Tech firm SightPlan plans expansion downtown. Here's what fueled its growth. – Orlando Business Journal

When Joseph Westlake founded SightPlan Inc., the property management software company consisted of Westlake in a 50-square-foot office.
Eight years later, the Orlando-based company just hit the 100-employee mark, with 11,000 square feet of office space in The Plaza building at 189 S. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando.
A red-hot apartment market drove 36% growth in SightPlan’s staff from 73 people in January to 100 in August, Westlake told Orlando Inno, and the president expects more growth in the near future.
Next, SightPlan eyes a potential big expansion downtown. The company seeks $47,500 through the Community Redevelopment Agency High Wage/High Value Job Creation Program to create 19 new jobs over five years. In addition, the company would invest $111,157 this year for space buildout and equipment.
Meanwhile, the company adds new apartment community customers every day, Westlake added. “At our growth rate, it could be 2%-3% of the U.S. population by next year interacting with SightPlan technology.” 
SightPlan’s array of products allow apartment operators to manage work requests, communicate with residents, collect rent, oversee inspections and more. Examples of the technology in action include turning mobile devices into digital keys to save time accessing properties and integration with sensors to alert technicians as soon as an issue with an HVAC system is detected.
The goal of SightPlan is to reduce liabilities for apartment operators and reduce burdens on employees and residents, Westlake said. Prices for SightPlan’s services vary, but they start at less than $100 per month.
SightPlan doesn’t share revenue, but Westlake did say the firm recorded 60% year-over-year revenue growth in 2020. SightPlan is poised to beat that in 2021, Westlake added.
The origins of the company are found in Westlake’s childhood. Westlake would leave Orlando every summer as a child and visit his extended family: developers and property managers in Miami. Every summer, they would put him to work as a maintenance technician at their properties, Westlake said. “It felt like indentured servitude because I wasn’t paid anything other than dinner.”  
Westlakesaid he didn’t appreciate the work as a kid, but he always stayed connected to the real estate sector, even as he forged a career in technology that included a decade at Microsoft Corp.
In a short time, Westlake witnessed a revolution in the property technology sector, known as proptech. For example, proptech companies received only 3.7% of venture capital deployed in 2015, according to CB Insights and PitchBook. However, the industry’s potential caught the attention of investors, and proptech landed 6.8% of venture capital invested in 2019 — equivalent to $8.8 billion.
Today, the company’s biggest challenge is the same as the one most technology companies face: a fiercely competitive labor market. Every industry’s conversion to digital platforms means software talent is in demand in every industry, not just tech, Westlake said. “In the software industry, there’s always been a challenge to find great talent.”
SightPlan tries to overcome this by touting its company culture and benefits that include ability to work from home and ownership options. While SightPlan has a minority investor in Park City, Utah-based RET Ventures, an investment firm backed by multifamily operators across the country, the company is majority employee-owned.
This is important to Westlake, who said 500 shares of Microsoft he owned while at the company gave him the financial freedom to later start SightPlan. Westlake declined to share how much it cost to launch SightPlan, but he said it’s “a reasonable assumption that we’ve invested tens of millions into building our technology.”
SightPlan found traction before the pandemic, but skyrocketing demand for apartments this year accelerated its growth trajectory. A tightening labor market makes it tough for apartment operators to hire the help they need, but a digital solution like SightPlan makes existing teams more efficient, Westlake said. 
The use of software in the property rental industry has made a “night and day” difference, said Adam Wonus, partner of Lake Mary-based Atrium Management Co. Atrium is not a SightPlan customer, but the company has experienced first-hand how software makes work orders, rent collection and showings more efficient, Wonus said.
In fact, $15,000 in annual savings at one multifamily can translate to a $330,000 bump in the building’s value, he added. “I believe that’s one reason we’ve seen value and prices increase so much, because buildings are operating so much more efficiently.”
SightPlan now employs 100 people, with more than 30 additional hires expected by the end of the year, Westlake said. This growth is especially important because Westlake projects 75% of the new jobs will be high-wage engineer and developer roles. These positions in Orlando pay an average annual wage of $95,870, compared to the metro’s average annual wage of $48,530, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Of course, SightPlan is in a lucrative market. The global property management software sector was worth $2.9 billion in 2020, likely to surpass a $3 billion valuation by 2028, according to market research firm Grand View Research.
The adoption of technology among property owners and managers is one of the real estate industry’s most significant emerging trends, the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers reported in the 2021 Emerging Trends in Real Estate report. “Significant opportunities to operate and manage buildings more efficiently are ahead. Hundreds of property tech firms are focusing on creating systems to gather, organize and use data to reduce costs, identify risks and more proactively operate buildings; identify appropriate investment strategies; and better serve tenants.”
OBJ Staff Writer Ryan Lynch contributed to this report.
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