Eric Vermaat is one of the founders of 12CU, a start-up that develops software for analyzing ‘resident’ patterns of larger office buildings with a simple method. “Our project for Rabobank includes 14 offices with in total 11,500 workstations. The occupancy rate can sometimes become 20% more efficient.”
How would you describe 12CU in a tweet?
“With 12CU, you save square meters. Optimization of operating an office, which can considerably reduce costs.
And a bit more extensive?
“12CU, pronounced as want to see you, is a solution that helps organizations consisting of 800+ workplaces to use their limited space more efficiently. In the app, users can see where workplaces and meeting rooms are available. 12CU is purely intended for use within the office. For example, Rabobank has optimized the large building at Utrecht Centraal with 12CU. The office has more than 2,000 workstations and with our help, the occupancy rate has increased by 20%.”
Which problem do you solve with 12CU?
“Invisible vacancy. Employees are professionals in complaining about their workstation, but rarely anyone says: ‘This wing is hardly used, what can we do about it’? But we also offer convenience for the office residents with our app.”
Where does that convenience become visible?
“If the employer wants to remain attractive for the digital generation in the future, the office will have to become an easy and flexible living room. Our software makes that possible. In addition to occupancy, you can also think of applications for the well-being of your employees and in the field of catering and cleaning.”
How does it work for an employee?
“The app tells employees where they have to be. Imagine this: you are looking for a place to be able to work on a challenging task in peace and quiet. You can go to the 19th, 20th and 21st floor and waste your time on finding a workstation that meets your demands. If you check the 12CU app, then it will show: ‘Go to the 14th for a concentration job’. It works that simple.”
What do you tell the people who ask you: “Why should I use 12CU?”
“When you ask the average employee ‘Would you like a salary increase or three square meters of extra space?’, the choice is made quickly. Introducing 12CU and encouraging employees to use it, is a step for companies. But I would say: use our software, because in the end, it generates money for the entire organization.”
What is your personal fascination with the subject? What did you do before?
“I have been working in IT since the ‘90s, and I had two other companies that I sold before 12CU. The mismatch between business premises and their ‘residents’ fascinated me. It became clear to me that you can use algorithms that measure where and how things go wrong and that you can use data from an already existing Wi-Fi network. An interesting combination, which ultimately led to 12CU.”
How long did the development of 12CU take? What was the biggest challenge?
“It took two years to get the algorithm good and make it reliable. We supply customers with a reliability percentage. For that, we had to calculate and validate a lot of data. After all, an organization with accountants has a different dynamic than one with consultants. Validation was our biggest challenge. And then making the algorithm self-learning.”
How many users does 12CU currently have?
“About twenty thousand. Another major bank that has done a pilot with 12CU is ING. We have recently added Fontys to our portfolio. This university has various locations in Brabant and Limburg and is the first educational institution that will work with us. New to us is that we’re going to serve both students and teachers and that we’ll have to take their timetables into account.”
Which type of customer would you like to add to your portfolio?
“Governmental organizations, such as ministries and provinces. There is still much to do there.”
What has been the most striking user experience you have heard so far?
“It came from the management of one of our customers. They were shocked by the lack of insight they had on their occupancy rate. With 12CU, it proved to be improvable by about 15 to 25%. That was not their lack of expertise as they knew their employees very well. But how they moved around and what they did in terms of workstations: that was unclear, although they did record numbers.”
Do you have competition? Who? And do you see them as ‘hard’ competition or as cooperation partners?
“All smart building applications need reliable traffic data, which we provide. For example, Mapiq could offer its customers additional value by using our reliable information.”
How are you going to overthrow the field with 12CU?
“By moving from ‘measuring instrument afterwards’ to an instrument that indicates the probability of an expected occupancy rate. You can compare it to a ‘weather plume’. You can forecast the future and get a certain degree of certainty about the future situation based on dozens of factors.”
What is your revenue model?
“Licenses for software use in the customer’s data center or subscriptions for use in the cloud.”
You have participated in the ISS Innovation Exchange, what did you obtain from that?
“Because Accenture and ISS customers are exactly our target group, we have gained some nice contacts. It was noticeable that the awareness about the well-being of employees and a low occupation rate varies enormously per organization. For several organizations that I spoke to, this is a hot topic, while others are not in the process of doing so. I wonder whether this is luxury or ignorance of an organization.”