5 Minutes in Multifamily with Jeffery Kok
5 Minutes in Multifamily: Episode #7
Recorded on May 20 by Hyro
5 Minutes in Multifamily—a new video series featuring real estate and #proptech experts sharing their insights on key industry topics and trends, all under 5 minutes. Well, usually under 5 minutes.
For this episode, we were honored to welcome Jeffrey Kok, Chief Operating Officer at Aerwave, Inc. to dish on topics such as:
- Flipping the paradigm of how internet is provided to residents
- Building secure technologies in the digital space (and why you can't neglect this)
- The next trends in multifamily such as connectivity and IoT
Our Key Takeaways:
- One of the biggest trends to look out for is EV charging. We're in an evolution of where electric vehicles are going right now, and there's some really unique organizations out there today that are driving this thought process to electric vehicles and how we develop them within our parking garages. People need to be thinking about so that we're ready for when all these car manufacturers actually flip the switch and reduce production from gas to electric.
- When considering technological demands one must consider the liability of these types of technologies. Technology is vulnerable to attack and so cybersecurity is important to implement.
- Read "The Life of DaVinci" by William Isaacson and thank him later on the lessons learned about innovation, even back then.
Jeffrey Kok serves as the Chief Operating Officer at Aerwave. Kok is responsible for the overall operations of Aerwave, with a particular emphasis on product, project implementation, and network operations at scale. Kok joined Aerwave to help drive fundamental change within multifamily by advancing solutions enabled by the Digital Foundation. He believes Aerwave’s flexible network backbone transforms the connected experience for residents with high-quality, gigabit+ Internet, managed WiFi, and drives investment value to owners with the enablement of Internet, wholesale and bulk WiFi programs, and smart solutions. He believes the foundation for leading a team is following three principles:
• People Matter Most – we are here to enhance people’s lives
• Simplicity – make things simple to drive adoption and operational efficiencies
• Empower – empower people to succeed
Prior to Aerwave, Kok served as the Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Information Officer at Mill Creek Residential. In his role, Mr. Kok was responsible for overseeing Innovation, Building Technology, Information Technology, Cybersecurity, and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) with the goal to transform how Mill Creek leveraged technology as a competitive advantage and increase the value of Mill Creek’s communities. Mr. Kok joined Mill Creek in December 2015 and developed a robust team to digitally transform the organization while driving innovation, automation, investment value, net operating income, and operational efficiencies across development, acquisitions, construction, property management, asset management, and the national services functions. Prior to joining Mill Creek, Mr. Kok worked for Celanese. Mr. Kok held a variety of positions at Celanese and ascended quickly through the ranks. His most recent role at Celanese was Head of Information Security (equivalent: CISO – Chief Information Security Officer) with overall responsibilities for global cybersecurity including SAP Security and Process Control Networks. He led remediation efforts and developed the strategy for the company with regards to data classification, data protection, and monitoring.Prior to Mr. Kok’s appointment to Head of Information Security (CISO), he established and managed a Vendor Management Office that drove tens of millions of dollars per year in savings to the Information Technology budget. Mr. Kok graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems.
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Monica: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining. Thrilled to have Jeff Kok with us today. Jeff, if you don't mind, just giving us a brief introduction of what you're doing today and how long you've been in the industry.
Jeff: Yeah, I'm Jeff Kok. I'm the Chief Operating Officer over at Aerwave. Aerwave is a proptech startup that is expanding the digital foundation within the buildings for connectivity. So we are making IOT work, the buildings become smarter. We're providing resident WiFi managed services to the building and really focusing around how the resident experience can be improved to provide a more dynamic ubiquitous mobility across the community with personalized wifi names through our unique patent, which is a key differentiator to us in the market, and make these rates more affordable to the residents in the end.
But I just started here. And so prior to this, I was at a multifamily owner operator developer for the last six years as their chief innovation officer and chief information officer, I ran technology across the portfolio. And so my focus was building out a proptech team, designing our buildings from the ground up from low voltage cabling, through energy management, water management, smart homes, smart building, and resident internet, audio visual, everything you can think of that touches the building, EV charging.
From there, I also owned all the backend technology teams and then ran an innovation think tank thinking about how real estate effects the future, or how technology affects the future real estate. And then I also ran our environmental, social and governance practice and drove all our sustainability initiatives come full circle with technology to integrate those fully together. So I was there for six years, had an incredible time building that business, but very excited to come to the other side and work on the proptech startups and help more owner operators and developers really understand how to take these technologies and incorporate them into their portfolios to drive their own revenue opportunities and to drive resident experience.
Monica: With your background as chief innovation officer and now building up this proptech team, I am thrilled to hear your perspective on our questions. So let's jump right in.
What are the top three things that owners and property management companies should be thinking about for 2022?
Jeff: So I think the biggest trend that you're seeing right now within the multifamily single family build to rent markets is the idea of managed wifi, bulk wifi, wholesale opt-in models, where you can provide your resident internet that is faster, has ubiquitous mobility throughout the entire community, meaning that your resident will have internet in the garage, the elevators, the corridors, their home, the common areas of many of these spaces and that full experience to them, at a rate that they're going to get cheaper than they would to the traditional internet providers, but a faster and better service as a whole. And so there's a few companies out there focused in this area, innovating and creating and really flipping the paradigm of how internet is provided to residents in it. I think it's really great for competition and what's happening there. So I would say that's number one; wifi managed services, bulk wifi.
The second is EV charging. We're in an evolution of where electric vehicles are going right now, and there's some really unique organizations out there today that are driving this thought process to electric vehicles and how we develop them within our parking garages, what percentage that should be. And I think that's a big thing people need to be thinking about so that we're ready for when all these car manufacturers actually flip the switch and reduce production from gas to electric.
