Jesse Brown, Co-founder & CEO at KnoGeo
1. What does KnoGeo do?
KnoGeo’s core technology is our patented platform for visualizing real estate data in 3D. We have developed a process for understanding the location-based data points in a city; specifically, the locations and shape of a building, and where their floors exist in extruded space. We then use this data to reconstruct cities in 3D. This online interface can connect to any property and/or market dataset, providing powerful data visualization and analytics capabilities. We built two applications on top of this platform. First, a residential application for real estate agents that lets them create photorealistic birds-eye flights to available listings. This gives the user full appreciation for all a property and neighbourhood has to offer and can be experienced on a phone or desktop. The second is an enterprise platform for commercial real estate offices that lets analysts, brokers and executives visualize and analyze data in a 3D cityscape. This provides capabilities for virtual site visits, compelling presentations and marketing insights that can only be achieved when organizing information spatially.
2. What inspired you to start? What problem are you solving?
The oldest adage in real estate is location, location, location; but the way location is communicated and marketed online hasn’t changed much from push pins on Google Maps. In fact, real estate websites use the same technology to communicate location that you use trying to find the route to a restaurant downtown – which is crazy! This makes the real estate search process slow, can lead to unnecessary showings and generally locks away the most important factors in choosing a home when searching online. The 2D problems can also extend into commercial real estate, where not only are there problems with site selection, but with general data visualization and presentation. This is especially true in big cities.
3. How long did it take you to go from idea to prototype to launch?
It took about 8 months to take both our residential and commercial applications from ideation to MVP (minimum viable product).
4. How did you determine who your audience might be for this product?
Although we believe our technology has applications across many industries, we knew from the start the real estate market was where we could provide immediate impact and value. In order to develop our product roadmap and validate that market, we hit the pavement, talking to over 100 real estate professionals and 500+ general consumers about their pain points. Luckily, professionals in the real estate industry were actively seeking out our company and requesting solutions, guiding our process immensely.
5. Do you have a team? If yes, who is on it and how did you go about building your team?
You bet – I’m joined by two all-star software developers (Chingiz Bakhishov and Jordan Selanders). Fit over experience, in my eyes. I wanted the team built on passion and drive first and foremost. In an attempt to be thorough, I met with more than 50 people, but ended up cancelling interviews after meeting Jordan and Chingiz. When you are building a company, you put your future in the hands of the people you team up with. And like a good marriage, when you know, you know.
6. If you could hire someone today to help you with one thing, what would it be and why?
We’d hire an expert consultant in Photogammetry. This is an important element of our business but not something we’re particularly familiar with. It would be great to have consistent and ongoing input for building the future of our company.
7. What’s the one thing you wish you knew about the startup community?
KnoGeo is my third startup, so I learned this a long time ago: I wish the 19-year-old version of me knew just how helpful the startup world is willing to be. So many people in the community are willing to give intros, provide feedback, test your product and really do anything to help lift you up. It’s not competitive or cutthroat, it’s collaborative.
8. What are your future goals for your company?
We want to become the technology that is used to explore and understand every city in the world – whether it is someone looking for their next home, an analyst preparing a market presentation or a CEO looking for a new office. We believe in the power of visual comprehension over pushpins and spreadsheets. The best way to effectively communicate and understand any data point is to see it as we would in real life, and that’s in 3D.
9. How can companies make the most of their experience with Startup Calgary?
Get involved! It’s easy to get stuck in the grind and lost in how busy it can get, but the best thing you can do is to get to events and apply for as many programs or trips as you can. You meet awesome people and get your company in people’s minds. This pays back in dividends for years through learning and the connections made.
10. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their idea from the back of a napkin to the marketplace?
My #1 piece of advice is always the same – in the early stages, the best thing you can do is get your idea out there. Reach out to other founders, ask for advice, go to events and talk to people in the same market. I believe one the of the biggest mistakes you can make is to think it’s the idea that is invaluable when really, it’s the execution. Getting it out there will help you sharpen up your value proposition and get advice on development, team building, scaling, etc. One last note, unless what you are thinking is deeply technical, don’t eve make someone sign an NDA before discussing your idea.
11. If you could have done one thing differently while building your startup, what would it be?
It sounds counter-intuitive given the fast-moving startup environment, but I would have been more patient in the beginning. I think embracing the iterative process of compounding growth on little wins is a better business strategy, rather than going for it all at the first at bat. In order to build a product for the world you have to first build it for one person. I think we could have accelerated earlier if I had done a better job of that sooner.
12. If you could tell the rest of the world something about Calgary, what would it be?
The mountains are so much closer than you’d think!
13. What was the biggest surprise or obstacle you encountered while building your startup and what did you learn?
Personally, I found the biggest surprise to be learning that experience is not as important as you think when building your team. Experience comes after there is a passion for the product or the problem, an eagerness to learn and motivation. If you find the right junior employee, their commitment to the team will lead to exponential returns as they learn and grow. Their belief in the product will drive better outcomes than anyone coming only for a senior-level paycheque.
14. What event, program or resource in Calgary’s startup community made the biggest impact on your company?
I have to choose 2. Both the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP) and StartupFest in Montreal were incredibly impactful for our company. We were connected with valuable resources and learned a lot about entering new markets as part of TAP. And at Startupfest we met investors, potential customers and industry contacts that we would not have met or engaged with otherwise.
Learn more at https://www.knogeo.com/.
Published on August 29, 2019