier for everybody. I think it’s going to endure after the pandemic.”