Tapa - The Startup That Offers A Smart, Healthy And Safe Option To Manage Buildings

We had the opportunity to interview Ben Steinberg, CEO of Tapa, a Smart, Healthy and Safe option to manage buildings.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and Tapa?
A: 
I am a technologist and futurist at heart and believe if used properly, technology will continue to improve our lives and allow us to explore new possibilities. I started my career during the internet explosion. When I joined my first startup, I experienced the comradery and excitement of working with a small group of people to build a new business. So, while I have worked with some large organizations over the years, I seem to always gravitate back to the startup community when a good opportunity arises.

The idea for Tapa was first discussed back in 2010 with the company’s now co-investors Paul Meng and Mike Schmitz. They had just started a new system integration business called Smart Building Technologies that focused on installing and maintaining Building Automation Systems. However, we realized at that time the market was not quite ready for the change that Tapa would bring. Then in 2019 we regrouped and started a division within Smart Building Technologies to build a Proof of Concept that was to become the foundation of the Tapa platform.

Tapa is the next generation building automation system making buildings smart. It empowers building owners and operators to drive increased revenues and lower costs to maximize the occupant quality of experience; all seamlessly connected by one unified building platform application.


Q: How did you get the idea for Tapa?
A: The first idea for Tapa came as devices and sensors within buildings started to be connected over building networks and assigned IP addresses. This meant that we could develop a software-based platform that identified, connected and communicated with these devices. At the time the Building Automation System (BAS) market was dominated by a few large proprietary providers like Siemens (SI), Honeywell (HON), Schneider Electric (SBGSY) and Johnson Controls (JCI), but there was also a new market emerging for open systems. 

This is very similar to open source systems in the enterprise software markets developed for accounting, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Management (ERP). In 2000 these large enterprise system markets were dominated by a few large proprietary vendors like IBM (IBM), Oracle (ORCL) and Microsoft (MSFT). However, the internet and open source IP based applications led the way for much smaller, more agile companies to introduce disruptive technologies at a much lower price point.

Knowing that trends repeat themselves, I took my experience from the enterprise software markets and combined it with Paul’s knowledge of the commercial building space to create a next generation BAS. Tapa is a next generation Building Automation Platform (BAP) that will enable proprietary legacy building systems to work with new controls, sensors and IoT devices for real-time, seamless access, management and optimization. Tapa’s unified platform solution will ultimately disrupt and replace those systems with a more flexible and lower cost solution for building owners and operators.
 

Q: What makes your company different from others in your space?
A: Buildings consist of many systems that allow operators to control energy management, HVAC, fire alarms, sprinklers, security, lighting, access, building operations and much more. Traditionally each system is independent from each other and little thought was given to the need for these systems to communicate. Each had their own separate user interface and device. But a unified building platform can integrate and aggregate solutions across systems and devices to boost performance efficiencies, safety and convenience of physical spaces while unlocking new revenue opportunities and cost reductions.

Low cost sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are becoming ubiquitous within buildings, and each is able to monitor, sense, measure, and even control everything from energy use, temperature, lighting, right down to occupancy sensing and Indoor Air Quality measurement. Occupants today are seeking more direct control of their environment and information, particularly in these COVID-19 times. They want to know the building is clean, and safe.

Tapa’s unified platform solutions leverage the building’s internal communication protocol (e.g. BACnet) to connect directly with these sensors and IoT devices to provide a single real-time view of all the building’s systems and the ability to control and optimize them all with one user interface and one device for an improved and safer experience for everyone.

 

Q: What is the main benefit that your company provides to the Smart Tech world?  
A: 
Tapa not only integrates building systems into one unified platform; it is also easy to install, easy to configure, and easy to use, while costing significantly less than traditional building management systems. Because Tapa can integrate and connect all systems, we are creating the next era of commercial real estate technology, the Unified Building.

A Unified Building goes beyond a Smart Building as it copiously connects and integrates all intelligent control systems, components, sensors and connected devices on a single platform to allow seamless access and management, and provides an integrated view of the building on a Single Pane of Glass (SPOG). 

Fully integrated and unified solutions such as occupant sensing, hands-free access, temperature screening and other across-the-building services can now be delivered through the Tapa platform. Real-time sanitation, wayfinding, and location services improve visitor satisfaction and safety. Additionally, workforce-based and logistics applications can help increase productivity and efficiency to improve an occupant’s quality of experience (QoE).Overall, a Unified Building utilizing the Tapa platform can assist building owners and operators to deliver energy efficient and sustainable buildings that positively impact the global environment.

 

Q: Did you hit any roadblocks that almost caused you to throw in the towel?
A: 
While no one anticipated a global pandemic, we had many surprises and resulting pivots. The one that surprised us the most was the initial request from our commercial office building clients to deliver a building monitoring solution. They had sent many people home and needed the ability to monitor multiple buildings remotely and only send engineers to fix critical issues. However, as we delivered remote monitoring, the commercial office building market slowed even more and with tenants choosing to work from home, investments in new technology have been pushed out.

Meanwhile the demand for Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) monitoring in schools, churches, restaurants and public spaces has become a market priority. Given the flexible nature of the Tapa solution, we were able to pivot to meet that need and we are now delivering our IAQ solution across the country.

 

Q: How has creating Tapa changed your life? 
A: 
You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball!– Dennis Quaid in the movie Rookie.

