Two Young Roommates Are Building An Artificial Intelligence Real Estate Empire – Forbes
Zuma Cofounders Shiv Gettu and Kendrick Bradley
For many years, people dreaded the emergence of artificial intelligence and new technologies. Those who grew up before the iPhone and internet felt that their jobs would be put into jeopardy.
The pandemic made even the most fervent Luddites change their attitude toward robotics, AI and technology. While sheltering at home, riding out the Covid-19 outbreak, they turned to online shopping on Amazon, ordering food deliveries via DoorDash and having others shop for food with the Instacart app. If a person needed to venture outside, and didn’t want to risk going on public transportation, they requested an Uber or Lyft car.
Now that we’ve become accustomed and dependent upon tech platforms for most of our activities, we don’t want to turn back. There is nearly an app for all aspects of our lives. Instant information and results are what we want.
Just as there is an Uber app, a driver is needed—at least until we have autonomous driverless cars. In many industries, AI will start the process and a person will be around to help. Car salespersons, real estate agents and clerks at department stores will supplement the initial interaction between AI and the customer.
If you think about it, most any sector can offer a better experience with the introduction of technology. Real estate is a great example of how AI, chatbots and tech can make the renting of an apartment a better experience. If you’ve rented before, you know how irritating it can be.
Two young entrepreneurs, Shiv Gettu and Kendrick Bradley, saw a need in the real estate rental market. Bradley left his engineering job to work at a property management company to learn the space, as a leasing agent. He noticed that there was a lack of technologies to support real estate sales teams. Roommates, Gettu and Bradley, while both working full-time jobs, set out to build a hospitality property company. It grew to $2 million in revenue in nine months.
However, when Covid-19 hit in 2020, Gettu and Bradley’s company had long-term lease commitments, and with business and leisure travel at a standstill, were running out of runway and needed to get their properties leased. The cofounders quickly turned the company into a virtual leasing office powered by AI to automate the conversion process, and that grew to become Zuma, launching today with a $6.7 million seed round in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz.
Their idea is to change the way apartments are rented. If you’ve ever shopped for a new apartment, you may have run into a hardened, tough-talking real estate agent. They schlep you around to apartments that are “amazing, beautiful and priced at a bargain price.” When you actually see the property, you think a mistake was made, since they’re not amazing, beautiful nor a bargain. After being shown five more apartments, you call it quits, as you’ve lost trust in the agent’s judgement and feel pushed into something you don’t want.
The next outing, you’re supposed to meet the building’s property manager, who can’t be found. An hour later, you spot him fixing something on the premises and gruffly orders you to follow him to see the apartment. His phone keeps ringing with tenants calling. You politely leave, and he doesn’t notice or seem to care.
The Zuma app
Consider how different this would be if the process was started online. You can send a text inquiring about an apartment listing. The AI will send a blueprint, the rental prices, amount of money required for deposit and the their terms of the lease. The texts can offer rich graphics, photos and videos highlighting the place. This could all be done from the comfort of your home. It’s less running around and a more productive use of time.
Automation also benefits the property owners. Consider a multifamily building with a property manager. If there is an interested renter who wants to make a quick decision, but it’s a night or weekend, this lead will go unanswered. The prospect will go elsewhere.
Zuma’s dynamic AI platform automates lead qualifications, engagement, follow-ups, demo and appointment scheduling. The platform, called Kelsey, is an “AI-powered sales assistant that answers complex questions in minutes, to qualify, nurture and convert leads to customers.”
“Kelsey understands which conversation tone, architecture and patterns are most successful at converting leads to sales, and converses with all inbound leads via text message within minutes to keep prospects engaged.” A human will step in to supplement Kelsey.
Connie Chan, general partner at lead investor Andreessen Horowitz, said, “Zuma’s blend between human support and AI creates a magical conversation experience for prospective customers that drastically increases conversion.”
The guys are working toward growing their business in the multifamily and related real estate sector. Ultimately, they plan to use their concept to apply to other industries. It’s amazing to see that the pandemic has created a boom in entrepreneurialism and shown how AI and tech, along with the human touch, can both improve the lives of people and build new innovative businesses.
