For many years, people dreaded the emergence of artificial intelligence and new technologies. Those who grew up before the iPhone and the Internet felt their jobs would be in jeopardy.
The pandemic has prompted even the most fervent Luddits to change their attitude towards robotics, AI and technology. As they sheltered at home, overcoming the Covid-19 outbreak, they turned to online shopping on Amazon, ordering food deliveries through DoorDash and asking others to buy of food with the Instacart app. If a person needed to venture outside and didn’t want to risk taking public transportation, they would ask for an Uber or Lyft car.
Now that we have become accustomed to and dependent on technology platforms for most of our activities, we don’t want to go back. There is almost an app for every aspect of our life. Instant information and results are what we want.
Just like there is an Uber app, a driver is needed, at least until we have self-driving cars without a driver. In many industries, AI will kick start the process and someone will be there to help. Car salespeople, real estate agents, and department store employees will complete the initial interaction between AI and the customer.
If you think about it, almost any industry can offer a better experience with the introduction of technology. Real estate is a great example of how AI, chatbots, and technology can make renting an apartment a better experience. If you’ve ever rented, you know how irritating it can be.
Two young Covid-19 entrepreneurs, Shiv Gettu and Kendrick Bradley, saw a need in the rental property market. Bradley left his engineering job to work at a property management company to learn space, as a rental agent. He noticed that there was a lack of technology to support real estate sales teams. The roommates, Gettu and Bradley, while both working full time, decided to start a tech-driven real estate company. Its turnover reached $ 2 million in nine months.
Their company is called Zuma. It’s an AI platform for sales engagement that dynamically responds to leads in minutes instead of days. They have just launched their beta test after receiving $ 6.7 million in seed funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz and other top investors.
Their idea is to change the way apartments are rented. If you’ve ever shopped for a new apartment, you may have met a hard-talking, hard-talking real estate agent. They offer you “incredible, beautiful and inexpensive” apartments. When you actually see the property you think a mistake has been made as they are not amazing, beautiful or a bargain. After you are shown five more apartments, you stop because you have lost confidence in the officer’s judgment and feel pushed into something you don’t want.
The next outing, you are supposed to meet the property manager of the building, nowhere to be found. An hour later, you spot him fixing something on the spot and gruffly orders you to follow him to see the apartment. Her phone keeps ringing with tenants calling. You leave politely and he doesn’t notice or seem to care.
Consider how different it would be if the process were started online. You can send an SMS to request a list of apartments. The AI will send a plan, rental prices, amount of money required for the deposit, and other terms of the lease. Texts can offer rich graphics, photos and videos highlighting the place. All of this could be done from the comfort of your home. It’s less running and a more productive use of time.
Automation also benefits homeowners. Consider a multi-family building with a property manager. If there is an interested tenant who wants to make a quick decision, but it’s a night or a weekend, that lead will go unanswered. The prospect will go elsewhere.
Zuma’s dynamic AI platform automates lead qualifications, engagement, follow-ups, demos, and appointment scheduling. The platform, called Kelsey, is an “AI-powered business assistant that answers complex questions in minutes, to qualify, nurture and convert leads into customers.”
“Kelsey understands the tone, architecture, and conversational models that are most successful in converting leads into sales, and chats with all inbound leads via text message within minutes to retain leads. A human will step in to complete Kelsey.
Connie Chan, General Partner of Principal Investor Andreessen Horowitz, said: “Zuma’s blend of human support and AI creates a magical conversational experience for potential customers that dramatically increases conversion. ”
The guys are working on growing their business in the multi-family and related real estate industry. Ultimately, they plan to use their concept to apply to other industries. It’s amazing how the pandemic has created an entrepreneurship boom and has shown how AI and technology, along with the human touch, can both improve people’s lives and create new, innovative businesses.