This is how I feel when I get up in the morning. We get to build Tapa! Typically, I am up by 5:00 a.m. and thinking about what we can accomplish for the day. Not to say that there weren’t a few days, particularly when Covid-19 first hit and everything began to shut down when my enthusiasm wavered a bit. However, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start moving forward again. 

Interestingly, the extreme challenges we have faced since Covid-19 hit in March have taught me to take a deep breath, slow down a little and stay calm. This is no time to panic and overreact; there is opportunity to be found by pivoting the company in a way that can help others through these difficult times. By staying positive and focused we have made progress every day, and sometimes it feels like you are crawling and then there is the leap forward that reenergizes everyone and confirms we are heading in the right direction.

In addition to staying positive, I am excited about what I have learned along the way. I have always been passionate about absorbing new ideas and concepts, but know it’s not about learning one new thing a day, it’s about learning 10 new things and putting these new ideas into practice.

Overall, I am grateful for the situation I find myself in with starting Tapa; it has me excited, focused and passionate about building a platform that will help people safely return to schools, places of worship, restaurants and offices. I get to get up every morning and say to my wife; guess what I get to do today? I get to build Tapa.


Q:  Can you put Tapa's system into any building, or does it have to be built in from the beginning? 
A: 
Tapa can be installed in any building, existing or new. Over the last decade, Intelligent Buildings have transitioned to the Smart Buildings of today with central controllers communicating with powerful cloud-based software and Artificial Intelligence (AI) based machine learning applications that can optimize building designs, energy consumption and predict equipment failures before they happen; demonstrating a vast improvement to building management overall. Unfortunately, in 2020, these systems are still disconnected, and sometimes proprietary, leading to multiple applications, silos of data and user frustration. 

Today, commercial real estate innovation is truly taking off both in response to new pandemic requirements and the growing number of new Building Internet of Things (BIoT) devices being introduced to enhance a property’s level of efficiency and overall health and safety.

 

Q: Where are your systems currently available for and do you have plans to expand?  
A: 
Tapa currently has five solutions available - Tenant, Monitoring, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), and Healthy Buildings. Through our partnership with BrainBox AI, we also have our Intelligent Services solution for predictive HVAC currently available. 


Our system is designed for schools, college campuses, places of worship, , restaurants, office buildings, commercial buildings, hospitality, and other similar structures. Our channel partners include system integration companies such as SmartBT, JCM, Carlson Telecom Solutions (CTS), Johnson & Jordon and Mledtech with others being added weekly.

We are very excited to have our solutions listed with Alps Controls- one of the largest HVAC and systems distributors in the world, and to work directly with their network of partners. We are also working with Lynxspring on integrating our solutions for a combined market roll out in early 2021.

 

Q: Are you looking for additional funding or have a crowdfunding campaign? If so, what are you looking for in a potential investor, and how can interested readers get in touch/learn more?
Tapa currently has a crowdfunding campaign with Republic. Interested readers and investors should contact us through the campaign site www.republic.co/tapa for compliance. Others wishing to learn more about Tapa or to become a client can visit our website www.tapa.cc/contact us at sales@tapa.cc.  

 

Q: Is there any advice you'd give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: 
I experienced the collapse of the “Internet Startup Bubble” and I had to shut the doors on a business and the people involved, which was incredibly hard. However, there were businesses that survived and thrived during that time and there are good lessons to be learned from them. So, for aspiring entrepreneurs I would impart two lessons:

First, cool technology is not worth anything if it doesn’t solve a problem that is worth paying for.  Look for the problem, talk to customers and understand where their pain points are before you build your solution.

Second, once you have created your mission statement and set your North Star objective, don’t get too hung up on how your get there. The journey to success has lots of turns, hills and roadblocks, so keep the end goal in mind, enjoy the journey but don’t fight the path as long as it is taking you in the right general direction.

Q: Is there anything else you want to share with our audience?
A: 
Our country is going through an incredibly difficult time right now with Covid-19, the economy and political and social unrest. Things are likely to get worse before they get better, but they will get better. Advances in science, technology, medicine and more importantly our ability to share information and ideas across the world will drive change and create abundance. The cost of technology is dropping rapidly, like the smart phones of today, whose equivalate in computing capability twenty years ago would have cost millions of dollars and now is available to everyone for hundreds of dollars. At the same time, technology advances in genetic engineering, robotics, solar energy, hydroponic crops, 3D-printing and others will add quality of life for everyone at an affordable price. Imagine eliminating hunger, cancer and providing housing for everyone worldwide in our lifetime. Stay positive and excited about the future; there are better days ahead.

Disclosure: Startup Watch is a platform TalkMarkets provides for startup company executives to discuss their companies in depth. TalkMarkets provides a suggested list of questions but the format ...

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Old Time Investor 2 years ago Member's comment

Very impressive!

Ben Steinberg 2 years ago Member's comment

Thank you!

Kurt Benson 2 years ago Member's comment

@[Ben Steinberg](user:145213), I wonder, does making these buildings "smarter", also makes them more susceptible to other risks, such as a power failures, malfunctions, or hacking?

Ben Steinberg 2 years ago Member's comment

Kurt,

Thank you for the question, security is a high priority with all communication between the Tapa platform and the building using the highest level of encryption possible. The building engineer also has override capability on all building systems. In the end, we believe the efficiencies and experience gained outweigh the risks.

Angry Old Lady 2 years ago Member's comment

Impressive, what is the "highest level of encryption" exactly?

Ben Steinberg 2 years ago Member's comment

HTTPS (TLS) adhering to https://ietf.org/ standards.