Plan4 Software and the Evangelical Church of Baden-Württemberg

Video interview with PropTech Startups

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Plan4 Software
Digitalisation for the construction and real estate industry with efficient software

Evangelical Church of Baden-Württemberg

The PropTech start-up PLAN4 offers a software-based solution to make building refurbishment digital and more efficient. One of its customers is the Evangelical Church of Baden-Württemberg, an example of cooperation that Dr Hendrik Seibel, Managing Director of PLAN4 Software GmbH, talks about in an interview with Christoph Baier. He also provides valuable tips and tricks for successful collaborations, both for start-ups and companies.

Christoph:Hendrik, who are you and what do you do?

Hendrik: I have a doctorate in architecture, process facilitation and a certified Scrum Master. In 2018 I founded PLAN4 Software GmbH in Freiburg together with Thorsten Harig and Bernhard Mehring. With our software PLAN4 Building Check we make the renovation backlog of existing real estate transparent. Our customers are primarily architects and experts, property owners and local authorities, recently also real estate agents through our cooperation with Sprengnetter. Gebäudecheck provides a reliable and efficient cost calculation of refurbishment measures for all of them. We want to create a mobile condition assessment, with the promise that the assessment is faster, more digital and more accurate than traditional methods, such as notebooks, tables, paper and folding rule. In the past two years, we have been able to win many customers, including inventory holders. These include the Protestant Church of Baden-Württemberg, the EG Wohnstift in Maxdorf, and the QualiKonzept office of Renato Mezzelani near Friedrichshafen. The city of Constance has also become a good customer and development partner of ours.

Christoph: Can you give us an example of a cooperation?

Hendrik: I would love to, I would just take the Protestant regional church in Baden-Württemberg, which approached us in spring 2019. Of course, churches, like so many other property owners, have a very heterogeneous building stock that has been managed over the years by a wide variety of employees with a wide range of resources. Like companies, churches must also prepare annual financial statements and balance sheets. And for this it is of course also very important that they know what kind of renovation backlog I have in my buildings? What provisions do I have to make? What do I have to invest in buildings in the next few years? The church approached us and asked whether we could provide an efficient and uniform solution for the renovation backlog of their building stock with the building check.

Christoph: How does the company, or in this case the church, benefit from working with you?

Hendrik: So far, it is indeed the case that many architects know this from practical experience. You run off, have a folding rule and a notebook with some construction plans in your hand and try to get an impression of the building in a site visit, which usually takes two to three hours. Back in the office, you try to pour this information into Excel tables in the form of measures and costs. This is complex and costs a lot of time. With building check there is the possibility that one develops simply a standardized evaluation procedure. In the case of the church, they said that we have different types of buildings, such as churches and kindergartens, and for each type of building we would like to have specific evaluation steps that we would like to record. We have shown this accordingly in Building Check. This means that after twenty minutes you already have an initial incidence of how high the renovation backlog is for this building. And if it is more complex and I have to deal with this building more intensively, I can fall back on the catalog of measures, which is already stored with the building check. That way I don’t have to collect the measures myself.

Christoph: Twenty minutes sounds very good. Then there’s the question, how did you feel about the adaptation? So, how much did you adapt for your customer and how much is a standard product? What is the difference?

Hendrik: That was actually the big advantage, our software is structured in such a way that it can be configured very freely. Basically, it could also be adapted by the customer himself. We gave a little help at the beginning. The church gave us their specifications and we simply implemented them. It was also exciting for us to see what the end result would be. The evaluation steps that we adapted are basically provided by the software and can be adapted by each customer. So you really only need us for support.

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Christoph:That sounds great. Hendrik, from your experience in cooperation between companies and start-ups, what tips and tricks can you tell us? What can you give both sides to make the cooperation a success?

Hendrik:On the one hand, the most important thing is that you get in touch with the companies at all, and that you basically draw attention to yourself. You have to see where the companies are and where you can dock as a startup, and always focus on the needs of the customers. The startup is not an end in itself, and you should always make sure that you use the valuable input that customers give you to develop the product further. It is very important not to lose focus in the process! Because of course there are customers with very different wishes, we noticed that at the beginning. You have to decide what makes the most sense, has the greatest potential for the future and offers the most added value for the customer. That is the first thing you do.

Christoph: And are there any tips for companies that you can perhaps give from your experience?

Hendrik: Yes of course. For us, it was incredibly valuable to have a company like the Protestant regional church, which knows that we are still at the very beginning. But who are nevertheless willing to give input, develop their specific problems and trust us to develop a suitable solution. This is something that many established companies and stockholders should do. You should simply have the opportunity to develop things together and that includes the possibility of making mistakes. But you are always at the beginning of a development and the most important thing for us startups is that our problems get a chance. They have to be brought to market and tested so that they can develop further.

Christoph: Absolutely, very good tip. We’ll be right back to the topic of the future, what will move you in the next few years?

Hendrik: I think in our field, and you can see that in the whole industry, the topic of AI will be very important. Machine learning is also very important in condition assessment, and will be one of our big points in development in the next few years. If you think even further, you can also come to something I always call the democratization of the assessment process. This means that even private users can easily perform a condition assessment. Parallel to this, we will of course continue with the expansion of sales. At the moment we are preparing to enter other countries, such as the DACH regions and Benelux.

Christoph: Exciting, then we can expect a lot from you! If someone wants to reach you, what is the best way to do so?

Hendrik: The best way is through our office in Freiburg, where Thorsten Harig is our first contact person. He is usually responsible for organization and communication. When it comes to technology, and if you want to develop something together with the customer, then I am certainly the first contact person as an architect.

Christoph: Great! Thank you a lot Hendrik, for the time, the introduction, and also for your tips and tricks!

Link to PLAN4 Software GmbH.

Link to Websiteof theimmobilienmanager.

Disclaimer: Rudolf Müller Medienholding GmbH & Co. KG holds a stake in Plan4 Software GmbH and has a close relationship with immobilienmanager. The interview was conducted by our partner Ambivation. Further information can be found here: https://ambivation.com/2021/01/15/collaboration-interview-with-startup-plan4-software-protestant-regional-church-in-baden-wurttemberg/

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