Riggs Kubiak, co-founder of Honest Buildings, has created a thriving business around real estate transparency. Honest Buildings connects owners and tenants with professional assistance from architects, engineers, contractors, brokers, technology specialists and other real estate professionals. But unfortunately, when it came to securing a high-speed internet connection in one of his company’s first office spaces, Riggs found the process significantly less transparent.
Honest Buildings’ former office was located in the Woolworth Building, at 233 Broadway, in between City Hall and the World Trade Center. And Riggs loved the space. It had an open floor plan, lots of sunlight, great views, and plus, the space came fully furnished. Riggs was also able to snag a short-term sub-lease on the space, an attractive option for his growing startup. All in all, the Woolworth Building was perfect for Honest Buildings. But after a while, he soon learned that there was one major problem.
“As a tech company, we absolutely needed a strong internet connection. When we signed our lease for 233 Broadway, we were under the impression that we would have a high-quality connection. We were told that Time Warner was already in the building and that there were also other service providers to choose from.” he recounts. When he initially signed the lease, Riggs, like many other tenants throughout New York City, thought he would be able to “plug-in” his company’s computers to the network and start business immediately, without any hassles.
When Riggs moved his business into 233 Broadway, he quickly realized that the building wasn’t as wired as he thought. Though there were many providers and carriers providing internet connectivity within the building, none of the wiring extended from the corridor of the Woolworth Building to the center of the office floor, where all of Riggs’s computers and devices were located. “When we first moved in, we spoke with Time Warner and asked for voice-over IP phones." he remarked. "We went ahead with the VOIP phones, but the internet connection was so touch-and-go that own sales people had to use their own cell phones to make calls. On a good day, our internet went out once or twice a day. On a bad day, it could go out upwards of 8 times a day. Because of that, Honest Buildings was paying TimeWarner for internet service (for VOIP) and the cell phone bills of our sales people because they couldn't always rely on the phones in the office.”
The limited connectivity in the building was limiting the company. And it was up to Riggs to figure out how to get his business wired. But just as Riggs was losing hope, his landlord informed him that the Woolworth Building would be wired for fiber, the latest internet cabling technology available. Unfortunately though, hope quickly faded as the process to wire the building unfolded into a lengthy and expensive one. “Our internet connection just wasn’t cutting it. We found out that the Woolworth Building was going to be wired for fiber, so we decided to pursue that option. We had to go through our building to get wired and we signed up with a company to lay the fiber. While we’re making the switch to fiber, Honest Buildings actually lost phone and internet connectivity entirely. And our new fiber service provider told us that we wouldn’t get fully wired for months.” he said.
Riggs was angry and disappointed. Physically, the space was perfect for his business, but without a reliable high-speed internet connection, there would be no business. Riggs’s internet nightmare is one that plagues many other New York City tech tenants. “Many tenants think that when you rent a space and internet is available, you can just 'plug-in and go'. But, this really isn’t the case. Just because a building is wired, or has the ability to be wired, it doesn’t mean that your actual floor is connected. Sometimes, the wires extend only to the corridor and it is up to the individual company or tenant to wire from the corridor to their devices, like computers or phones. This can take months. When it does, it’s crippling to a tech company that can't exist without the internet.” he said.
When it comes to solving the connectivity issues that plague commercial real estate, Riggs believes that tenant education and transparency is key. “Tenants need to know the right connectivity questions to ask, so they can make the best decision for their business, especially when their business is technology and internet dependent.” Riggs said. “Tenants assume that they can just plug-in and go on day one. Brokers pitch you that buildings have access which is technically true, but I think that tenants need to be more specific about what this means,” said Riggs, “Tenants need to be asking brokers the right connectivity questions. WiredScore provides a real benefit by priming tech tenants about what they should be looking for in a space, whether that be available providers, infrastructure or connection speeds. And even more importantly, about what questions to ask and what the answers to those questions really mean.”