Innovation Transfer & Entrepreneurship
Nic Halverson of Occuspace
Nic Halverson is the CEO & Founder of Occuspace, an IoT and Real Estate Tech startup that helps large corporations optimize real estate utilization and improve employee satisfaction and productivity. This is done using their occupancy sensing hardware that offers a low cost and highly private method of capturing real space usage data. Nic graduated from UCSD in 2017 with an Electrical Engineering degree with a focus in power and sustainability. Nic briefly worked with Calpine Energy Solutions in business development before starting Occuspace full time. Occuspace was one of 12 finalists from the 2018 UC Entrepreneur Pitch Competition.
Tell us about yourself, your company and what you are building.
My name is Nic Halverson, I’m the CEO of Occuspace. We collect occupancy data for large spaces to help with space management and construction planning. Occuspace started out as a B2C company to help students navigate crowded campuses and avoid big
What impact do you envision achieving?
I would prefer to stay private and hopefully get to a point where we can get an IPO or get acquired by a company like Honeywell, Siemens, or Johnson Controls which are the big players in the industry. My dream situation in the next couple of years would be to have the company acquired and integrated into the company’s solutions; build a bigger team, and be able to spread the solution even wider than I would be able to. I think it would just be cool to make this solution available to even more people and see how much it can really help the industry that we are trying to help.
As a participant of the UC Entrepreneur Pitch Competition, what traction have you received?We received a ton of traction from participating in the UC Entrepreneur Campaign at the GCVI summit. I met over 40 different venture capitalists from different corporations like IBM, Honeywell, and ABB. I've had follow-up meetings with at least 7 different VC’s in order to get funding. This experience has helped me learn how to better prep and pitch myself to VC's. Additionally, we've been able to close a contract with UC Riverside to expand to another 800,000 square feet there, and we’re getting close to closing a couple of other new contracts.
Describe your journey as a UC entrepreneur.We launched our first company by servicing UCSD, which received tremendous approval and support from the various department directors. Once we launched our app, the Vice Chancellor at UCSD even brought me into his office and offered to help support a pilot by providing services and building a roadmap on how we can make this a commercial success. I owe a lot to UCSD for their valuable support.
What resources within the UC system have been beneficial to you and why?
Getting an education at a UC school was my first benefit. From there, I had an idea, however, I didn't know anything about how to implement or commercialize it. So I applied to the accelerator at UCSD and received $2,000 to start our project. If it weren’t for that initial money, I probably would not have pursued my idea from the start because it cost about $1,500 just to start building and testing. I doubt I would have made that initial investment in myself, so getting that money helped us get our idea off the ground and gave us the validation and confidence that it was a good idea to pursue.
What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs?The best thing you can do is not always talk to people who are trying to angle how they can help you, but rather try to connect with them and almost become friends. I think engaging and having real relationships with people and getting to know them on a practical level is the most important thing because that's where you get to close deals.
Once you connect with people in that meaningful way, it doesn't matter what their position is, or how they can help you, or if it's a perfect fit or not. Everybody has a wide network, and they probably know somebody who can help you. So, if you just connect with even 3-4 people at a whole conference, it's very likely that those 3-4 people know 10-20 people that they can give you a warm introduction to- and that means so much more than getting a hundred business cards from people with quick conversations. Having those real connections goes a lot longer than a hundred shallow connections.
What other pitch competitions and events have you attended? Where else have you applied?
As a student, I first started a company in 2017 making an app for students to see how busy their campus library gyms and dining halls were. I applied at a handful of contests, and I won 3 (or was it 4?) out of 5. We ended up raising about $60,000, in either cash or in-kind services, from February to May 2017 when we initially got the idea.
Aside from the UC Entrepreneur competition, I recently applied to be a San Diego Cool Company where they pick 30 companies a year they consider to be a "cool company" VC’s would be ready to invest in.
Have you made any new key partners as a result of participating in these competitions/events?
Yes, the first key partner would be getting a letter of intent with UC Riverside to install our services to 800,000 square feet there. Another key partner that is tied directly to GCVI, is the conversations I have had with Honeywell ventures. Honeywell is one of the top three corporations that work very closely with our kind of technology, and we see them as the ideal strategic investor or a buyer down the road. We have spoken to Honeywell ventures on implementing a pilot at their headquarters in Minneapolis to test our products firsthand because some of the claims we were making were a lot cheaper and a lot better than some of the competition. This pilot would be an incredible opportunity to be with pretty much our ideal strategic investor.
Have you met VC’s from the competition for support?
I’ve talked to a handful of different VC’s that I’ve met from the conference and several of them approached me to discuss potentially investing in my company. Whether they invest or not, I still actually learn a lot from those conversations: from the questions they ask, hearing their concerns, and determining whether we are a good fit with their VC to get that next meeting which hopefully will lead to an investment.
I recently had a 30-minute phone call with another founder who was at that conference, he is on his 4th startup in his 50s, and he is going to extreme lengths to introduce me to a lot of key people.
What advice have you received from your 2018 UC Entrepreneur Pitch Competition mentor and how has that helped?
A piece of big advice that I received from my mentor was to condense my slides and tell a story that is going to grab people's attention. I've learned that the use of a pitch and a pitch deck isn't necessarily to get people to give you money (unless you’re on shark tank) but rather, the use of a pitch deck is to get the next meeting with people who are interested in investing in your company. So, I converted my 15 slides to 5 slides, telling a story that let the audience understand what my company does and what the value is in a very high-level emotional and attention-grabbing way.
Has there been an increase in your publicity since?
I have had good exposure with inbound traffic requesting service from us from as far as South America about government buildings and such. Even some VCs have contacted us after seeing me from the UC entrepreneur finalist videos.
What type of investments have you received?
We are trying to raise a fair amount of money this time and we have many good leads. We've already raised a seed round, now we're trying to raise the series A (which typically takes between 2-6 months). Therefore, we're starting the process and we have a lot of interest and things look good.