A few weeks ago I got to swing by the headquarters of Floored, a company that creates fully interactive models of real space. While there, I demo’d some of the new technology they’re working on including user-controlled virtual tours. I was blown away. As I sat in their Soho office, I was able to virtually navigate the top floor of the 1 World Trade Center in high-def quality. There’s no question that this is the future of real estate leasing and marketing (along with many other applications), and it’s not far from being mainstream.
I was so impressed with their work that asked Floored founder Dave Eisenberg if he’d be interested in doing an interview for the blog.
What’s the Floored story? Why are you passionate about this idea?
The Floored story is the story of a group of technology entrepreneurs who had had some success building high-growth e-commerce startups and who were captivated by the concept of digitizing the physical world: spaces, objects and people. We’re in the early days of a profound shift in how we will purchase and use things and spaces in the future. The rising popularity of 3D printing, the massive decrease in the cost of 3D scanning hardware, and climbing computing power will yield a shift in value from physical assets (objects & spaces) to the digital versions of the same. We’re passionate about contributing to the set of research that will accelerate broad adoption of 3D scanning spaces and objects and feel that we’ve found a way to commercial our research in a way that will allow us to build a big, valuable technology company. Our belief is that by helping to digitize the world, developers will build applications to improve our real-world experiences by leveraging digital data.
Floored has many applications to real estate, what are some of the ways you’ve seen your software used or misused?
We’re still discovering all of the ways that a digital 3D representation of a space can be valuable to developers, brokers, tenants and consumers. To date, we’ve seen some very interesting uses in property marketing (showing a space in a different condition than its current one & real-time, user-controlled virtual tours); interior design (move 3D models of furniture around to layout a space); construction (document progress in real-time); event planning and architectural visualization (somewhat self-explanatory). Most of the “mis-use” of 3D spaces have come from our team members playing around with building 3D video games on top of scans of our own office or homes 🙂
As a guy who comes from the start-up/retail world, an innovative space, what’s your honest opinion of the real estate business? Don’t hold back.
In general, I’m very impressed with real estate investors, owners, operators and brokers’ ability to suss out whether they will make money on a given deal or proposal. It is an extraordinarily capitalistic industry relative to retail and technology, the two other industries where I have spent years of my career. If I’m being completely honest, however, I’m a little frustrated with some of the hypocrisy in measuring ROI of real estate marketing activities. Most developers will insist on seeing immediate and positive ROI from implementing Floored’s visualizations. This makes sense to me. As a capitalist I can deal with the financial scrutiny. If I spend money with you, can you prove I will, in turn, make more money than if I hadn’t spent the money with you. We usually do very well with these customers.
Where I see some hypocrisy however is in not bringing this evaluation to traditional real estate marketing channels, specifically: offline paper-based marketing (banners, flyers, physical marketing books), events, expensive give-aways, 2D renderings and 3D rendered videos. In many cases we are pitching a substitution from analog to digital marketing where I would welcome the ROI-based evaluation. For those clients who turn us down however, I’m not seeing a ton of intellectual honesty about A/B testing different marketing efforts. Instead, I see a lot of resistance to change because it’s just not how they have always done business. For me it feels like a lost financial opportunity for them and perpetuates the reputation of real estate not being a technologically-forward industry.
The Floored team is made up of mainly software engineers. What are some of the challenges you face not having any real estate practitioners?
Developing industry connections is much slower going than it would be with a slew of real estate professionals on my team. Right now I count on the goodwill of a number of our customers and other friends of the business to make introductions and spread the word. It’s worked well thus far, but you may see us experiment with bringing on 1-2 industry insiders who I believe will be terrific sales people for our team. In the past year, though, we had to be very economical with our resources, particularly before we were generating substantial revenues. In building a deep technology business, to date it has made more sense to invest in engineering before sales. I’d welcome someone on to our team however who can change the calculus for us!
Floored is building out some really cool technology, what are you most excited about today?
I’m excited by a lot of what we’re developing right now. I’m excited about building an end-to-end pipeline where we’ll never have to rely on hand measurements again. I’m excited about a world where we don’t rely on outdated 2D floorplans to imagine what a space looks like, or could look like. Above all else, however, I’m excited about massively reducing the costs to generating 3D data about places. Over the next few years we should migrate to communicating entirely in 3D vs the 2D marketing we’ve known in the past.
Floored isn’t the only cool real estate tech start-up. What other real estate tech start-ups are you impressed by?
I’m impressed with different startups for different reasons. 42Floors has shown the world that great venture capitalists care about commercial real estate opportunities. Compstak has shown that deeply ingrained behaviors can be modified through novel technology solutions. View The Space has demonstrated both an ability to sell effectively into CRE, but also to evolve their product based on market feedback. But more than anything, I”m impressed that these startups and others have a “we’re all in this together” attitude that I’ve never seen before from a collection of startups in any industry. We’re all seeking to evolve and improve the real estate industry through technology and that is a very good thing.
Where is Floored in 5 years?
Powering the world’s 3D data set of spaces and making inroads to doing the same with large objects. One of the best places in the world to work for engineers with expertise in computer vision and graphics. A fast-growing, profitable business with its eyes on an IPO. A happy, healthy team with a slightly delusional co-founder/CEO who still can’t accurately see 5 years in to the future.
Your team is serious about coffee, what are you guys drinking today?
Unroasted beans from Kenya, Ethiopia and El Salvador that we roast in-house and purchase from Sweet Maria’s. We have the highest concentration of software engineers-turned-baristas in New York City.
I want to thank Dave for sharing his story. Floored is poised to disrupt the real estate marketing landscape and I look forward to working with them in the near future. If you have any questions for Dave, feel free to post them in the comment section below.