Technology is at the heart of Common, but not in the ways one might think. Many experiences at Common – from payment to door locks – are enabled by new technologies. But this isn’t the Jetsons. Our members are looking to live in a home, not a Silicon Valley experiment in connected devices where your toaster can send an email.
Technology at Common lies in the background, seamlessly making the member experience better, rather than being displayed front-and-center at our homes. But to the extent that a home can be made better through reliable innovations, we’re there. So today we wanted to share a bit about where technology touches the Common experience.
Traditionally, leasing an apartment in a city like New York is an extraordinarily painful process. A prospective renter must show up on site for a tour with cashier’s checks in-hand, including enough to cover the broker fees, security deposit, and first (and perhaps last) month’s rent. Wading through reams of legally-binding paper to actually sign a lease is similarly bad.
We tackled this experience head-on as one of our first technology projects, building an online experience that covers payment, agreement signing, and suite and room selection. All in all it takes about fifteen minutes. Common software engineer Joel wrote about it at length here.
Our onboarding experience also makes our jobs easier, which means we won’t have to hire as many people to do what we do, ultimately driving down the cost of living at Common over time. A great example is billing and payments: rather than hiring a person to manually collect checks, as many property management companies do, we automatically notify members of due balances and debit their bank accounts at the end of every month.
Technology improves the member experience here as well. We allow any Common member to switch to any open room across Common with 24 hours’ notice. This will be an increasingly large part of our value over time as we expand to more neighborhoods and eventually beyond NYC. Seamless online room-booking technology – which we’re building this year – will enable this flexibility.
Community at Common
Every Common member is on Slack, and there are channels for individual buildings as well as neighborhoods and special topics (e.g., #bookclub, #deals-and-coupons, #techtalk). Common Community Leader Danny wrote about our Slack communities at length here – it’s a key part of the Common experience.
But Slack’s role goes beyond simply connecting members. Property management issues are reported and resolved via Slack. We make it really easy to snap a photo of something that has gone wrong and get feedback from a team member within hours. Of course, Common members can still call us with any issues on a 24/7 staffed phone line, but we’ve found that many in our community would prefer to just Slack us the problem.
There’s a lot of buzz around in-home hardware and devices. From voice-activated home assistants to wifi-enabled water bottles, connected devices have been the subject of much hype and parody.
At Common, any device that goes in the home must:
- Sit in the background. The focus is on the home, not the technology.
- Reduce the member’s workload, not add to it.
- Work seamlessly and reliably at scale.
Interestingly, my favorite recent hardware innovation is one of the most simple: the LED Edison bulb, which combines the energy efficiency and life of an LED with the warmth of an Edison bulb. It checks all three boxes: it doesn’t stick out as whiz-bang technology, it takes work off the member by reducing light bulb outages, and it works reliably.
Nest thermostats, Sonos speakers, and GESI smart locks have also met our standards, and we’re always on the lookout for new products – and ways to integrate those products together.
There’s a lot of work left to be done here, and building our software engineering team is one of Common’s priorities for the second half of 2016. There’s particularly exciting work to be done using software to better connect our members and further improve the Common experience.
In addition, we need to keep curating and integrating in-home devices, both with each other and with the software that underlies Common. There’s a lot to do with technology and our community, and I’m excited for the future.
Want to live in a Common home? Apply here.
We’re growing our engineering team. If you love technology and want to be a part of the future of living, apply here.