October 11, 2019
This Small Business Week, we’re featuring talented and driven entrepreneurs in our ecosystem. What drives them? What does it take to succeed as an entrepreneur today? In this interview, we’re introducing you to Ted Maulucci, President of SmartONE Solutions. Ted’s vision started 15 years ago with a dream to combine state-of-the-art building infrastructures with technology to create secure, sustainable, and convenient living experiences & environments – for residents and property managers. SmartONE Solutions revolutionizes how developers unleash their creativity to design new living environments.
Check out other interviews and features in the series here.
What is SmartONE Solutions?
Everybody in North America has heard about smart homes – individual homes having smart technology. But no one has really done smart buildings, where we take hundreds or thousands of homes and connect them together to the same infrastructure.
“Our exclusive purpose is to revolutionize the concept, development and operations of next-generation Smart Communities, simplifying the way in which we connect, collaborate, and live together.”
We’re seeing the smart home market mature in front of our eyes. The convenience of being able to connect and interact with our living space is now the norm. While residents have the ability to install these systems into their homes, high-density residential communities can be more difficult to connect and control. That’s where we come in.
Taking the smart home one step further, we propose the Smart Community, a place where residents not only have the connected convenience inside their own four walls, but extending that simplicity to the world around them, providing convenient, safe, and secure living environments. A place where building managers and residents alike benefit from new technology.
Whether a resident needs to check real-time visitor parking information, inquire about the availability of event spaces, speak to maintenance staff, pick up their parcels, or check video logs to see who visited them while they were away, our solutions not only wow residents, but take the heavy lifting from the building management staff, allowing for a safer and more efficient workplace.
Why is now the time for your company to exist?
There’s smart everything out there, but no one’s ever really looked at a smart community in this way. Smart home technologies solve certain issues but there’s an even greater need for smart building technologies.
What is your vision for SmartONE Solutions, and where do you see the company 10 years from now?
There are two elements to this. The first part, in absolute terms, has to be our financial objectives. Are we going to hit the growth that we want to hit? Are we going to close enough contracts? If we don’t do that we can’t exist – but that isn’t our primary driver. The second element to this question, what I jumped past initially, is: What is the most exciting element of this?
We’ve installed a building that has been operating flawlessly for over a year. It’s now the most advanced building in North America, and it’s won awards for being that, but this is only the beginning, and there’s a lot of room to grow and innovate. We received government funding, and are funded to go into four research labs in Universities across the country. We have a smart system network that can connect devices and sensors to our wallpads, and we have compute power in the building for machine learning and artificial intelligence. We have a giant communication platform with many tools, so academic researchers can come on the back end of our system on open API’s, and start to create assisted care technologies.
The measurement of success to me is how many new solutions can be created and introduced to the market.
“I learned early on to just give, without asking for anything in return. Do good things for other people. The more you just keep giving and doing the more your world just kinda works.”
Researchers come up with great things, but have no way to bring them to market. While volunteering at Waterloo and University of Toronto, there was always the question of how do we increase the collaboration between academia and business, and how do we commercialize research? With this platform, when a researcher comes up with a concept, they don’t need to come up with all of the network, ticketing and communication software to turn it into a solution, because we already have it.
There are two elements to it. One is on a pure business level: Can we hit this growth? The other side: Can we actually make this collaboration a reality, and how many commercialized products can we come up with using the platform? I know this will probably take a couple more years to get to that endpoint. We are installed right now at the University of Toronto. The money has just kicked in and we are going into Waterloo, Ottawa, and the University of Alberta, and we’re going to branch from there.
Is hitting those goals what you consider success?
Yes, the key to this is to become a platform company and become an enabler and not try to control. I always say I’m having a party and everybody is invited, because the more people that join the more fun that we will have.
“You don’t need resources; you need resourcefulness. You need the right story. If you do something of meaning, people will join you.”
What’s most exciting thing about the work you’re doing?
This feels like destiny to me. Everything in my life led me to this career path. I was a construction super and built buildings; as a CIO at Tridel I architected software. I have a natural affinity towards building things. Everything has really come together: hard construction, networking, and software development to create SmartONE.
What’s an early lesson in life that helped shape who you are today?
