We talked to Dr. Vincent Chow about how En-trak helps building owners and managers make buildings more comfortable, sustainable, and efficient; this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dr. Vincent Chow: Thank you. We are doing ok in this challenging time. We are coping with the situation, and we hope the situation will improve soon, and life can get back to some form of normalcy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded En-trak?
Dr. Vincent Chow: I am the CEO and founder of En-trak. We are an Alibaba-backed property technology startup based in Asia. Founded in 2013, we develop and market IoT solutions for commercial building applications to improve occupants’ thermal comfort and satisfaction and make buildings more efficient and sustainable.
Before En-trak, I was a solar PV system integrator for businesses and homes. The business was profitable, but I soon realized that it was not creating the impact I thought it would due to the space constraint in Hong Kong. The effect on carbon reduction is minimal, and paybacks often took decades. We wanted to change how people approach energy efficiency personally, and we wanted to create a more significant impact on carbon emission and drive sustainability. This was when we decided to launch the En-trak™ Tenant Experience Platform (TEP), an HVAC & lighting on-demand solution for commercial buildings.
How does En-trak innovate?
Dr. Vincent Chow: Our mission is to make buildings more efficient, productive, and comfortable places to work, all while helping to reduce carbon footprints and operating costs. Occupants are often disconnected from the building. HVAC and lighting systems are run on schedules and designated loads. This is why you often see people wearing jackets in the office during summer, and empty meeting rooms are cooled even when no one is using is. We wanted to solve this problem. We can improve the tenants’ thermal comfort and satisfaction, optimize building energy efficiency, and help landlords attract and retain quality tenants with a smart solution.
En-trak TEP is a consumer-facing application that enables building occupants to control and personalize their office temperature and lighting using their smartphone. Unlike other solutions in the market that rely on deploying expensive sensors that require maintenance, we believe human beings are the best sensor. Temperature preference is a very personal thing and is continually changing due to time of day, seasons, what you wear, and many other variables. Therefore people are the best sensor for their perceived comfort. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithm, the system learns individuals’ preferences to fine-tune the most optimal work environment. The data provides unparallel insights into how space is being used and how temperature is distributed across the facility.
Our clients typically see between 5% – 20% saving on their HVAC energy costs and 25-40% on their lighting costs. Occupants are happy and comfortable, and landlords end up with lesser energy expenditure and lower carbon emission—a win-win solution for occupants, owners, and our planet.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dr. Vincent Chow: This unfortunate event poses many challenges to us, including our team, our partners, and our clients. Many places were in lockdown, and people had to work from home. Business priorities change too. We have to adapt to the new norm of doing things remotely and meeting clients online.
On the positive side, this pandemic has also forced companies to adopt digital transformation in their offices and buildings. As companies re-thinks the purpose of their office space, landlords are pressured to improve tenants’ overall experience and satisfaction to attract and retain quality tenants and stay ahead in the game. Many companies chose to work remotely or staggered teams; many asked why the building’s air-conditioning and lightings were all still turned like business as usual, despite the lower occupancy. We were even fortunate enough to deploy our solutions to SE. Asia cities, including Jakarta and Bangkok.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dr. Vincent Chow: As a growing startup, we face challenges every day. But COIVD is different. Its impacts are global and still no end in sight. Many businesses are suffering, and the global economy is slowing down. Many of our customers worked from home, which also slowed down the communication and decision process. We saw many well-funded prominent startups hitting the rock when their funding stopped. Many companies start retrenching their team, but after discussing with our team, we made a conscious decision to stick through it together. It was not an easy decision, but I am glad we did. We used available downtime to review and improve our internal processes and documentation to emerge stronger after the crisis. This is possible for us because we already had a revenue-generating SaaS business model.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Dr. Vincent Chow: Stress is part and parcel of life, especially in a growing startup. I don’t have any particular way of dealing with it. I am an optimist. I try to keep a positive mindset at all times. We make plans, but we know that plans can never keep up with changes, so there is no stressing point. It does not solve problems. Think slow, act fast, and tomorrow will get better.
How do you plan to stay in the game?
Dr. Vincent Chow: In any B2B business, understanding the corporate structure, their pain points, and different stakeholders’ agendas and viewpoints are crucial to success. We have had a good head start in this industry, and over the years, we have built a deep relationship and understanding with many leading developers across Asia. Today, over 450 world-class clients are using our award-winning solution. We are a close partner in their digital transformation journey. Our mission is to make buildings more efficient, productive, and comfortable. We have an exciting pipeline of new features that will enhance tenants’ experience within the built environment in sync with UN SGD goals. We have built a healthy eco-system of partners into our open platform to work seamlessly to deliver maximum values to our clients and continue to do so in the next 12-24months. Of course, we are fortunate to have the strong support and guidance of our investors.
Your final thoughts?
Dr. Vincent Chow: Focus, focus, and focus. In this ever-changing landscape, it is essential to focus on what and where you are trying to get to. The pandemic may have disrupted many initial plans, but it will be over one day. So you got to be ready for that day.
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