In many condo buildings, communicating with your fellow residents isn’t easy or necessarily effective, according to Joseph Nakhla.
“You would just maybe go to the corkboard downstairs and see if there’s anything posted on it,” the founder and CEO of Bazinga Technologies told the Georgia Straight in his Yaletown office. “We all know how much we read that. Maybe if it was something really urgent, like alerts, it would be put underneath the door, and imagine what that’s like for a 40-storey building. But that’s how it is being done right now.”
That’s why Nakhla’s Vancouver-based startup has created what he calls a “platform for homes, communities, and neighbourhoods”. Released in 2012, Bazinga is a private social network used by more than 800 buildings in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. In March, the Bazinga Home app launched on the iPhone.
Nakhla demonstrated how a 700-unit building in Toronto and a 50-unit building in Surrey are using Bazinga. Each building has its own Loop, a Facebook-style news feed where property managers post vacation notices and strata-council-meeting schedules, and where residents—who have profiles and avatars—ask questions and share photos.
Meanwhile, each unit is “completely digitized” by Bazinga’s Home feature, which shows residents their unit’s statistics, floor plan, appliances (with manuals), and documents. Residents can see the availability and rules for amenities, such as the pool or party room, and book them in real time. Another feature, powered by Foursquare, displays information and ratings for businesses in the neighbourhood.
Nakhla noted that residents can comment on posts on the Loop, as well as send each other private and group messages.
“It’s easy for you to use it on mobile for you to connect with your neighbour,” Nakhla said. “We don’t want the awkwardness that occurs in the elevator to occur on the platform.”
Real-estate developers, property managers, and strata corporations pay an upfront licensing fee, dependent on building size, plus an average of $2 per unit every month to use Bazinga.
Mathew Peake, cofounder and chief information officer of MiCasa Online, told the Straight his Vancouver-based company charges property managers and stratas less than $1 per suite every month for its web app. According to him, the idea behind MiCasa, released in 2012, is “using technology to simplify strata living”.
Twenty-eight buildings in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and the Okanagan are using MiCasa, which is the successor to Thiink Strata, another web app for condo residents. Its “productivity” features allow property managers to post notices and residents to collaborate on tasks.
Peake noted that MiCasa has five or six competitors in the Vancouver area alone. He asserted that there’s “a lot of room” in the market.
“Every strata is different,” Peake said by phone from Whistler. “Every strata has a different operating environment and a different structure, so there’s a solution out there for every strata in B.C.”
Although Bazinga is geared toward condos, Nakhla noted that apartment buildings are also using it. On June 25, Bazinga announced a partnership with Toronto-based Tridel, Canada’s largest condo developer, which will expand usage of the platform to almost 100,000 homes. According to Nakhla, Ontario’s Remington Homes has also signed a deal to use Bazinga in a subdivision with 240 houses.
Bazinga employs 40 employees in Vancouver and doubled the size of its office to more than 6,000 square feet in June. Nakhla mentioned that he’s looking at expanding into the U.S. and other countries.
Growing up in Alexandria, Egypt, Nakhla lived in a five-unit building, where five families shared a single phone and bought groceries for one another. Nakhla recalled being “really intrigued and also alarmed by the level of disconnectivity” he encountered after moving to Canada. He sees Bazinga as a solution to the “hunker-down effect”.
“I think it all starts with two people living next to each other with a common wall—just any type of relationship is a good start, and then you can work your way from there,” Nakhla said.