Eliane Lugassy is the brains behind smart buildings
Hi Eliane! What is Witco?
Witco creates 'smart building' software. We aim at elevating the workplace experience, and help companies transition to hybrid work and optimize their office spaces.
Available as a mobile app or desktop application, Witco manages a range of functions, including workplace attendance register, desk reservation or meeting room bookings, employee directory and communication tools, digitalized access, incident reporting, visitor management, concierge services, event organisation and more.
The app has over 50 customizable modules and 100 integrations, and provides real-time data to decision-makers on workspace and service usage and user satisfaction. This technology will be critical to successful workplace management at a time when the work culture and employee expectations are fast evolving.
Where did the idea come from?
Back when I was at Rothschild, I assisted with merger and acquisitions activity for several real estate projects, including the sale of the “Cœur Défense” building in Paris. With 350,000 m², the building had the most floor space in Europe along with the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest. This was an excellent introduction to commercial property.
I could see how the means available to manage the tenant experience in buildings could be inefficient, as the different services available were provided from many different sources with different levels of ease of use and accessibility. Building managers and tenants did not enjoy much transparency or control pertaining to how their building and workspaces were being used and were not getting the personalised services they need.
It was also apparent that offices particularly suffered through inflexible perceptions of their utility, which was unrealistic with the rise of workspace digitization. One office is never identical to another and will always need bespoke services as it evolves.
I wanted to enable more responsive and transparent shared work spaces that could be managed via a single digital touchpoint, enabling range of ancillary services for headquarters through a lifetime of office’s changing purpose.
How is the app going?
We help clients across 200 cities, 800 buildings and 5,000 companies, enjoying an 80% adoption rate. Last year we raised $14m in Series B Funding to expand internationally and we have very high expectations for 2022 as more companies realize that transitioning to a more flexible work organisation and elevating their workplace experience is no longer optional.
One of our clients is leading biopharmaceutical group IPSEN for example, that we have helped equip their headquarters in the USA, Canada, the UK and France in order to offer a unique global experience to all of their employees worldwide. Day after day, we help IPSEN progress towards their goal of taking a “officetality” perspective to their office space and thus re-enchanting the workplace experience through a more serviced and collaborative approach. Thus, IPSEN sees our app as a true everyday companion to their employee.
Other clients are BNP Paribas Real Estate, Vinci, Mazars, Dior Parfums, Guerlain, and Rimowa - who use Witco for their headquarters to improve their employee experience.
What is the business model?
We have a SaaS business model, which means our services are subscription-based with different levels of customisation and services depending on clients’ categories, size and needs. It goes from off-the-shelf solutions with a preset selection of modules and integration that small clients can activate rapidly, to custom-made, white label solutions for our most premium customers.
We have heavily invested in our product and technology and in our customer success teams which allows us today to drive a very high user engagement rate, and have a virtually inexistent client churn.
We serve different verticals from headquarters, to multitenants, coworking and residential spaces, which allows us to have a 360 view of emerging trends in space use. But our particular focus is on serving workplace clients and participating in shaping the “future of work”.
You just raised $14m. Tell us about the process. How difficult was it? What made won over the investors?
Raising funds is always challenging, and Series A is the round where you have to clearly demonstrate your product-market fit, traction, and potential to grow fast. But while Witco was a business with great potential when I founded it back in 2016, showing its relevance in 2021 hasn’t been the hardest part of the journey. Indeed, the pandemic has dramatically accelerated digitization trends across the entire economy, and as the culture of work is being upended, using technology to improve the work experience and adapt to a world in constant flux seems now like a no-brainer.
Investors considered Witco’s potential to not only transform the workplace, but also participating in shaping tomorrow smart cities, making urban life more social, convenient and enjoyable. We are very proud to have raised with Daphni and Eurazeo, who are leaders in the European VC ecosystem.
How did you know how much equity to keep hold of?
As a founder and CEO I think it’s critical to keep the ownership of my company and a high level of decisional independence.
Who is the team behind Witco?
We have an amazing team of about 70 people across Paris, Munich, Barcelona, Madrid and London. France is where our head office is, and we’ve just recently opened Germany and the UK.
Almost 70% of our employees belong to our tech and product team. This is something that differentiate us strongly from our competitors because we’ve invested strongly and early on in our solution to build the best product on the market.
Also, we’re growing fast and hiring!, so if anyone is interested in joining Witco, check our open positions!
You had a strong career in the private sector. Did you always see yourself as an entrepreneur?
I have always had the imagination to solve problems faced by customers. I have also always been determined to live my dreams, and as an entrepreneur you must be determined and believe in your product because starting a business is never easy.
How do you market Witco?
Our strategy so far has been to invest heavily on our product and on customer service, which has allowed us to grow also thanks to word-of-mouth. Our reputation within the business is the most precious asset we have because our clients are very high-touch and recommendations can make a world of difference.
Social media and public relations are also critical to articulating our brand and our mission to elevate the employee experience in the workplace and make office management easier. Our goal is to bring value to the conversation around the future of work, as experts in this field.
How are you progressing in the UK?
We have just launched the UK in the context of our new funding round in late 2021, we’re building our local team there and see a huge opportunity in accompanying companies’ transition to hybrid work. Just watch this space!
What's the five-year plan for Witco?
Expand into the US, establish our leadership in Europe, keep building a better experience for everyone in the workplace and more generally in the smart cities of tomorrow.