Colorado Gov. Polis signs new batch of gun laws
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a new batch of gun legislation into law on Friday, several months after a deadly mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.
The laws establish a three-day waiting period to obtain a firearm, raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21, make it easier to sue gun manufacturers and expand the state’s red flag law.
“Coloradans deserve to be safe in our communities, in our schools, our grocery stores, nightclubs and everywhere in between,” Polis said at the bill signing, according to The Colorado Sun.
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Five people were killed and 17 were injured in November when a 22-year-old gunman opened fire at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.
A proposed assault weapons ban failed to make it to the governor’s desk alongside the other gun control legislation after the House Judiciary Committee voted last week to postpone consideration of the bill indefinitely.
However, legislation to ban the sale and manufacture of so-called “ghost guns,” or unserialized firearms, remains under consideration in the Colorado state Senate.
Kushner firm received hundreds of millions from UAE, Qatar
Jared Kushner’s private equity fund has received hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from the UAE and Qatar, according to a report.
Kushner, son-in-law to former President Trump, was the administration’s adviser tasked with policy in the Middle East, including delivering a peace plan between Israel and Palestine.
According to The New York Times, the investments, which follow a similar cash injection from Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund, raise concerns about how those close to the Trump administration have profited off of their former government roles.
The UAE sovereign wealth fund invested about $200 million with Kushner’s firm, Affinity Equity, and a Qatari fund invested about the same, according to the Times. The recently revealed investments are small compared to that of the Saudi fund, which invested $2 billion with Affinity in 2021, shortly after Kushner left the White House.
The investments are not believed to be illegal, as there are few ethics guidelines or laws regarding foreign investments in private firms after an official leaves government work. The investments are also not unique to Kushner, as investing is a known strategy of Gulf states to exert influence with American officials on both sides of the aisle.
Former Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s investment firm has also received vast sums from Middle Eastern wealth funds, including $1 billion from the Saudi wealth fund.
Similarly, Trump himself has announced business deals with Middle Eastern interests, including a Saudi-backed, Trump-branded hotel complex costing $4 billion. Trump has also been a vocal supporter of the Saudi-owned LIV Golf Tour, the upstart rival to the American PGA, including hosting tournaments at his golf courses.
Last year, the House Oversight Committee, then controlled by Democrats, launched an investigation into the initial Saudi investment into Kushner’s fund. Then-Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the investigation was into whether Kushner traded influence from this government position for the investment.
“Your close relationship with Crown Prince bin Salman, your pro-Saudi positions during the Trump Administration, and PIF’s decision to fund the lion’s share of your new business venture — only six months after the end of your White House tenure — create the appearance of a quid pro quo for your foreign policy work during the Trump Administration,” Maloney said in a letter to Kushner at the time.
2 Cases Filed Against Wrestling Body Chief, 1 Of Them For Harassing Minor
he Delhi Police, which functions under Amit Shah’s Home Ministry, filed the two first information reports (FIRs) hours after the Supreme Court ordered them to do so.
The Delhi Police have filed two cases against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh after the country’s top wrestlers made allegations of sexual harassment against him.
The Delhi Police, which functions under Amit Shah’s Home Ministry, filed the two first information reports (FIRs) hours after the Supreme Court ordered them to do so, amid protests at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar by wrestlers including Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat.
One of the FIRs is over a complaint of sexual harassment by a minor, filed under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which gives no scope for bail.
The Delhi Police will pursue the case actively, sources said.
Mr Singh, who is also a BJP MP, welcomed the Supreme Court’s order to file the police case into allegations of sexual harassment against him.
Mr Singh told reporters the wrestlers should have waited for the report of a committee that was tasked to look into the matter before they decided to sit on a protest in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.
“I am happy with the judiciary’s decision. The Delhi Police will investigate the allegations and I am ready to cooperate with them in every possible way. No one is bigger than the judiciary in this country. The order has come to file an FIR (first information report). The government had also said it had no objection to filing an FIR. I am not larger than the Supreme Court. I welcome the order,” Mr Singh told reporters.
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