Ben Taylor had just moved into his first apartment in the Midwest when he came up with an idea to improve it.
“I was doing laundry and looked over at the wall and saw the intercom system,” Taylor said. “I had the thought, ‘Why doesn’t this thing connect to my phone?'”
It took a little over two years, but Taylor recently debuted the product he thought of in 2015. His startup, Doorport, which he moved to New York City to launch, will sell a smart intercom system called Arrive.
“I didn’t see anyone doing a smartphone, video intercom on a level every building could adopt,” Taylor said. “I saw this obvious need in the market for this, with technology we have in our pockets today.”
Doorport’s intercom turns residents’ smartphones into their keycards. Having a connected smartphone in your pocket will automatically unlock the front door. More significantly for residents on-the-go, their phones will also ring when unannounced visitors or FedEx deliverymen push the intercom button. Tenants can then let in deliveries or their friends when they’re not at home.
Landlords and property managers are Doorport’s customers. During a pilot phase developing the product through the real estate technology accelerator MetaProp, the startup installed its intercom in a few co-ops in New York. A 48-unit building in Murray Hill was home to the flagship test. In total, Doorport is operating for “hundreds” of units and in contract for “thousands,” Taylor said.
“Particularly for a very, very urban setting like this one, we’re making quick headway in solving real problems for building owners,” Taylor said.
The intercom has to use its own hardware and software, so it doesn’t integrate with other intercom systems. There’s a $1,000 upfront cost to get it installed for landlords, with a monthly subscription fee of $3.50 per unit. Installation is free in the New York area, or Doorport will find a contractor to handle installation for between $100 and $200 in other parts of the country.
Tenants download the Doorport app on iOS or Android to use its features. If they don’t have a smartphone, they can use backup options like getting a phone call when someone buzzes for their apartment.
If a tenant’s phone is dead or they don’t have it on them, they can use a backup key fob or a one-time four-digit entry code that expires after it’s used. If a phone is stolen, either a property manager or Doorport itself can turn off key access.
Residents can send weekly or one-time guest passes to their friends and family that those visitors would then access via a web link to get into the building when the resident isn’t home. For guests who aren’t included in that category, Doorport’s product works just like a regular intercom. They still push the button for the apartment in question and wait for an answer.
To grow its reach, Doorport is focusing on large apartment complexes and New York real estate families and companies that own several buildings. If a landlord with a smaller building is interested, though, they can order the product and get it installed for a building of any size. A few four-unit buildings in Brooklyn and Queens have already installed the intercom, Taylor said.
“For smaller buildings that don’t have that access control infrastructure, it’s allowing them to bring the same level of control and amenities that larger buildings would have to their tenants,” Taylor said.
Taylor worked as a healthcare software developer before launching Doorport and moved to New York last April to start building out the product. With his other two team members, they’re moving beyond the technical to learn the world of real estate.
MetaProp is Doorport’s investor so far, and the company is working out of its Grand Central WeWork office now to raise a seed round of funding.
Throughout its time in the accelerator, Doorport focused on refining its user interface for residents. This year, the team will work on integrating artificial intelligence to automatically recognize frequent guests and creating an installation kit so anyone working at a building could install the system on their own.
Next, the startup wants to build other smart entry products for multifamily buildings.