At 16 years old, New York native Joe Fasone made the tough decision to postpone high school and college indefinitely, and take advantage of an early opportunity with the real estate tech industry pioneer, WeWork. He ran all things information technology (IT) for the tech giant as they scaled globally in Amsterdam, Canada, Tel Aviv, London, and other cities around the world. By the time he left that position, WeWork had 16 open locations with 30 more under construction. During the expansion process, Joe had a first-hand look into the very real problem that all companies faced when searching for new or building out existing office space…a lack of reliable internet access to support innovative work.
Now 23, Joe is running a multimillion dollar company that’s focused on solving this exact connectivity problem. We caught up with Joe to ask him some specific questions about the vital importance of business internet, and how Pilot is enabling a more connected future.
What were the pain points in which you experienced, that led you to start Pilot?
While building all those locations out with WeWork around 2012-2013, a key part of my role was figuring out how to get fiber in each location. As you would go from site to site, we realized that despite working with what we thought was an enterprise demographic, we struggled quite a bit. Sometimes because there was fiber in a building but no one to actually provide the service and the cable was laying there dead or dormant, and other times there was fiber right outside the doorstep but the cable wasn’t inside.
As members started to move into their own offices and they didn’t have our resources, they came to me and said hey Joe, how do we get this same level of connectivity in our building which might be a tiny loft in chinatown or something in the garment district. I would have to break the news that it often wasn’t possible. They would have had to sign a lease with one of the select few buildings that had existing connectivity infrastructure. If they wanted to undertake a process to gain fiber as they had at WeWork, it would be a six plus months process, a 3-5 year contract and $3-$5K per month to get basic internet that worked. I thought that was wild relative to all the fiber that exists underground. So I started PilotFiber with the goal of helping office owners and developer navigate the landscape of fiber installation and understand the importance of high speed connectivity for now and the foreseeable future.
“If you have a completely leased building and you don’t have fiber in the building then you’re lucky at best…”
How has connectivity in office real estate evolved over the last five years?
Building owners are investing more in fiber and even overbuilding a lot of fiber infrastructure in preparation for future needs.
If you have a completely leased building and you don’t have fiber in the building then you’re lucky at best. One of the key factors in marketing is having gigabit internet at the ready. Especially class B or B+ owners being more proactive than we expected because they know when they market the space, all the tenants are going to ask what internet providers are available.
What’s interesting about class A is that a lot of class A buildings have 4-5 fiber providers in them but a lot of that infrastructure is 10-20 years old and most of it might have been run directly to a single tenant. So you think you have a provider in your building but little did you know that cable stops on the first floor, so what happens when your tenant on the 50th floor orders fiber? That provider is going to have to come in a redo all their work. We work with a lot of portfolios where we come in with a turn-key solution for the entire building that’s pretty much invisible. There’s fiber run from the basement to the roof and any tenant can get service within 5 days.
The biggest trend is, people want fiber!
How should building owners and developers be thinking about connectivity in 2018?
It’s your #1 utility.
Landlords are recognizing this is the number one thing they can do to keep tenants happy aside from keeping the lights on. And that’s out of their control, having fiber is in their control and landlords are going to be making proactive decisions about how to future-proof their asset and how to keep their tenants and fiber is going to be a big part of that.
What we’re also seeing is landlords getting more savvy about their building systems. As they get more savvy, systems are connecting, monitored and on the internet so landlords are going to want fiber for themselves as much as for their tenants which will continue in 2018.
How will owners & developers who embrace connectivity as a necessity, be better prepared to adapt to the needs of their tenants in coming years?
A future-forward landlord is looking at what providers are willing to have a full building distribution, that’s super minimal, that’s using my existing space and risers and doesn’t require any power. Providers also need to prove that they can scale from 10 gigabits to 100 gigabits over time as tenants needs change and grow.
How will connectivity change the way people work in the next 10 years?
Where we’re not quite prepared are the data formats that we’re used to working in are going to getting larger and larger. The resolution of video only increases as screens get larger. We’re seeing that has people want high definition media whether video, photos, etc. As we start working outside of our laptops and more in applications, that’s nonstop data being transmitted between you and the internet. The need for bandwidth is only going to increase and I can’t emphasize that enough.
I can imagine a world where you buy a laptop and there is no operating system on it. You turn it on and it connects to the internet and it loads your screen and everything from your computer from some server in the cloud. When we’re at that stage, we’re talking a ridiculous amount of bandwidth so I only imagine the needs that are increasing in the next 10 years.