Already installed in 465K+ apartments, ButterflyMX is the five-year-old company that redefines the role of the intercom by opening doors for people everywhere. ButterflyMX cutting-edge wireless, touchscreen hardware pairs with its mobile app software that allows residents to easily manage property access through their smartphones. ButterflyMX’s smart intercom solution provides video calling straight to smartphones – reducing the need for clunky in-apartment hardware and from a landlord’s perspective – expensive in-building wiring. If you are expecting visitors, ButterflyMX generates a unique QR Code or delivery pin that provides access for visitors to enter the building with ease. The solution is already used by some of the biggest names in real estate including Greystar, Bozzuto, CA Ventures, Lennar, Lincoln Property Company, and Equity Residential.
AlleyWatch caught up with Founder Cyrus Claffey to learn more about its recent funding and how it plans to be the smart intercom of choice, serving the millions of multifamily units and commercial buildings in the US. ButterflyMX is already in 4,500+ buildings, representing close to 500,000 units, and 1 million tenants.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
The investment round was led by Volition Capital, with participation from Egis Capital, RiverPark Ventures, and Stifel Financial Corporation. We raised a total of $35M in this latest growth equity round and have raised more than $40M since 2017. As part of the investment, Roger Hurwitz and Robert Chefitz of Volition Capital and Egis Capital will join ButterflyMX’s board of directors. We’re excited to have them join our board of directors and to leverage their years of industry expertise as we look to move aggressively into the next phase of what’s been a great journey so far.
We are the creators of the smart intercom. ButterflyMX enables tenants and property management alike to effortlessly control access to a building from any location. With ButterflyMX, tenants enjoy being able to see, speak, and grant building access to visitors via their smartphone, and building staff benefit from simplified property operations and management — allowing their teams to focus on higher-value tasks rather than managing and granting property access.
ButterflyMX eliminates unnecessary building wiring and in-unit hardware that comes with traditional video intercoms, significantly reducing installation costs for property owners and developers. Whereas it could cost a 200-unit building up to $250,000 to install a wired video intercom solution, ButterflyMX’s wireless hardware costs a fraction of that amount to install.
ButterflyMX has been adopted in buildings developed, owned, and managed by the most trusted names in real estate including Greystar, AvalonBay Communities, Bozzuto, CA Ventures, Lennar, Lincoln Property Company, and Equity Residential. Because of the tremendous reception we’ve had by our users and the market, we’ve grown over 100% year-over-year since we launched commercially in 2015. We are now in almost 4,500 buildings representing close to 500,000 apartments and 1 million tenants.
What inspired the start of ButterflyMX?
The idea for ButterflyMX is similar to that which drives the creation of many successful startups. Solving a huge pain point in someone’s day-to-day life. Around 2010, I moved into a renovated 3-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. It was an amazing deal, the view was incredible and the landlord put in top-of-line appliances and fixtures. The only thing that wasn’t updated was the intercom. It was the ugly plastics box mounted to the wall in the kitchen, which had been painted over a thousand times. There were three buttons: “Door”, “Talk”, and “Listen”, and none of them worked. You never heard who was downstairs at the front door, and you had to press all three buttons at once like you were playing piano keys to open the door. And worst of all, you had to be at your apartment to let in a visitor such as a delivery person. Of course, I kept missing deliveries when I was out exploring the city or had to be physically in my unit when I wanted to let friends and family up to the rooftop — it was a total pain.
That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head. This was the era of the iPhone 4, where you could already stream YouTube, and Apple had just launched FaceTime so I knew you could stream video to a mobile app, I should be able to open the building door from my smartphone too!
At the time, I was involved in designing building technology infrastructure, so I knew who all the key stakeholders were and had lots of ideas about how to create a better product. I wanted to put the consumer at the center of the property access experience and build our go-to-market strategy around them. Nest and the iPhone were the inspirations for the design and intuitive UX and customer support. I believed that providing seamless visitor access to the millions of people living and working in multi-tenant dwellings was a valuable service.
Over the years we’ve grown, learned, and evolved. We continue to invest in new products and features to offer a more robust solution, including adding virtual keys, voice commands, facial recognition, and more. Through all of this innovation, however, our core value proposition remains the same since our founding: to enable people to open and manage doors from their smartphones.
How is ButterflyMX different?
