Cubicasa floors US market with 3D property mapping
An accurate digital floor plan can be time-consuming to create. But what if one could be derived automatically from a smartphone video? Finnish innovation is making this a reality.
Pictures, property details and a floor plan. These are the things most of us look for when scanning property ads online, whether it is to rent or buy. But while digital floor plans are the norm in many markets, in places such as North America they are still a rarity. For Oulu-based startup Cubicasa this has proven to be a tremendous opportunity.
“We want to solve the problem of indoor property mapping using data anyone can collect,” explains CEO Harri Pesola. “We are creating a more advanced and cost-efficient service than anything available today.”
Cubicasa is off to a good start. Its eponymous online platform uses artificial intelligence to turn almost any layout data into a digital 2D floor plan or 3D model. This enables a real estate agent to upload a hand drawn layout of a flat to the service and have a full-blown 3D visualisation ready the next day.
Focusing on smartphone video
Cubicasa has already captured the interest of real estate agents, brokers and developers in Finland and the US, with half of its revenue coming from across the Atlantic. But it is the next version of the platform Cubicasa is really banking on. It will automatically transform smartphone videos into digital floor plans.
“We have a very automated production line running behind our online service, but it cannot process video yet. So this is what we are developing now,” Pesola explains. “We are working with the University of Oulu and their machine vision experts to make it happen.”
Cubicasa is already testing the video feature with some significant US partners. These include one of the country’s largest real estate companies, Marcus & Millichamp, and brokerage firm Halstead Property. There are still a few kinks to smooth out in the new technology, but Pesola expects the service to be ready for commercial launch by the autumn.
“We are in a good situation since our distribution channels are growing and new customers are signing up for our existing platform every month,” Pesola says. “But when we launch the new service, we’ll shift to an entirely new sales gear in the US market.”
Cubicasa, founded in December 2014, has targeted international markets from day one. As soon as the startup secured its first investment in 2015, its founders Pesola and Jarmo Lumpus flew to the US to scout the local competition.
Pesola believes the US is a market where you have to be physically present, and for Cubicasa this approach has paid off. The startup has raised one million euros in funding, and last year it became the first non-American company to be accepted into Moderne Ventures’ real estate accelerator programme in Chicago.
“They held monthly events all around the US and would arrange one-to-one meetings for us with various real estate industry influencers,” Pesola recalls of the experience. “Those were very efficient meetings. You got instant feedback and sales opportunities.”
Today Cubicasa has 17 employees across three offices in Oulu, Helsinki and Palo Alto, California. Also on the startup’s roadmap is a sales office in either Chicago or New York and a turnover of 10 million euros by 2020. But while Cubicasa has set its ambitions high, Pesola stresses that what makes or breaks a company in the end is its people.
“It should be fun to do this. Actually, that is the primary goal,” he says. “Of course turnover is crucial, but why I became an entrepreneur was to do something that really appeals to me and to do it with a great team.”