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The Future Is Now: “Now you can reimagine your office layout based on real data” With VergeSense CEO Dan Ryan and Fotis Georgiadis

As the next generation of workers come into the workforce, people are demanding a completely different type of workplace experience — focused on agility and collaboration. The expectations of what workplaces look like are starting to change and companies, like WeWork, are reinventing the concept of office space. And with this, real estate and property managers are […]


As the next generation of workers come into the workforce, people are demanding a completely different type of workplace experience — focused on agility and collaboration. The expectations of what workplaces look like are starting to change and companies, like WeWork, are reinventing the concept of office space. And with this, real estate and property managers are demanding more data about how space is actually used — where people spend time, how conference rooms actually get used, and whether office space is being utilized efficiently and is creating a productive environment.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Ryan, CEO and co-founder of VergeSense. After having his last startup, ByteLight, named as one of the most innovative companies in the world by Fast Company, and selling it, Dan is now working on reinventing the future of the data-driven workplace by combining AI software with computer vision hardware for the first time.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been interested in IoT / Smart Buildings for basically my entire career — going back to when I was studying Electrical Engineering as an undergraduate at Boston University. After graduating and working at Bloomberg LP in New York City, as part of a team responsible for valuation analysis on $1B+ of asset-backed securities, I left to pursue an interest in developing a bridge to help us connect the physical and digital worlds. The first company I founded was ByteLight, an early pioneer in developing sub-meter accuracy indoor location services for retailers.

The company was named by Fast Company as one of the most innovative companies in the world in 2014. After selling ByteLight to Acuity Brands in 2015, I worked within their company for a few years before scratching my entrepreneurial itch again by joining Y Combinator in May 2017.

Our team’s interest in starting VergeSense, was really based on bridging the physical and digital worlds of the commercial real estate industry with the new capabilities that AI and computer vision provide. As the price of commercial real estate continues to skyrocket it is becoming an even bigger annual asset for companies. This is a multi-billion-dollar asset class and the majority of properties are often only 50% occupied. VergeSense can maximize space utilization and the overall value of this asset.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

This technology is helping businesses reimagine the office layouts and workspaces that work best for their specific company based on real data. It’s also solving real-time problems.

VergeSense is starting to provide companies around the world with smart sensors that include an image sensor, coupled with an AI-powered cloud platform, to measure people’s utilization of rooms, desks, shared spaces and specific assets/devices (such as a printer or copier). VergeSense’s pre-trained machine learning models and AI run on the hardware, then take over to analyze the data and suggest or automate actions based on utilization. Some of the capabilities of our technology include:

People Counting: Provides a real-time and historical count of the number of property occupants. This is particularly important for conference rooms. We’ve seen data with some of our customers where conference rooms are designed for upwards of 20 people and never see a meeting size greater than four.

Room and Desk Utilization: Gives users the ability to measure utilization rates across a facility — from conference rooms to private offices, to co-working areas

Hot Desking: Identifies open desks and dynamically assigns staff members to their desk to drive workplace efficiency.

Emergency Response: Pulls a count of every person in the building during an emergency event and their status.

How do you think this might change the world?

VergeSense really has the promise to change the way we work. If you start to think about the fact that the average employee will spend one-third of their life — or 90,000 hours — at work, the idea of changing the workplace experience starts to sound a little bigger.

As the next generation of workers come into the workforce, people are demanding a completely different type of workplace experience — focused on agility and collaboration. The expectations of what workplaces look like are starting to change and companies, like WeWork, are reinventing the concept of office space. And with this, real estate and property managers are demanding more data about how space is actually used — where people spend time, how conference rooms actually get used, and whether office space is being utilized efficiently and is creating a productive environment.

Without a platform like VergeSense, you don’t have the data you need to change your unique workplace for the better. Furthermore, first-generation sensors, which didn’t have AI built into them, provided the real-time data, but not the business recommendations based on that data.

That is the real leap forward with our sensor-as-a-service platform. We’re not leaving real estate investors, property managers, and workplace tenants awash in data with no idea what to do with it.

Our machine-learning modules work alongside our computer vision technology to process real-time workspace utilization data that recommends to building managers savings opportunities, better ways to allocate space and personnel within offices, and empowers a more enjoyable user experience.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Right around the time we founded the company, we had a major breakthrough where we spoke directly with potential customers about what the pain points were for deploying sensors in the workplace. I flew from San Francisco for a day trip to the IBcon conference in San Diego in 2017 and walked the floor talking to users. I didn’t have a company at the time, so I represented myself as a consulting firm (DPR Consulting — my initials) and spent the entire day speaking with users and potential customers.

The consistent feedback we received was that solutions were either accurate but expensive to deploy (requiring CAT5 cable, etc.), or easy to deploy but inaccurate (PIR motion sensors, BLE beacons, etc.). No one had really come to the market with a solution that would be easy to install (100% wireless) and provide the type of data accuracy customers were looking for.

We were doing Y Combinator that summer, and that night I flew back to San Francisco to attend the Y Combinator dinner. I debriefed my co-founder on the feedback, and by that evening, he had come up with a potential scheme that would allow us to do people-counting/computer vision analytics on a 100% wireless platform. We had a prototype about two weeks later and got our first large customer deployment about two weeks after that.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Building on our relationship with JLL through the investment from JLL Spark will certainly assist in connecting us to potential buyers within the commercial real estate sector. JLL has 4.6 billion square feet of real estate under management.

We also are looking to scale through the distribution of the VergeSense API as our data is used more by third-party applications. For example, VergeSense data can be streamed to a room booking solution to free up a conference room when no one shows up for a scheduled meeting. This opens up thousands of use cases for VergeSense data to accompany VergeSense applications currently in use across 1 million sq. ft of commercial properties.

We purposefully designed the VergeSense platform to be inexpensive and easy to deploy sensors that measure anonymous data about occupancy in buildings. The product is incredibly easy to install — it literally takes about one minute per device, which allows organizations to easily adopt and scale the solution across their properties with ease. And once they start to see the type of data our solution can generate, we’ve found that it becomes a new source of data that they can’t imagine operating without.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Word of mouth among prospective buyers is certainly a big assistance in publicizing what we are up to. Firms that measure their real estate assets in millions, or even billions, of square feet, and need to maximize asset value, are going to be the first movers and early adopters of our technology. We are going to the conferences and taking part in the dialogue where these buyers are engaging both online and offline.

A big part of our go-to-market strategy is predicated on having an open-data policy, where we make it really easy for our customers to take data from our platform and consume it in the software system of their choice. We’ve integrated our API with multiple leading IWMS, CAFM, and room/desk booking solutions, and many of these partners end up being some of our best customer acquisition channels.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As I mentioned above, our technology can hopefully be part of the solution for creating an experience that changes nearly one-third of most people’s lives. With the rise of sensors like ours and other analytical tools, we can help transform the future design of offices into a data-driven science and make sure we design buildings so that they respond and adapt to the needs of occupants. We want to create a more enjoyable and productive experience for employees when they head to the office.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The AI-powered VergeSense sensor-as-a-service platform creates an information layer within properties. An easy-to-use dashboard provides managers with actionable insights and AI recommendations rather than only giving a view of current data.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow VergeSense on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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