By combining hardware and software, we’re able to deliver a better property access experience for residents, visitors, and property staff. Our touchscreen hardware is intuitive and familiar, any visitor instinctively knows how to use it. Our mobile app software is simple yet powerful, ensuring you can easily open and manage doors for yourself or others without compromising security.
Fundamental to our success is that we have transformed the experience for visitors, residents, and property managers at the front of the building. Both in terms of basic functionality, we created by taking it to a mobile app, and by redefining the role that an intercom can play. When you step back and think about it, in today’s mobile-first, cloud-connected world, the intercom can play a critical role in connecting residents and the building they live in to all the services and e-commerce deliveries from all the online shopping they do every day. This is why we actually call ButterflyMX a Smart Intercom. We are just at the start of this journey.
What market does ButterflyMX target and how big is it?
We are targeting all multifamily dwellings and commercial office spaces in the U.S. There are more than 40 million multifamily units in America and over 5 million commercial office buildings.
What’s your business model?
We design hardware and software that enables people to open and manage doors from a smartphone. We sell our hardware to property owners and then charge a monthly fee to use the software, which powers the mobile access, live video, audit trails, integrations, and feature updates.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business?
We’ve seen an acceleration in the demand for the security- and safety-focused features, which come standard with our products. From a security perspective, live video of who is being let into the property has become increasingly important among our customers. And from a safety perspective, the ability to grant remote and contactless property access while people are maintaining social distance or avoiding touching surfaces has been important too.
Like so many other sectors, COVID has opened the eyes of many building owners and property managers to the power and necessity of using technology to support building operations. This includes support for employees in doing their jobs and allowing residents to control the world around them with access to the services they want. A case in point is e-commerce and package delivery. Every day during the pandemic is like Black Friday at a building between tons of packages, food deliveries …you name it. Meanwhile, buildings that already had seamless automated access systems like ButterflyMX have been able to weather the storm in much better shape. We’re seeing tons of new customers as post-COVID buying patterns and habits are permanently altered and owners want to adapt their portfolios to this changing environment.
A case in point is e-commerce and package delivery. Every day during the pandemic is like Black Friday at a building between tons of packages, food deliveries …you name it. Meanwhile, buildings that already had seamless automated access systems like ButterflyMX have been able to weather the storm in much better shape. We’re seeing tons of new customers as post-COVID buying patterns and habits are permanently altered and owners want to adapt their portfolios to this changing environment.
What was the funding process like?
We are fortunate to have raised money with the wind at our backs. We’ve built a great product with a profitable business model in an industry that has been growing incredibly fast. For us, the funding process was relatively smooth. In fact, we enjoyed the process because of all of the smart people we were introduced to along the way. They asked hard questions that forced us to think more deeply about our business while offering actionable ideas and insights based upon their own experiences.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Running a business and raising capital are two full-time jobs. It’s important to not lose sight of your business while pitching investors, compiling data for diligence, and making decisions about who would be the best partners.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The growth of our business and the market was the reason our investors wrote the check. Our rapid growth is underpinned by a set of products and services that address the needs of property access today. With people being able to access anything from their smartphones, property access should be no different. By focusing on solving modern property access challenges, we’ve created a desirable brand with strong customer loyalty, and, ultimately, a profitable business. A lot of this is summed up by the fact that, when our investors spoke to our customers and users, they loved what they heard, and that’s key.
The other big factor is our plans for the future in terms of new solutions we’re bringing to market for both existing customers and new markets. It’s a very exciting time with tons of energy inside the company.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We plan on extending the ButterflyMX property access experience from the front of the building to the rest of the building through a series of new products and services which will be released in 2021.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Focus on solving problems that save time, money, or both. Can you adapt anything you’re already selling to a new customer because of their COVID-related changes or because of the secular changes in the economy accelerated by COVID? Once you’ve identified a solution to a problem be sure there are enough people who are willing to buy such a solution. Then it becomes about execution and staying focused on what problems you’re trying to solve and for whom. If you’re able to do all of this, the capital will follow.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We see an acceleration of what we’re currently doing. Our mission remains the same: to enable people to open and manage doors from a smartphone. This new capital will allow us to push forward new solutions and hire new people to scale aggressively as we put into motion plans to help us achieve this mission.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC
I live in Brooklyn so something along Vanderbilt Ave. Olmsted fits the bill: uncomplicated innovative menu and delicious cocktails in a relaxed, creatively hip outdoor setting.
You are seconds away from signing up for the hottest list in New York Tech! Join the millions and keep up with the stories shaping entrepreneurship. Sign up today