Building better buildings
AkitaBox has developed software to help building owners manage buildings better.
Todd Hoffmaster co-founded AkitaBox with three partners in 2014. In the last year, the company has grown from 11 to 83 employees.
Photograph by Sarah Maughan
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Years ago, BASF, a U.S. chemical company, ran a media campaign that went something like this: “At BASF, we don’t make the dress, we make it brighter.” Or, “We don’t make the plane, we make it lighter.”
At AkitaBox in Madison, named for a Japanese dog known to be both loyal and protective, the company’s software doesn’t clean or secure a building, but it makes facility management more efficient and effective.
“We don’t sell security, we are a secure software company,” states CEO Todd Hoffmaster, who co-founded the company in 2015 with three others: Robert Steinbock, chief technology officer; Josh Lowe, chief customer officer; and Luke Perkerwicz, vice president-strategic partnerships.
AkitaBox software provides digital tools that give building managers everything they need to ensure that building systems such as HVAC, electrical, or plumbing are updated and running effectively, which in turn can add life, safety, and security to a building.
Hoffmaster worked in construction for several years, using technology to build buildings better and more efficiently. While at Mortenson Construction, he led the technology team on construction of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, a joint venture between Mortenson and J.H. Findorff & Son.
Through the years he noticed a recurring problem: for all of the technical intricacies required in maintaining complex buildings, there was no place to store all of that data for quick access by facilities operators.
Hoffmaster observed companies making expensive decisions based on inaccurate information simply because crucial pieces of information weren’t readily accessible, or were stored “in someone’s head.”
With AkitaBox, the co-founders set out to develop something easy and simple to use that Hoffmaster said would get to the root of the problem: the collection process.
“Buildings constantly change,” he says. “If you think of them like people, they’re temperamental, seasonal, fully occupied or not fully occupied. The biggest challenge is changing software solutions to coincide with a building’s changes.”
How a building operates is not top of mind for the average individual, but they do expect areas to be clean and plumbing to work. “There’s a whole team of people behind the scenes making that happen.” Hoffmaster says. “If that team doesn’t have the correct information, that building could be in decay or not functioning properly.”
AkitaBox focuses primarily on institutional buildings in education, local government, and health care, structures that Hoffmaster says, “hold the building occupants and their safety in high regard.”
The company’s software quickly collates a building’s information into an intuitive interface platform that keeps a record of what has been done throughout the building’s life, by whom, and which tasks should be done — and when — to keep it running efficiently.
It will alert people when an issue needs attention or, if a building owner is considering capital planning or renovations, the record can help them make informed decisions about whether a building needs to come down or an asset should be replaced. “All those things are interconnected,” Hoffmaster says.
But the first step is a visit from an AkitaBox team to validate that a building’s information is accurate, from square footage to floor plans, to the location of fire hydrants or sprinklers.
“If you map something, it exists. We use floor plans as our map. It’s very simple but there’s a lot of power behind that information,” he remarks. It also allows building owners and managers to focus on managing the building rather than worrying about where the information is.