Carol J. Ott in Building Operations on November 26, 2018
Last week we showcased two new tech offerings that are helping co-op and condo boards and their property managers handle their ever-growing work loads. Here are two more that take very different paths toward fostering a sense of community.
Bixby – Describing itself as a building amenity platform, Bixby has a relationship with vendors that distinguishes this app. It has created partnerships with companies offering services in a building’s ZIP code area, such as tailors, storage, pharmacies, interior designers, handymen, and others. It also offers Bixby Perks, which are products that are discounted if purchased through Bixby.
This type of amenity was exactly what Neil Bhay, former board president of 87 Smith Condos in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, was looking for. “We had been using Ning, an online community building platform, as a basic discussion board for residents,” Bhay says. The building had a doorman to log in packages, and, as a condo, it didn’t have many service requests. What was needed, says Bhay, was a way to engage the community, and Bixby fit the bill. The condo, like many venturing into the app world, is spending several months testing Bixby before making a commitment. The flexibility of the app allows this testing period, and it’s something communities should consider, advises Bhay.
Not only are the amenities offered through Bixby interesting, they provide a reason for residents to return to the app to see what’s new. And usage is a major issue if you are interested in fostering a sense of community. Once in the app, a resident can view who’s saying what on the message board, make service requests, and also pay maintenance or common charges. For non-doorman buildings, Bixby is testing a “Ship to Bixby” option in which residents can ship a package to Bixby and then choose a time for the package to be dropped off. Bixby is also working on integrating with several smart locker providers to trigger a notification when a package is put into a locker.
The company was founded two and half years ago by Mark Smulker, a software developer. He had a friend who was taking over management of his family’s 60 rental buildings, and the friend wanted a tool to modernize and digitize operations. Bixby makes most of its money through affiliate commissions from its marketplace of service providers, says Smulker, allowing users to buy services with the same bank account registered to pay maintenance or common charges. “We have a team that conducts background checks and identifies which are the best companies in that area,” he says.
MGCOne – Developed by Ranjan Sivan in 2011, MGCOne can best be described as a surround-sound digital solution. If all the functionality is used, MGCOne can be the repository for all facets of your operations.
“I was a board member in my condo association,” Sivan says, “and also working on Wall Street.” He saw a problem in the world of condo associations: when management or professional changes occurred, the condo lost access to information and records. MGCOne was created as a solution.
For HOAs or large co-op or condo complexes – particularly those employing their own on-site managers – MGCOne offers digital solutions for management, the board, residents, and the association’s accountant and attorney. It ties into accounting systems, deals with packages, can take surveys or polls, stages discussion forums, creates and tracks work requests, and much more. The system is designed to stay with the association, so that those no longer affiliated, such as a former manager, lose access privileges.
In the end, the apartment marketplace is full of new condos with lots of glitzy amenities, making it hard to compete if your building is in the “plain Jane” category. Adding a digital amenity can give your building the feel of a community, while at the same time solving very practical problems. It also puts your building on the cutting edge of real estate technology, and for forward-thinking boards and management companies, that’s a good place to be.
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