By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire
⏰ 6-minute read
- Openpath’s founding team of tech entrepreneurs wanted to develop a better keyless entry system for enterprise clients.
- They built a solution that addressed major market problems, delivering a secure system with expansive product features and a focus on UX.
- Openpath's cloud-based system continues to evolve through partnerships with leading security companies, creating a new standard in the keyless entry space.
In the world's biggest companies, workplace keys are becoming a thing of the past. Today, electronic keycards, fobs and swipe cards are the primary ways employers grant or restrict access to their office buildings.
But problems exist with current keyless access systems, both from security and usability standpoints. A new player in the access control systems market, Openpath, is looking to change that.
Led by a team of entrepreneurs who experienced current market problems firsthand, Openpath is on a mission to revolutionize keyless access and reduce friction across the modern workplace.
The company is off to a fast start, with $27 million in funding (so far) and five technology patents. It facilitates over 1 million “unlocks” a week.
The Openpath founder's aha moment
Before starting Openpath, CEO Alex Kazerani and his founding team built the content delivery company EdgeCast. As that business grew, Kazerani came face-to-face with the inefficiencies of current office entry systems.
Openpath CEO Alex Kazerani (left) and CMO Kieran Hannon are two members of Openpath's executive team.
"For eight years I had to carry all these different badges to get into the different offices," he told Cheddar recently.
When EdgeCast sold to Verizon -- TechCrunch reports the deal was worth over $350 million -- Kazerani received even more badges.
"Forgetting cards was a problem, losing them was a problem, opening new offices was a problem," he continued. "The worst was when you part ways with an employee, and you walk them to the garage and take the badge back."
“Forgetting cards was a problem, losing them was a problem, opening new offices was a problem."
Kazerani saw numerous problems. So he and a handful of executives from EdgeCast set out to build a solution.
The Openpath founding team included Kazerani as CEO, James Segil as president, Rob Peters as CTO and Phil Goldsmith as chief revenue officer (CRO), all of whom had worked together at EdgeCast. Samy Kamkar, an entrepreneur and highly regarded expert in the security sector, took the role of chief security officer, and in May 2019, Kieran Hannon, a former executive of Belkin and RadioShack, became CMO.
The stacked team of serial tech entrepreneurs with a track record of massive exits -- in addition to EdgeCast, see HostPro and KnowledgeBase Solutions -- founded Openpath in 2016. The team worked in stealth mode for two years, perfecting the technology, and officially launched in summer 2018.
To fund the operation, they completed two venture capital raises, one in May of 2018 for $7 million and another that July for $20 million.
Step 1: Identify the current market problems.
To build a better keyless entry solution, Openpath assessed the problems in the current market. According to Hannon, the company wanted to address three major issues:
To get started, the five founders self-funded early development. Still in stealth mode, the team then attracted “early-stage VCs” for a $7 million round, said Hannon.
Hannon described the response from the VC community as “overwhelming.”
“In addition to the enviable track record by the co-founders, [investors] understood the user problems that Openpath was solving …,” he said.
"Investors understood the user problems that Openpath was solving."
One VC who particularly accelerated the following fundraising round was Santi Subotovsky of Emergence Capital. Subotovsky had been “studying the [security] sector himself,” Hannon explained, and thus led the effort for Emergence Capital, funding $15 million of the $20 million Series B round.
“It’s not luck, but a result of hard work combining innovation and the relentless focus on the end-user that made the institutional round such a short process,” said Hannon of the event.
Step 2: Build a better solution.
Openpath saw the opportunity to offer something different -- and ultimately better -- than the current market. Due to Kamkar’s and Peters’s past success in technology and their loyal followings as entrepreneurs, Openpath attracted top development talent, explained Hannon.
“We ... believe that institutional knowledge is so important in creating compelling user experiences,” he added. “Our engineering teams are comprised of cloud/back-end, firmware and app developers, along with hardware (EE/ME) folks who work very closely together…”
“We believe that institutional knowledge is so important in creating compelling user experiences.”
An early task for the development team, of course, was delivering an access control system that uses an app instead of keycards. The convenience of unlocking an office door via an app was the core of the founders’ pitch.
"What's the one thing we all bring to the office each day?" Hannon asked. "Our mobile device. People lose their phones a lot less than keycards.
Openpath uses a mobile, cloud-based system to offer modern access control.
"Although some legacy companies have moved from keycards to application-based entry systems, the majority of the applications had an abysmal customer experience," he added.
As a result of the developers’ work, Openpath users can keep their phones in their pockets in order to enter office doors. Coming in the range of an Openpath access system triggers a “door release”: The system uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and LTE signals to unlock it. App users can also send access passes to visitors via text for specific days, times or areas of a building.
Step 3: Find your early adopters.
To reach customers, Openpath sells exclusively through channel partners like Pinnacle Communication Services, Ollivier Corporation and Bastion Security. These system integrators sell Openpath’s products and service to their existing customers.
Openpath’s most established channel partners allowed access to enterprise clients across the country. Hannon described early adopters as “other tech-related, forward-thinking companies.”
Rideshare leader Bird integrated Openpath through channel partners to keep up with growth as it scaled from 100 employees to 900 in a single year. Domino’s stores are using Openpath to support the heavy traffic of employees coming in and out for pizza deliveries. Hawke Media brought the system into its L.A. and New York City offices, as it desired an entry system for employees and clients that felt welcoming and innovative.
Hawke Media explains why it chose Openpath for its L.A. and NY offices.
“I think the big draw for these customers was finally finding a solution that prioritized the user experience, without compromising security,” said Hannon.
Openpath is also seeing acceptance from companies in commercial real estate, healthcare and gaming. As a result, it has grown to 50 employees in 18 months, with offices in Los Angeles and Indianapolis.
Integrations and the cloud provide the backbone for an evolving security system.
Openpath has partnered with several companies to develop new features, which update to existing customers via the cloud.
A partnership with analytics provider Density allows for real-time alerts when an unauthorized person slips into a building, or “tailgates.” Partner Camio's AI-video system then tracks and locates the potential intruder. These capabilities work not only at building doors but also at physical entrance barriers like parking garages or entrance turnstiles (the latter thanks to a partnership with turnstile provider Automatic Systems).
New partnerships also allow Openpath system admin to lock down any portion of a door or building in the case of an active shooter event or other security risk, then alert emergency personnel with access to real-time video.
Openpath offers lockdown capabilities in case of emergency situations.
🌱 The bottom line
Openpath’s technology-driven approach to access control systems has built a solid base of domestic enterprise customers. Partnerships, meanwhile, keep new customers coming and product enhancements continually rolling out.
In 2020, the company will expand overseas to meet what Hannon described as the “international demand for our cloud based access control platform.”
According to Hannon, deciding when to allocate resources to support growth in new markets has been a hurdle.
“Part of the challenge was making a deliberate decision of where to apply resources, which meant some of these [international expansion] opportunities had to be put on hold until now,” he said.
Sounds like a good problem to have.