Not trying to outdo Comcast, this Philly start-up finds its own home-automation niche

StratIS CEO Felicite Moorman, left, and cofounder and CTO Ryan Buchert, right, in their offices, built in an old movie theater on Midvale Avenue in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

Remember when the technological revolution hit the hospitality industry, and smart cards seemingly replaced room keys overnight?

Innovation was transforming the home front, as well, offering us the ability, for instance, to control the thermostat and alarm system, and to turn the lights on and off, from a remote location.

Felicite Moorman and Ryan Buchert were paying attention and thought: “What about apartments? And college dorms?”

Wouldn’t their residents want so-called smart-home abilities? Wouldn’t the managers of those properties want to be able to change access to residential units with a few strokes on their laptop keyboards rather than cutting new keys or replacing locks? Or to just as easily adjust the heating or air-conditioning in unoccupied units?

Moorman and Buchert decided that multifamily residences represented a vast opportunity in the IoT —Internet of Things — and launched StratIS (for Strategic Implementation and Support), a software company in East Falls, in June 2015.

StratIS wireless systems are now in 150,000 residential units in 46 states, with revenue expected to reach $6 million this year.

And with the smart-cities movement focusing efforts worldwide on reducing energy consumption and other wasteful practices, Moorman, the CEO, and Buchert, the chief technology officer, are positioning StratIS for global impact. They opened a sales office in Tokyo in October and one on the West Coast earlier this month.

“We can help every city in the world,” Moorman said. “There’s no border that prohibits us. … There’s no multifamily building we can’t help.”

That global ambition was reflected recently on the chalkboard at the former movie theater-turned-trendy office space on Midvale Avenue that is now home to StratIS and its sister company, BuLogics, which embeds and certifies wireless technology into hardware for the IoT:

We will never influence the world by trying to be like it.

“I don’t know that we’ll be Johnson [Controls], Siemens, or Schneider [Electric] big, but we certainly have the capacity for it,” Moorman said, claiming that StratIS’s sales rate is “pacing with the largest control companies in the world.”

StratIS doesn’t make door locks, thermostats, alarm sensors, or lightbulbs. It makes the software that enables them to be controlled remotely, much like Austin, Texas-based iControl, developer of a home-automation platform Comcast acquired earlier this month.

“Alternatively, StratIS was developed from the start, not as a home-automation platform, but as an IoT platform, with a base architecture readily expandable to any industry, like multifamily, and can integrate any number of devices pertinent to those industries,” Moorman said. “While we embrace the protocols used in home automation, we invest in multiple protocols, namely Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth, and WiFi, collaboratively, to run our systems, giving us far greater iterative runway.”

Despite their shared entrepreneurial overdrive, Moorman and Buchert seem more opposite than alike.

Buchert, 41, a Drexel University alum with undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering, is reserved and of few words. She is not. Moorman, 43, who created a real estate-related marketing company in Baltimore before becoming a lawyer, joked that she often has to do Buchert’s bragging for him. (Calling him a “genius,” she said: “I love to talk about him.”)

A mother of three, Moorman lives near the office in a 4,500-square-foot, three-story, renovated circa-1851 manse. Buchert, who is single, lives at the office in what used to be the theater’s projection booth.

“He is an extreme minimalist. He has to be able to move everything, including his bed, in two trips in his Mini Cooper,” Moorman said, as Buchert nodded. He also can be found in the cockpit of a Cirrus SR22.

With savings from stock options on 11 patents related to the methodologies of 3G and 4G chips, Buchert started BuLogics in 2003. Being more of a technical guy, “I had always been looking for someone to lead our team,” he said. When word got out that Moorman was leaving General Electric, where she created a training  program for emerging technologies, he went into recruitment mode. He had served with her on at least one industry committee and related to “her approach and methodology.”

“I saw Felicite come into the market and within 18 months become the second most-go-to person in the entire wireless industry — and the No. 1 person had basically invented the industry 27 years ago,” Buchert said.

In 2012, Moorman joined BuLogics, which now has eight employees and $1.5 million in annual revenue. Identifying the demand potential for home automation in the multifamily space, she and Buchert established StratIS as a separate company. Its workforce of 27 is expected to double in a year, though Moorman said that comes with its own set of challenges. Entrepreneurs and investors alike note that this is a region with a limited pool of engineers and others with the sets of skills needed in the tech sector.

“We’re competing [for hires] with Comcast,” Moorman said. “I mean, we’re still not flush with cash. … We’re not one of those companies that can go throwing cash around and not count it.”