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The Romanian PropTech ecosystem needs more support – Mark Oancea, Vox Technology Park

Mark Oancea is the Development Director at Vox Technology Park, our latest partner and addition to our client portfolio. Vox Technology Park stands out at a higher magnitude through its focus on cutting-edge technology, constantly being a pioneer in the country through its projects. We wanted to go a little bit more in depth and learn more about the way they integrate technology within their activities, about Vox Assistance, the way the pandemic affected them, and their future plans.

You can watch the full interview here, in Romanian, on our brand new YouTube channel or read the sum-up below, in English.

Highlights:

  • Being tech focused also helps treating your employees right and becoming more environmentally friendly
  • Being BREEM certified helps you validate your project and should be on the list of any real estate developer
  • The Romanian PropTech ecosystem needs more support and shared knowledge in order to grow
Vox is technology oriented

There is a certain perception in the market that Vox is technology oriented. And this is a true opinion, as Mark shows this through the various projects in which they have integrated or developed tech features. Furthermore, for them, technology, entrepreneurship, and a powerful company culture go hand in hand as they don’t identify themselves with the classic real estate developer model.

This idea that Vox is focused on tech comes from the fact that we have always had projects in the innovation and technology areas, combined with a component of pure Romanian entrepreneurship.

Our group has a big software development component and we have witnessed everything in the development of the Romanian IT industry – manpower, the way we work, how we work, where we work from.

We have a philosophy. We’ve started thanking people who choose to work with us and not the other way around. Valuing so much the people we hire means that the place they work from is extremely important. This is how we got to be focused on tech.

There are various projects and companies under the Vox umbrella, Vox Technology Park and Vox Vertical Village being only two of them. The group is active on other markets, such as America and Asia and is extremely active in software development. Their work in biometrics translated into innovative projects such as biometrical identification based access at Vox Technology Park.

We continue to believe that access cards are very outdated, they are not safe, they can be easily passed from one person to another etc. Thus, we at Vox Technology Park have developed an in-house solution that we have also implemented – Vox Access. It is based on phone access, authentication happens on your own phone, on your smartphone, biometrical data never leaves to an external server, there is no external validation. Everything happens on your phone.

Another tech oriented initiative is this time centered around mobility. As they have observed that parking and transportation are some of the most frequent concerns, Vox Technology Park bought a BMW I3 full electric fleet and signed a partnership with the Romanian company Flow.

We bought a BMW i3 full electric fleet, with dedicated charging stations, that any tenant from Vox Technology can use free of charge. It obviously works just for us, it’s not working as a classic car sharing service, where you can take and leave the cars at a point B, where another client can use them. We don’t monetize this service, it’s just an incentive for tenants.

Then, we signed a partnership with Flow. Flow is a Romanian electrical scooters company. We are the first to bring them to Timisoara. They use a slightly different system, but as we are entrepreneurs and supporters of everything related to Romanian entrepreneurial communities, we chose Flow to the detriment of other competitors. Today we have a docking station, the first docking station in Timisoara was installed at Vox. Tenants can use the scooters as part of our services.

Being responsible towards the environment

Being technology focused also translates into becoming paperless, for Vox. Giving up paper is not just a way for them to be more eco-friendly, but also mean to set an example.

We’re trying to be paperless. We have a project running and we are implementing it at our level. We wanted to eliminate paper because we believe Romania is the world champion and producing paper.

And if we, the private sector, don’t try to do this, we cannot be an example for others. This is one thing. And this happens through software, full digitalization, and workflows. Your solution from Bright Spaces also eliminates a lot of paper that was printed and passed from one decision maker to another.

The challenges brought by the pandemic are either a problem or an opportunity

The pandemic affected each of us one way or another. But Mark thinks that as long as we see it as an opportunity to innovate and as long as we understand that its effects are going to be present, we will be able to find some viable solutions that, of course, include technology.

Obviously, many people are taking precautions and we see that coming back to office happens step by step and with many precautions. We cannot guarantee that we are COVID free. I think that if we understand that we are going to live with it for a certain period, we will reach some solutions that will provide a level of confidence that we can get treatment, it will help us resume, one way or another, the life we had before the pandemic.

Vox Assistance

Being able to give a helping hand is vital for Mark and Vox, thus, during the pandemic, they developed Vox Assistance – their answer to some of the needs people faced.

We created Vox Assistance in order to help tenants and tenants’ employees whom we also consider our partners and collaborators. If they needed anything during the pandemics, we were at their disposal. Our entire BMW i3 fleet was available to any tenant and employee, of course through a dispatch system – if you had an emergency, if you needed medication, food, transportation from A to B in a safe environment, we created this Vox Assistance.

Of course we didn’t promote this. Our goal was only to help as much as we could, as it was an extraordinary situation for everybody.

On being BREEM Certified

Vox Technology Park was recently BREEM certified, Outstanding – the highest degree given to a functional building. For Mark, this validates their project once again and he thinks that any building should aim towards being certified by an international organization.

It obviously helps us to be certified and to validate that our developments have a certain degree of quality and we are aware about our impact on the community. We are aware of the CO2 footprint present in what we do. It helps us to be positioned where we want while having an impact as small as possible and while being sustainable. 

Of course, there are many organizations that can certify you as BREEM and there is an entire process to earn it. But I think that being BREEM certified should be at least an aspiration. 

The Romanian PropTech scene

Mark’s opinion on the Romanian PropTech scene is that this ecosystem is still at its beginnings, as we don’t see yet too many opportunities for these startups to mature – and this also involves a lack of shared knowledge.

There are one or two PropTech hackathons happening. But at the end, nobody or very few take it to the next level of creating the product and validating it. On the other hand, there is an obstacle put by those involved in Property, because there isn’t or maybe they aren’t willing to share knowledge, so that those working in tech can understand the need in the market.

This has led Vox to creating their own solutions and to support the ecosystem in any way they can.

As we didn’t find what we wanted on the market, and people usually want it “now” we’ve started creating them. Including the access part, it took us two years to develop it before building Vox Technology Park.

They have been giving opportunities to other partners or startups by organizing hackathons, by supporting Innovation Labs i.e., by being one of the supporters of angel investment in technology in Romania. We’ve done these things because someone must offer the opportunity, and results will follow, we need the playground.

A question for Bogdan Nicoara

Similar to the previous interview, with Paul Clark, Bogdan asked Mark to switch roles and invited him to ask one question. Though not an easy choice, Mark went for our approach on the residential market.

We’re thinking about this, we’re even thinking about a partnership with a company that could support this, because a startup has limited and/or extremely limited resources, so while having a tight runway, we must achieve big accomplishments that prove scalability and many times, this means a vertical development in an industry on the specific field we started with and only later on a horizontal development.

To be honest, this new residential vertical looks very interesting and we’re analyzing it, said Bogdan.

To sum it up, technology, development, ecosystem support and organizational culture are some of the main focus points for Mark Oancea and Vox Technology Park. Only by combining all these components we can achieve innovation and sustainability and these shared values make us proud to have them as our partners.

You can watch the full video interview, in Romanian, here: https://youtu.be/zz7-n0qOAnc

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