The widespread adoption of flexible work has increased the challenge of managing access to physical, commercial buildings, given the dynamic nature of hybrid workspaces. With today’s staffers coming and going to the office on unpredictable timetables, it can be tough to keep track of which have access to rooms and office resources.
In a recent survey conducted by HID Global, an independent brand of access control conglomerate Assa Abloy, 41% of businesses said they believed that their current system met requirements — down from 51% in 2021. HID Global, being a vendor, isn’t necessarily impartial. But it’s not inconceivable that there’s truth to the assertion access control has become harder than it once was.
Chip Kruger certainly believes so. Hurdles in the access control space spurred him to found SwiftConnect, a platform for handling space booking, visitors and meetings in physical offices. Kruger previously partnered with Matt Kopel, SwiftConnect’s other co-founder, to start Waltz, an access control company launched in Kopel’s dorm room that was acquired by WeWork in mid-2019.
Kopel briefly worked at WeWork, but left to found SwiftConnect in 2020. “We had the idea that the flexibility and on-demand nature of access control that WeWork wanted was now going to be a requirement of every owner and occupier for their own buildings and offices going forward due to changing work patterns, including the increasing number of people working on-site and remotely,” Kruger told TechCrunch in an email interview. “SwiftConnect also tapped into the fact that administrators were also seeking to use physical space and real estate more efficiently.”
SwiftConnect — which today closed a $17 million Series A round co-led by JLL Spark Global Ventures and Navitas Capital — sells access to cloud services that tie together existing credential providers, reader terminals and other business systems. The company provides tools to automate identity, credentialing and permissioning steps for office spaces through mobile devices, for example a dashboard that allows admins to issue credentials to access certain buildings to iOS devices via Apple Wallet.
Using SwiftConnect, employees and tenants can add their employee badge to Apple Wallet on the iPhone or Apple Watch after an initial set-up process. Once added, the badge gives them access to enter their office building, office space and shared fitness and amenity spaces secured by NFC-enabled locks.
“As hybrid and flexible work have made the execution of seamless access control ever more challenging, commercial building owners and operators are increasingly seeing it as both an opportunity and a pain point they’re trying to solve,” Kruger said. “On-demand, connected, mobile-first access control is a requirement for most organizations who want their access control system to enable a more dynamic space where access permissions and credentials must change based on space booking or other context.”
SwiftConnect isn’t the first to market with a mobile-centric access control management platform. Openpath, which has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture funding, offers a solution that allows workers to replace their physical access cards with the phones they already have. But Kruger emphasizes that — unlike Openpath — SwiftConnect’s system doesn’t require installing any new reader hardware.
But what about when your iPhone dies? Well, Kruger doesn’t have the perfect solution to that problem. He notes, though, that Apple Wallet on the Apple Watch works even when the ultra-battery-saving Power Reserve mode is active. As for the all-too-common misplaced phone scenario, he suggests Apple’s Find My app.
“For users of office spaces, SwiftConnect’s platform means they can enjoy coming back to the office with a ‘skip-the-wait’ experience that gets them from street-to-seat efficiently and without ever having to worry about a plastic badge again,” Kruger said.
The plug-and-play nature of SwiftConnect’s approach seemingly appeals to large real estate clients like Silverstein Properties, which installed it in its 7 World Trade Center office building in February. SwiftConnect more recently announced a collaboration with Microsoft to develop “intuitive, employee-centric” experiences on top of Microsoft Places, Microsoft’s app for managing office workers across hybrid work campuses.
That’s surely music to the ears of SwiftConnect’s investors. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global access control market was worth $10.31 billion in 2019 and could reach $20.02 billion by 2027.
Kruger said that the Series A, which SwiftConnect plans to put toward growing its professional services and engineering teams as well as expanding its presence across the U.K., Europe and Australia, was raised to “weather any potential economic headwinds.” It brings the startup’s total cash in the bank to $27 million.
“We have product-market fit given our traction, deployments, happy customers and growth,” Kruger said, while declining to answer questions about revenue or customer count. “We are receiving significant inbound interest from other verticals and geographies, including financial services and tech companies occupying spaces in premium locations in Europe and Australia.”
A mix of real estate and institutional investors including Nuveen, Cushman & Wakefield, Bridge Investment Group, Crow Holdings, World Trade Ventures, 1414 Ventures and JAMF, the Apple device management vendor, also participated in SwiftConnect’s latest equity funding round. SwiftConnect currently has 70 employees, with an expectation to reach 80 by the end of 2022 — a hiring spree largely fueled by the proceeds.