Q&A: Allegion Ventures’ Bobby Prostko talks about the firm’s focus coming out of the pandemic

Bobby Prostko

It was just more than three years ago that security products company Allegion Plc—which is based in Ireland but has its North American headquarters in Carmel—launched a venture firm with $50 million to invest in early-stage companies focused on innovative technologies and products in the security field.

Bobby Prostko is a principal at Allegion Ventures and he talked to IBJ about the company’s recent investments. He is also deputy general counsel, intellectual property and cybersecurity, and chief privacy officer at Allegion Plc.

In the past year, in part due to the pandemic, Allegion Ventures has been focused on companies that make it easier for people to move seamlessly through buildings—whether they be hotel rooms, office spaces or public places—or that help building owners and managers track and monitor the way spaces are used in a post-pandemic world. That includes touchless technologies, contactless check-ins and software to manage space utilization.

And with interest in that area exploding, Allegion Ventures has found several companies in which to invest. Among the companies it’s invested in since the start of the pandemic:

  • Mint House, a startup that provides business travelers technology-aided amenities like secure mobile check-in and keyless entry, digital concierge services, customized pre-stocked grocery delivery and more.
  • Kasa Living, a company that uses technology to make flexible accommodations easier to access and book.
  • VergeSense, a startup that uses cost-effective sensors and artificial intelligence to help building managers and tenants monitor traffic flow in a space.

Allegion Venture’s most recent investment is in Mapped, another firm that focuses on helping owners and managers operate their buildings more efficiently. Here’s what Prostko said about Mapped and the venture firm’s recent strategies.

Tell us about what Allegion Ventures is doing as we exit the pandemic.

So Allegion Ventures is a $50 million corporate venture fund. We’ve been around for over three years now. We’re focused on seamless access. We’re looking at different ways of helping out around people and asset flow.

We’ve made a number of different investments in different companies. … The most recent one is Mapped.

In all different kind of companies and different ways, [Allegion Ventures is] trying to help Allegion as we advance towards that seamless access vision and taking us into the future, using software and some of these other technologies.

How does Mapped fit into that vision?

Mapped is an exciting investment. At a factory or a manufacturing site or at a building, you might have all sorts of different devices—systems like an HVAC system, sensors—that are creating a lot of different pieces of data. But all of those pieces of data might not be together.

What Mapped does is collects all those pieces of data into one easy way for a user or for the property owner to be able to view and use it in any kind of way they want. Whereas, today, [the data] might all be in different kinds of systems, whether it’s the HVAC system and the water may be in a different computer network.

[Mapped] can collect all these different pieces of data so that you can view them and see really what’s happening as a collective, see how that building is operating. It gives you much better control of the efficiency of the building, how it’s operating.

What’s the benefit for Allegion in investing in these companies?

There are several benefits. We have this thesis around our strategy: We build, partner or buy.

So sometimes we’ll build certain new technology, devices or solutions, internally out of Allegion. Sometimes we will partner with companies—and that would be an example here, with Mapped. That’s where we aren’t going to build it internally, but we’re going to partner with [a company] where we find that technology. And other [companies] we’ll buy—we’ll acquire a company where we see that tech.

Sometimes those kind of overlap with one another. There was company Yonomi. We had invested in them and they were a partner of ours and they were providing a cloud solution for us for … probably four or five years. And then we ultimately acquired them at the end of last year.

With Mapped, they have this technology and they’re going to go and accelerate and move very, very quickly in this space. That’s opposed to us trying to build this ourselves, which is just not the right move. Investing in them and letting them go really quickly and partnering with them where they’re the experts in this area, that’s how we can go in this kind of an area.

What is the differentiator for Mapped?

When they’re collecting all this data from all these different sources for the building into one platform, it’s essentially kind of creating a digital twin of that building.

So the person or entity that’s viewing [the data] is able to see like a digital representation of that building, and then be able to do stuff with that data that you wouldn’t normally be able to do. And that’s where the power comes in—being able to then control that building in more efficient ways and do stuff with that we’re just not normally able to do.

There are other things you can look at, too. Are there too many people in one place? Are people being properly socially distanced? When you’re looking at the data, [you can see] where people are located. Are people in the right areas? Is this space actually secure? Are they going to the right locations? Are they using the wrong equipment? Are they authorized to use this type of equipment?

These are some of the other kinds of things that people are looking at. Efficiency. Maybe like turning [equipment] on or off. The way people are using their HVAC systems.

These are efficiency enhancements that you can do when you’re able to actually see more data. As opposed to when you’re only just looking at the HVAC system, when you don’t have this idea of, “Oh hey, no one’s even there, why are we doing this? Why are we driving the air conditioning to high of 68 when nobody’s been there all day?”

Has there been a lot of interest in Mapped?

Companies like Mapped have a lot of competition for being able to invest, right. So there’s no shortage of people wanting to invest in them. And it’s more of like, they’re trying to decide, “OK, who are the right people for us to have as investors that are going to help us accelerate?”

So they’ve seen a lot of growth in interest in them—from the investment side and customer side already, for being as early as they are. And their management team is highly experienced—they’re from Cisco and other places, from world renowned companies. So it’s a highly desirable company to be part of.

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