My New Normal: Aquicore Founder And CEO Logan Soya
This series aims to capture a moment in time, talking to men and women in commercial real estate about how their lives and businesses are being transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Logan Soya founded Aquicore, a commercial real estate energy and facility performance management tech platform, in 2013 after earning his MBA from Georgetown University. The platform enables real estate managers to remotely monitor facilities, develop condition-based maintenance routines and improve operations, which Aquicore says can help cut operational costs, increase energy efficiency and boost asset values. More than 790 commercial buildings totaling more than 250M SF nationwide use Aquicore.
Aquicore launched a free version of its cloud-based platform in May, running through Aug. 1, to help property owners and managers optimize their buildings and strategies during the pandemic and as they start to reopen.
Soya, who lives in Washington, D.C., said he is gearing up to reopen Aquicore's office after Labor Day, though he expects his employees and himself to continue to work from home part time, and is itching to get back to restaurants for date night with his wife.
Bisnow: Describe your work-from-home life and what you are doing in your spare time.
Soya: Work from home life is a whole lot of Zoom meetings in my living room that sometimes my dog likes to join. My wife has co-opted the bedroom and a new Peloton has co-opted the living room alongside me. I was an avid morning gymgoer before the pandemic, so it’s definitely been a challenge to keep training and working out a priority when it’s so easy to walk across the apartment and start working immediately.
Bisnow: What is your company’s return-to-the-workplace plan?
Soya: Fortunately, our company was already well-equipped to work remotely. Our culture includes team members that work remotely full time under normal circumstances, so we learned to work very actively together through Zoom and Slack prior to the pandemic; the transition hasn’t been too hard. As of now, we plan to have the team return to the office following Labor Day but will continue to monitor the situation and extend this timeline if need be.
Bisnow: What will reopening businesses and workplaces look like for you personally?
Soya: My wife and I are very excited to see the reopening of restaurants so we can support the local workforce and enjoy a good date night.
Bisnow: How will you manage the homefront as stay-at-home restrictions ease and businesses reopen?
Soya: I expect that I’ll be a bit more thoughtful about which days to work from home vs. the office but still expect to ultimately be back in the office at least 50% of the time.
Bisnow: What is the state of your business at the moment?
Soya: Aquicore has learned to adapt to the environment as so many others have. We are fortunate to offer a product that can provide meaningful up-to-date information about a building’s energy and facilities in a time when it is most needed. We’ve worked hard to provide as helpful information as possible while recognizing that people are balancing many priorities.
Overall, the company is using the time to invest in our strategic goals and make sure we deliver an outstanding product and experience as the economy reaches its new normal. Early on, we made a rapid pivot to build out reporting capabilities for asset and property teams to track the impact of COVID-19 on their buildings. We also accelerated the release of a lightweight version of our product to eliminate the need for on-site interactions.
At its core, Aquicore is a remote monitoring platform that we’ve built sophisticated energy and facility optimization applications on top of — so while we shifted to prioritize certain resources for our customers during the pandemic, we are grateful that our core business has helped us serve our partners without needing to reinvent ourselves — long term, our direction remains the same.
If anything, the silver lining is that the importance of centralized reporting and up-to-date information has been crystalized for the world of real estate operators in a way it hasn’t before. We are looking forward to the creative discussions around the ways smart monitoring can help beyond the traditionally discussed use-cases.
Bisnow: What was your impression of work from home before this got started? What is it now?
Soya: I was never much of a work-from-home person, but more of a "work from anywhere" type philosophy. While in Washington, D.C., I would rarely work from anywhere else besides our office, but I traveled often, and as a business, Aquicore has been comfortable with remote workers in our business practices for a while now — so that must mean I'm comfortable with it!
For me personally, however, I definitely have found certain areas where work from home has been beneficial. Remote teams need to do a better job of fully forming and documenting ideas, and I find myself with more "maker time" to execute. I do miss working at the office and having the whiteboards and brainstorming, so I don't see myself becoming a full work-from-home [employee] by any means, but I do have a new appreciation for this work style and I will be very interested in learning how to incorporate it into my routines once things get back to normal.
Bisnow: How is your company fostering community and maintaining its culture from a distance?
Soya: We have a lot of new initiatives in place that are helping people stay connected. One I particularly enjoyed was the virtual fitness challenge we had in May. We used fitness apps to track walking/running/biking miles for teams of employees with the goal of reaching 200 miles per team by the end of the month. We also have “random coffee” sessions every week where folks get selected randomly to pair up and do a quick chat for 15 minutes to shoot the breeze. A lot of our existing traditions like weekly all-company meetings and monthly happy hours continue virtually, which keeps the company anchored and as together as possible.
The most challenging thing has been onboarding new employees. It takes a lot of active effort to make sure new remote employees build routines and habits when they can’t shadow others as easily for quick learning.
Bisnow: How do you think the coronavirus could permanently affect the way real estate does business?
Soya: Coronavirus is leaving many unanswered questions for real estate executives to think about how to invest and how it will have long-term effects on different asset classes, but I think one positive outcome is that it is definitely serving as an accelerant for real estate executives and operators to think about how to use technology [in] their job.
Bisnow: What are you most hopeful about right now?
Soya: Despite the challenges we live in today, I think there is a real opportunity for us all to change for the better as we come out of this tough situation. I am hopeful that these shared challenges will foster stronger qualities of leadership in our global community in the aftermath of the crisis.