Secrets of Success: William Cowell de Gruchy, CEO and Founder, Infogrid
Imagine being able to improve the eco-performance of your building and happiness of your team at the same time.
Infogrid collects and analyses a range of building data points which can be used to meet sustainability goals, drive operational efficiency, and improve employee productivity and well-being.
William takes some time out of his day to talk to Business Matters …
What products or services do you provide?
The real estate industry has seen relatively low levels of innovation over the last 50 years, this has led to negative consequences for the people who live and work in buildings and for the planet too. The biggest roadblock to innovation has been a lack of data on the performance of the buildings.
We collect millions of data points across multiple sensors and use advanced artificial intelligence to make sense of the data and provide building owners and managers with simple, actionable insights to ensure their buildings run efficiently. The AI is the ‘brains’ behind our smart building platform because it can process and understand more data points simultaneously than a human will ever be able to do. For instance, it may be that on Mondays and Fridays, the office is only at 20% capacity, and you therefore decide to close down certain sections of the office on those days, meaning you’re not wasting resources on air-conditioning or cleaning those spaces.
In short, Infogrid provides businesses with the tools needed to save money in building operations, become greener and automate tasks so facilities managers can better devote their time to preventative maintenance tasks.
What type of businesses do you work with?
We have a wide portfolio of blue-chip clients across the globe that range from JLL to the NHS and include the likes of the Royal Opera House. The Royal Opera house in particular is a unique case that we would love to do more of, it shows not only the benefits of our technology in saving CO2 emissions but also in preserving the past. Specialist equipment in the Royal Opera House produces a lot of heat that damages its ceiling, Infogrid technology provides the data crucial to its preservation.
What problem does Infogrid solve?
We attempt to solve three main challenges: the size of our global carbon footprint, the compliance burdens facilities managers face in their role and poor workplace conditions.
Addressing carbon emissions from buildings is critical in achieving a net zero future. The operation of buildings accounts for 28% of global carbon emissions. If we reduce energy consumption by making buildings smart, we can contribute towards a more sustainable future.
The building maintenance industry is rooted in manual processes whereby engineers travel miles to site to run compliance checks on lighting or water safety. With Infogrid, data can be analysed remotely across their building estate and in some cases can reduce the CO2 emissions or water usage by 98%. Automation ultimately increases efficiency, as facilities managers are able to better direct their time to projects that focus on decreasing energy use and creating a healthier working environment.
Many businesses don’t realise that access to data is key for improving working environments and employee experience. The pandemic has brought into sharp focus how a virus is able to spread in an office with low levels of cleanliness or poor air quality. Employees are increasingly anxious about virus transmission in the office and want access to better data and metrics on the healthiness of their building to put them at ease. Infogrid is able to collect and present this data in a meaningful way for building managers and employees. As a result, workers are not only better focused on carrying out their everyday roles, but concerns related to their environment are eliminated, improving their mental health at work.
What is your USP?
We set up Infogrid with the intention of making every single building on this planet Smart, no matter when it was designed and constructed. To achieve that goal, simplicity, scalability, and affordability are at the heart of everything we do. We are device-agnostic, working with the simplest sensors in the market that can be retrofitted to any building easily. This allows us to get set up in minutes and our AI platform does all the heavy lifting to ensure clients get the best insights.
What are your company values? Have you ever had them challenged and if so how have you dealt with it?
My goal at Infogrid was to build a company where every individual within the business takes ownership for the success of the business. We have a “grown up” rules culture where you are allowed to work when and where you want to. We haven’t got any rules or budgets on how much you may spend on traveling to meetings or entertaining clients. I trust the team to use these budgets as if they were coming from their own pockets, which obviously is not the case!
I find the more you trust people to make the right choice the more often they do. Empowerment is critical in a workplace; it motivates people and is key to business growth. Every month we score 100% on the ‘I am proud to work at Infogrid’ score in our employee survey. It’s one of my proudest achievements.
As we grew from a smaller business of 20 people last year to nearly 200 employees this year, this has of course posed a challenge to maintain accountability among our employees. But, I’ve seen this culture that we have created at Infogrid fiercely defended by those already here so it creates a legacy impact for new employees.
How do you ensure that you recruit a team that reflects your company values?
To date, I have interviewed every employee who has joined the business and I will try to continue this for as long as I can. We also have a brilliant talent team who have a set of questions created through the interview process that signal whether a candidate would be fit for us or not.
Are you happy to offer a hybrid working model of home/office post-covid?
Yes, we encouraged remote working and offered flexible hours before COVID and we will continue to do so. If employees are working where and when they want to, this will help them maintain their mental wellbeing and improve their productivity. Our culture centers around giving people autonomy – to not offer hybrid working would contradict everything we stand for.
Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
Always look for a network of clients and suppliers who mirror your own values and ways of working. I believe in building long term relationships with your networks where sometimes you will win together and sometimes you will lose together. It is useful to think about the type of company you want to build early on and have a clear plan on the partners who will be able to deliver it. For example, from the beginning it was clear that we didn’t want to be in the hardware business and wanted to work with any enterprise and mid-level client with a large real estate footprint. This approach enabled us to build a platform that was device-agnostic and scalable.
Any finance or cash-flow tips for new businesses starting out?
Cash-flow is the life blood of any business, a great financial advisor can help you achieve a positive cash flow a lot sooner than you think. If you can’t afford someone full-time or if you are very early in your journey, make sure you get some advice on how to structure your business for success.
Furthermore, a lot of startups don’t charge enough for their service or product. Lots of founders are so passionate about what they do, they don’t mind taking a hit on cost. It’s a lot harder to charge more for your product down the line when you have trained customers on low prices, so from the outset you need to implement the price you believe your product is worth.
If you could ask one thing of the government to change for businesses what would it be?
The government has made significant forward strides towards encouraging more businesses to adopt a net zero strategy, increasing the list of businesses who have to disclose climate-related risks and opportunities from this April is a good first step. However, this should apply to a wider pool of companies. All businesses, no matter how small, have a responsibility to tackle climate change and initiatives like this call out companies that may be just greenwashing their credentials. At Infogrid, we care deeply about this issue which is why we have set our North Star metric to prevent 200,000 tonnes of CO2e in 2022 and have commitments for a further 120,000 tonnes. If we hit our revenue goal for the year but not our North Star metric, then we would not have had a successful year.
What is your attitude towards your competitors?
We exist because we want to ensure every single building on this planet is a smart one, and measuring the impact of buildings on the planet is the first step to reducing CO2 emissions. The more companies that help drive this forward the better. I don’t see competition as a zero-sum game and as Baz Luhrmann sang in the song “Everyone’s free to wear suncream”: Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?
We are guided by our two north star metrics: to be greener and to increase employee wellness. To make more businesses greener, we are betting on our new ESG product in 2022. From talking to customers, we learned that asset and sustainability managers spend way too much time pulling together all of their sustainability metrics into one place. Some need the data to meet statutory reporting requirements while others need it to be able to demonstrate to employees and investors. This data can take months to manually record, but with Infogrid we can access it in minutes and provide actionable insights to reduce your carbon footprint. I’m excited by this new product, and I believe it will go a long way to helping us achieve our north star metrics.