How do the owners and managers of multi-unit buildings communicate effectively and quickly with tenants? Peter Mansour CPA created a solution with Strata Alert.
By Martin Lenehan
As the founder of building notification platform Strata Alert, Peter Mansour CPA took a keener interest than most when residents of Sydney’s Opal Tower were forced to evacuate after their units were deemed unsafe in December 2018.
Cracks in the walls of the 38-storey building at Sydney Olympic Park resulted in some tenants being moved into temporary accommodation for several days.
Mansour, who launched Strata Alert in May 2018 after receiving a New South Wales Government Technology Grant, believes his app could make life a lot easier for tenants caught up in any similar situation in the future.
“The feedback from Opal is there will be a lot of changes to construction and building codes, and the technology we are developing just happens to be right in that space at the moment.”
Mansour says the app provides more accurate information for owners, improving their ability “to get on top of something and get it in the hands of someone who can fix it”.
“The people at the Opal Tower had to create their own Facebook page to try and connect with each other, and were sent down the road to a hotel where the developer had a desk set up. On Strata Alert you would instantly have that information available and it is there forever.”
Within nine months of launching, Strata Alert had 7000 individual users, and 25 strata managers pre-registered to join when the app went residential in February.
A graduate of Charles Sturt University, Mansour has run his accounting firm, Peter Mansour and Co, for 27 years, and it was his time as chairman of the body corporate in his Sydney office block that planted the seed for Strata Alert.
Frustrated by the number of emails and phone calls required to report problems and get them fixed, Mansour decided to take action.
“For us to be a smart city we need to have smart buildings, and that motivated me to set up Strata Alert,” he says. “In New South Wales alone we have 2.5 million people who work or live in a managed strata property, so there is a huge demand to be able to access information.” He says the people who sit on the owner’s corporation and the strata committee do so on a volunteer basis, which can be daunting given the enormous value of the assets at stake.
Through Strata Alert, tenants can report issues to building managers and the app creates a ticket. If a ticket has already been created, tenants can like it to show their support.
Cutting strata administration time
As with most start-ups it wasn’t all smooth sailing early on, and Mansour says he confronted plenty of “shirt fronting” from the industry.
The doubters were soon won over when Mansour showed them how Strata Alert worked.
“They were dumbfounded. They couldn’t believe how easy it was. People can come and go and all the manager has to do is send out messages to a particular group or category.
“If there’s an issue in your building – say the lift isn’t working – you create the ticket, the strata manager instantly gets it and automatically notifies every person,” adds Mansour. “That eliminates a stack of phone calls and emails and everybody is up to date.”
Strata managers can also schedule automated messages and send “response required” messages, which Mansour says is a far more efficient way to communicate with owners and a committee than via email.
Further vindicating his faith, and his A$250,000 investment, Strata Alert was a winner in Westpac’s Business of Tomorrow Top 200. Finalists were awarded a place in Melbourne Business School’s Take on Tomorrow program, giving Mansour the opportunity to expand his business network and connect with peers. Having run his own business for more than two decades and already having experience in start-ups with online travel networking company Q2Connect, he entered his latest venture with confidence.
“I’m not afraid of failure, but I’m really afraid of regrets,” he says.
“Start-ups have that stereotype of people who are young or niche and understand technology, but older people should not be discouraged from a start-up purely based on their age.”
When it came time to take a punt on Strata Alert, Mansour wasn’t about to be discouraged, despite the scepticism of strata managers.
Just a year on and those same strata managers are telling him the technology will make their jobs more profitable and productive. Mansour also expects it could prevent costly litigation over issues with multi-storey buildings, which has been forecast in the wake of the Opal Tower evacuations.
“By creating the ticket on Strata Alert, it means no one can say an email is in spam and they never got it,” says Mansour.
“Once you can change people’s behaviours then the sort of investment we’ve made doesn’t look so huge because there’s a massive market size and Strata Alert can be scaled worldwide. We’re rolling the dice, but I think we are on track.”
One piece of advice
You can’t just focus as a start-up on generating revenue. You have to solve a problem and the only way to solve a problem is by changing people’s behaviour.
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