Domain: Real estate / Smart homes
Status reached: Validation (post demo, pre-prototype)
Team skillset: Three founders, Product executive, Design and UX expert, and a business executive.
A platform that offers actionable insights about your home, flagging things that need attention or require ongoing maintenance based on sensors and AI.
- The plan was to identify enough use cases that would interest a sensor or AI company to partner.
- The idea was based on the understanding that even in well-kept neighborhoods in the U.S, getting maintenance or repair services can take days. In addition, there are many inefficiencies due to bad route management, scheduling and traffic. The idea was to make the technician’s job more efficient and cut down on their ‘dead time.’
Why it didn’t progress
Cracking the business case, identifying the customer journey and zeroing in on a specific use case
- While there were many options for use cases (over 5 initial use cases were identified and developed), we still couldn’t find one specific use case that provides enough value and there was a constant struggle to explain the pain point we were trying to solve.
- We got to the prototype stage in a state of exhaustion and we were out of money, which is why we stopped the project at the time. We are now revisiting it with renewed energy and greater focus, since we still really believe in the idea.
- We were overly focused on vision and not on execution. This is probably typical of founders who want to change the world vs. wanting to bring a single user.
- Need to create a clear business model for the vision and the scale up.
- We tried to shoot in all directions instead of focusing on one vertical. I see this in a lot of startups – founders wanting to figure out how everyone can work with them.
- We wasted a lot of resources on demos and marketing materials, instead of getting our hands dirty and creating an MVP that works and creates traction.
- Don’t let technology barriers get in your way. Tech gaps will eventually close.
Tips for a founder working in this area
- Early adopters availability is limited. Real estate is a very significant investment for people, and they tend to be cautious/conservative about products, services and technologies they use. That means that as a founder you have to rigorously vet the idea to get proof that it could work. Founders with real estate experience will have an easier time adopting and screening ideas.
- Long sales cycles, multiple de
- Long sales cycles, multiple demos and adjustments, low or no income at early stages means that deep pockets are important in this market segment.
- Follow or try to partner with existing real estate companies. Many of them have research divisions that you can learn from. Make sure you have a specific pain point you’re focused on and don’t lose focus.
- Find a way to bundle your users. Instead of targeting your customers individually, find a way to approach them as a mass (a whole building vs. apartment by apartment, a neighborhood vs. each individual home). Or better yet, partner with someone who already has these channels established.
- Important to move beyond the obvious networking circles and speak to people who will give you deeper and more nuanced feedback.
- We had to learn a lot on our own. We spent days going through data on Home Owners, HomeOwners Associations, real estate trends and technologies, and various players in these markets.
- We leveraged our network to talk to real estate executives and neighborhood boards as well as AI entrepreneurs and experts. It was also helpful to talk to contacts at big companies like Google, Meta and Amazon that are working in related areas.
- We held a few focus groups of end users in Southern CA and the Washington DC-metro area, focusing on GenZ and millennials to make sure the service was of interest.
- We did a few demos that got very enthusiastic feedback.
- Similar products we looked at:
- Hello dobi – provide a service that communicates with the service providers
- Next door
- Angie’s list