I wouldn’t say there was a specific lesson, but I learned early on to just give, without asking for anything in return. Do good things for other people. The more you just keep giving and doing the more your world just kinda works.
An ex-CEO just reached out to volunteer her time with us. She wanted to be involved in something interesting, and reached out to us. Many companies feel they don’t have enough resources, and we have people volunteering with us just want to be part of this. You don’t need resources; you need resourcefulness. You need the right story. If you do something of meaning, people will join you.
How has being involved with ventureLAB helped your company?
I am happy I came here. The introductions ventureLAB has made for me have all been very useful. You’ve always pointed me in the right direction, most recently toward BDC. BDC has helped us with loans to provide funding as we bridge for our contracts to kick in. Chris Cory has been great on the investor-side of things, and Jane Gertner has made several other introductions. We’ve been introduced to investor groups, and guided on reviewing term sheets. I have never done this before and all of this support has been extremely valuable.
I appreciate everything you guys have done to help. Helping create the story helps create the growth.
If you weren’t building your startup, what would you be doing?
I’ve come to the realization that what I’m doing is what I’m supposed to be doing. Everything in my career trained and taught me to be where I am at this moment.
It was hard to go from being a CIO, where you’re getting paid good money and you’ve got stability, to this. But I believe it’s fear that keeps you from the path that you’re supposed to go down. I look back at the people I used to work with and think, “Look at what potential you have; why aren’t you using it?” Fear holds you back.
I’ve had the same fear, and now I’m starting to become comfortable… but when I left I wasn’t comfortable. The truth of it is that being uncomfortable is how you grow. You can coach yourself with different reading and things to get through the journey, and I’ve had people to help me get me through it. These are the people that come out of the woodworks and help. These are your angels.
I needed to transform in order to be in this position, but I don’t think I could have ended up anywhere else. As I watch my life, it feels like everything is opening and I’m falling into what I’m supposed to do. The right things seem to happen and the right people seem to come around.
“Culture is the most important thing. Culture is the piece that drives the company, and if you can create this feeling of love and inclusion, nobody can touch you.”
How did you make the transition from CIO to CEO?
I have been pursuing smart buildings for 15 years searching for the right technologies and business models to make it a reality. It took incredible persistence. I worked for a really innovative company but it took forever to get them to adopt this path. I finally completed the pilot project, a 700 unit building with tech out of Korea. When I got to the top of the building one of the guys that was an entrepreneur who represented the company from Korea said, “Why don’t you become an entrepreneur? You’re the only guy in the city that knows how to do this.”
I spoke to the owners of Tridel, as I had worked there for almost 30 years. The owner said to me “I’m talking to you like you’re my son, I’m supportive of you. You go out and you do this and I’ll help out however I can.” They’ve been great. They’re a client now. They’ve given me additional projects, and business is flourishing.
Also: culture is the most important thing. Culture is the piece that drives the company, and if you can create this feeling of love and inclusion, nobody can touch you. But people don’t get that; too many people are still ego-driven and believe that it was them that created the company, and it never is. It’s the people.
“Do it because you believe that your success will make a positive impact on the world.”
Do you have advice for other small businesses and entrepreneurs ?
The hardest part is the perseverance to not give up and to keep learning. If you hit an obstacle, think about how you’ll get around it, and how you’ll partner with the people around you to get around it. The biggest thing I learned from the transition from CIO to CEO is that I am not driven by a desire for more stuff. I don’t want anything else and I don’t need anything else. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about actually creating something you’re proud of. That’s the driver in this, and the rest will work out.
“Managing Corporate Life Cycles,” by Ichak Adizes, is a great book on the startup journey.
What does it take to succeed as an entrepreneur today?
I can’t say that I am any expert to suggest that I know this answer, but my impression is that it is about persistence and flexibility. Most important, don’t give up.
You also won’t do it without the enrolment of other people. Do it because you believe that your success will make a positive impact on the world.
When it comes to people, it is about love – the sincere concern and care for other people. Just be good and do good things and everything will fall into place.
Learn more about SmartONE Solutions.
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About Small Business Week: A BDC initiative in its 75th year, Small Business Week is a national celebration of Canadian entrepreneurs and their contribution to Canada’s economy. Every year, close to 10,000 entrepreneurs gather to learn, network and celebrate the people building businesses across the country. Find an event near you.