Week #3

The third, and simultaneously the last, week in NYC was a mix of different company visits and class presentations. From my point of view, the main idea of this week was to prove that a business model, even in a competitive environment with numerous investments banks and successful tech startups, can include social innovation and can have a sustainability impact.

The presentation by Rudin Management was one of the most interesting company visits during the week. Rudin Management is a family real estate holding that has commercial and residential property in its portfolio. Rudin’s portfolio includes only buildings situated in very prestigious areas of Manhattan. They are not interested in any development activities outside NYC because their business interests are concentrated in NYC.

Rudin Management makes long-term investments in property. In general, a time horizon of 5-10 years can be classified as a long-term investment for many types of businesses, but not so for Rudin Management. Long-term investments in buildings for them assume a time interval of 3-4 generations. Tenant satisfaction is a crucial factor for Rudin’s business model, and they are very proud that their tenants are loyal to the company. Thus, Rudin invested a lot of money and effort in the development and implementation of its Di-Boss system (Digital Building Operating System).

The Di-Boss system is an innovative building management system that allows one to control and operate key systems of a building, including water, electricity, heating, etc. in a real-time mode. For instance, using the Di-Boss system, Rudin management can control the temperature inside a building during working time. The system has a net of temperature sensors and access to weather forecasts that helps it to determine when an operator should start heating. This system saved around US$ 1 million per year in one of Rudin’s commercial buildings.

The second visit on Wednesday gave us the chance to get to know rooftop gardening. Ben Flanner, the president of Brooklyn Grange, explained in detail how he started his farming business in NYC.

Brooklyn Grange uses two rooftops as farms. We visited the one that it is located on the roof of an industrial building in the Brooklyn Naval Yards. This roof has a magnificent view of Manhattan. Therefore, it is no big surprise that couples choose this roof for wedding ceremonies. Ben told us that Brooklyn Grange has a relatively diversified revenue structure.  Besides selling vegetables, they make money on space rental, organize visits and workshops, and also provide service for designing and installing roof gardens. The idea of roof gardening has become so popular that they even spun off the designing and installing service as a separate company.

Ben said that in 2012, the valuation of Brooklyn Grange was around US$ 1.1 million, but his business is not a typical startup that can be easily scaled. He says that he did not set a task that every roof of NYC would have a garden. However, Ben does his favorite job (and earns money) and enjoys life.

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