And then the third is AI- artificial intelligence - and its applicability into your business to improve it. And this could be from leasing chatbots into actually doing AI in the leasing process, doing virtual tours with it, showing them the units. They want to see, etc. So much to do with artificial intelligence.
Monica: Awesome. You've covered all the bases. So internet infrastructure, EV charging, and of course I'm biased, I also think AI is very fascinating. So I love that as well.
What are some risks for companies who are hesitant to adapt to today's digital demands and changes?
Jeff: Yeah. So I think a lot of things that funnel up to the top or who owns the infrastructure, right? Who's paying for this upfront, how are we going to turn it into a revenue on the backend? And so the first risk is, is this product actually going to be adopted? Are our residents going to be excited about this and pay for this? Is this an extra amenity fee, or is this just going to become table stakes? So that's a question that you have to ask on a lot of different technologies out there today. Is this something that's going to continue to grow or is it going to plateau and have a cliff at some point?
Other risks that come into that are the liability of these types of technologies, I mean, technology is vulnerable to attack and so cybersecurity is important to me prior to me coming into real estate or to our Fortune 500. And I ran their global cybersecurity team and fought nation states every day. And so the understanding of needing to build secure technologies in this digital space is incredibly important. I think people need to be aware of that and be thinking about that, cause someone's going to get bit and, you won't want it to be you, right? And make the news on that front. So making sure you understand what those risks are and how to overcome them.
So what are you reading/listening to?
Jeff: So I love to read. My wife and I read every night, for the most part. And so I have a bunch of different books I go through from fiction to nonfiction. But the one I'm reading right now that's the non-fiction is by William Isaacson and it's about The Life of DaVinci.
It’s very interesting to hear how he was an innovator and his thought process to innovation is meticulous note-taking. Had 7,000 pages of notes when paper wasn't really, you know, abundant back then. So that's a very interesting one. And then the podcast that I love to listen to that I think is interesting for any startup or PropTech is Masters of Scale by Reed Hoffman. Very interesting podcast, to just think about how you scale a company, he interviews a bunch of different people over the timeframe of his podcast.
Who are some of the trailblazers in the industry, and how can we learn from them?
Jeff: Yeah, I would like to call ourselves a trailblazer, Aerwave. We’re new to the market platform. There's a few of us out there. So you're going to have a few different companies in the bulk wifi space or wifi managed provider space that are going to be setting the trail for really trying to change the paradigm of how internet is provided to residents. So I think that's one of them. But then you look at EV charging and there's some really interesting thought process there of; do you go offline? Do you go online? How do you take resident payments? And I think there's a company called Zillow out there that's a really interesting trailblazer kind of pushing the envelope for how to do electronic vehicle charging at companies.
You have chatbot companies like MeetElise that are pushing the envelope in how they tie artificial intelligence into the chatbot process and kind of pushing things forward there. So really interesting to see some of these trailblazers and what they're doing, but then you have good venture-backed funds that are taking some of these people in like a fifth wall or modern ventures or others, that they have a lot of really good groups behind them. You know, Funnel’s another one, the leasing application that they have. So there's some really good trailblazers out there pushing the proptech space forward, helping owner operators think of how they can turn these services and enhance the resident experience.
Monica: And I love that you brought it back to those three trends that we're, that we're seeing today. So that infrastructure, EV charging and AI.
What do you think is the next big trend in the multifamily industry?
Jeff: Yeah, well, I think we're living it right now. Right? So I think the big thing that's happening with us is everything tied around connectivity, IOT, as a group. So all of these services somehow have to connect into the mothership, so to speak. And so we're seeing that come out, but I think what we're going to continue to see as an evolution here is how 5G comes into the space and starts changing dynamically how we operate with connectivity within our buildings and within the life we have outside of our buildings, mostly 5G is an outside technology today and working on towards the inside.
So I think we're going to see some evolution there. That's going to be really interesting for that. I think we'll continue to see the evolution of where AI really goes and the application of it. I was talking to someone the other day about the Google glass and them using it for remote operators, where we have a disparity in hiring right now with talent of technicians.
And so a lower grade technician can go in that's new and be trained remotely by high-end technician. And that low end technician can learn to become a high-end one over time, but they're doing it remotely. And so you're having this connectivity play into this whole process of how we can evolve the entire space. So it should be interesting to see how that continues to grow.
Monica: I love it. We're living it. We are living the next big, thank you so much, Jeff. This has been an honor, just to hear your perspective, especially knowing that you've made the shift and are now living and breathing innovation in proptech.
Monica: My final question is who would you nominate to be our next guest?
Jeff: I'd ask Eric Roseman. So Eric Roseman was from the Lincoln Property Group running their innovation fund for them and now he's their Chief Revenue Officer over at Zeal. So one of the EV charging companies I mentioned.
Monica: Okay, Eric, watch out. We're coming for you. Perfect. Well, thank you so much. It was great to have you on today.
Jeff: Absolutely. Thank you!
Show Notes & Learn More:
Connect with guest Jeffrey Kok:
Read what Jeffrey's Reading: The Life of DaVinci by Walter Isaacson
Tune in to Jeffrey's favorite podcast: Masters of Scale, hosted by Reid Hoffman
Read more on Aerwave:
Aerwave is the next-generation wireless network platform that makes WiFi Internet faster, better, and smarter. Aerwave is leading the evolution of network intelligence for a better-connected experience. Visit Aerwave at https://aerwave.io/.
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