Say goodbye to VentureApp and hello to HqO.
VentureApp, a Boston-based business messaging platform that raised a $4 million round last year led by Accomplice, announced on Tuesday that it has pivoted its focus to real estate and changed its name to HqO, short for Headquarters Optimized.
The company’s co-founders include Chase Garbarino, Greg Gomer and Kevin McCarthy, who previously co-founded Streetwise Media, the parent company of BostInno that is now known as American Inno. (Disclosure: Garbarino, Gomer and McCarthy have not been involved with this publication’s day-to-day operations since late 2014, before the author was hired.)
“They just didn’t need another digital community. That was the harsh reality.”
In an interview with BostInno, Garbarino said the company decided to pivot away from a business messaging platform when he and his co-founders realized that VentureApp had the right concept but the wrong customer. When the company announced its funding round last year, VentureApp’s product was described as a WhatsApp for your professional network, but it turns out there wasn’t much of an appetite for something like that.
“They just didn’t need another digital community,” Garbarino said. “That was the harsh reality.”
With its new brand, HqO, the company is now turning to the world of commercial real estate with its new tenant engagement software platform. The idea is to provide commercial landlords with software that gives tenants easier ways to access amenities and communicate with each other, allowing them to create a greater sense of community within their buildings.
A recent report in Bloomberg gave credence to this idea, pointing to commercial real estate owners like Blackstone Group, which owns 100 Summer St. in Boston, that are creating new amenities like built-in clubs to attract startups with large millennial workforces.
Garbarino said large co-working companies like WeWork have been leading the way in this respect, which has pushed traditional commercial real estate companies to follow the way.
“Landlords are acting a lot more like hospitality groups, like hotels, where they’re trying to create a brand directly with their tenants.”
“Landlords are acting a lot more like hospitality groups, like hotels, where they’re trying to create a brand directly with their tenants,” Garbarino said.
The software integrates into a building’s system and gives tenants access from their mobile phone to various things, including building access and garage entry, transportation and shuttle options, visitor registration and conference room booking, among other things. It also includes a community directory, messaging functionality, event postings and an analytics system that helps landlords measure how they differentiate from competitors.
“We integrate with all of the amenities so that a tenant could order lunch or book a hair appointment if there’s a barber in the building,” Garbarino offered as examples.
As part of its rebranding to HqO, the company announced on Tuesday that it has partnered with T3 Advisors, a commercial real estate firm that focuses on the tech and life sciences industries. As part of the partnership, HqO has built integrations with the firm’s local and national amenities, which will be used for T3’s incubator space.
“The commercial real estate industry is reckoning with the demands of the modern tenant who expects strong in-person and digital community, premium amenities, and just an overall exceptional experience at work,” Greg Hoffmeister, co-founder and managing partner at T3 Advisors, said in a statement. “Simply put, CRE professionals that put an emphasis on implementing a software interface for their property will have an incredible advantage in attracting the best tenants,” Hoffmeister added.
Garbarino said the company, which has 17 employees at 125 Lincoln St., is not currently looking to raise another round of funding, as it is still well capitalized and has plenty of runway left from its previous $4 million funding round.
While the idea for VentureApp may not have shaken out, Garbarino said the new vision for HqO gives the company a more predictable revenue model since it relies on subscription revenue, compared to advertising revenue that would have required a large scale of users.
“This is really a customer pivot,” Garbarino said.