at HUM: Furnishing Homes with ImaginationBy Michael Caballero
at HUM is a real estate tech startup transforming the way properties are marketed and sold by creating the next-generation visuals and analytics platform for residential sales. By overcoming the lack of customer imagination in the process of selling homes, at HUM has proven they can shorten the sales cycle and reduce marketing costs for homebuilders. I sat down with the CEO and Co-Founder, Berkeley alum Alejandro Maldonado, to hear about at HUM’s innovation in the real estate market.
At the core of HUM’s work is the simple problem of customer imagination. Too often, potential homebuyers form opinions on properties based on inconsistent information. This is common across most homebuyers; if the preferences of a buyer are not represented in the style and layout of a home, it influences that buyer’s assessment of the property. This is further exacerbated by the decision’s magnitude. As Alejandro emphasized, “It’s a very difficult thing. You’re making one of the most impactful financial and personal decisions of your life… and you have very limited information.”
This has turned into a widespread barrier to selling homes as developers spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on floor plans, renderings, animations, and model homes. at HUM is solving this huge marketing problem by better connecting residents and homebuilders who use their platform. Their direct customers are homebuilders who pay for the immersive experience of personalizing and showcasing their entire property. Yet, at HUM believes the best way to solve this problem is to provide the best matches of buyers and sellers so they offer free consultations to potential residents with their AI Interior Designer. By having both parties use their platform, they can best connect people while helping reduce unethical practices in the market like using smaller furniture or bigger renderings to mislead the end customer.
Background and Competition
For Alejandro, the path of changing the way houses are sold with at HUM is a non-traditional one stemming from a love to tell and inspire creativity in stories. From his work with 3D animation as an undergrad, he knew that it had a great potential for future innovation. And, over the course of his career, Alejandro has grown his experience and skill as an entrepreneur by founding four companies. The last of these companies that he worked on before co-founding at HUM was Flow Studio, a creative studio offering 3D visualization and animation services for the real estate market. Though successful, Alejandro knew that in order to significantly grow this idea he needed to increase its scalability.
That is why Alejandro started exploring the possibilities of incorporating artificial intelligence into these 3D renderings with the intent of maximizing scalability. He knew the success potential of combining the creativity and personability of 3D home renderings with the scalability made possible by artificial intelligence.
While at HUM does promise a product different than any other on the market, Alejandro recognizes that they face other competition in the real estate market. Other services offer a different product, but at HUM is competing for space in homebuilders’ budgets. The first indirect competition comes from interior design services that are trying to become more scalable, like popular ones Havenly and Modsy. The difference between at HUM and these competitors is that at HUM does not use artists and interior designers to create renderings, which reduces scalability. at HUM instead is slowly automating these jobs with their AI Interior Designer. The other close competition is architectural visualization studios, Neoscape or Transparent House. These studios create high-end graphics but are not personalized to each customer. Alejandro sees this akin to creating a one size fits all product, while at HUM’s major success has stemmed from personalized renderings.
In order to continue separating themselves from the competition, at HUM is focusing on three core attributes of their platform. The first is personalization — everything that the end customer sees is personalized to their tastes, preferences, and style. Secondly, they emphasize that the platform is intuitive. The user can accurately and freely explore the house to understand how it meets their needs. Lastly, at HUM promises convenience. The AI Interior Designer understands the customers’ needs and style. It figures out the best options based on their preferences and budgets while creating the whole space with all current, buyable furniture from their partners. When it comes to other options, Alejandro puts it simply:
“The problem is you’re showing them someone else’s life. You’re not showing how they will be living in the space. That’s a big gap.”
Faster Property Sales
While the idea of personalization to sell residential homes works in theory, at HUM is proving it to be a reality. They measure their success through their customers’ reduction in the time it takes to sell properties and in marketing costs. And so far, they have done quite well.
“From our initial pilot beta program, we measured 30% improvement in the sale cycle, the time to sell or lease, … and also reduced their marketing costs by more than 25%.”
at HUM attributes part of this success to their visual platform’s ability to provide all the previous things homebuilders were paying for but in a singular package.
For funding, at HUM has raised $610,000 from angel investors and friends and family. This has helped them get to where they are now: expanding fast and fully supporting their 17 person team. Alongside Alejandro are his two co-founders Ana Mancera, CDO, and Mani Kannappan, CTO.
One reason for at HUM’s success is because they are based both in San Jose and Mexico City. Alejandro attributes his team’s talent partially to this lack of geographical constraints. This has helped at HUM keep a low burn rate and bring in the best possible talent.
“We are a fully decentralized team, we believe in bringing the best talent, not the one that lives nearby,”says Alejandro.
When discussing the biggest challenge that at HUM faces in the future, Alejandro mentioned how they try and balance the three biggest ones for every startup — sales, fundraising, and technology. Alejandro was vocal about how the accelerator they are a part of, Dreamit Ventures (at HUM is a part of their Urbantech Portfolio), has helped them open doors with customers and VCs. As far as the third concern, technology, Alejandro has full faith in his team to continue on their path to further success. With more time and data, at HUM’s AI Interior Designer will turn them into a fully scalable platform for homebuilders and help them break into the home buyers market.