On Starting A Web And App Development Studio Coming From The Real Estate Industry
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Alex and I'm the founder of Bloomy Lab. Our company focuses on health and fitness, productivity and life quality improvement. We mostly develop our own products, by now the most popular of them are Restly, 2 Minute Habits, Jiju, Poof, and City Property. Some of our apps even became Product of the day on Product Hunt. Our team is not so big: 2 UI/UX designers, 1 motion designer, 5 developers, 2 product managers and me as both a strategist and a product owner. Oh, we've also found a UA manager not long ago. Despite that, we've created 20 apps in half a year and nothing's gonna stop us!
We've launched our products without any ads (working on it now), that’s why we've only reached 40,000 downloads. Our apps were totally free and without in-app purchases, as our main goal was idea verification. By now we only get around $1,000 per month as money-making wasn't our main focus earlier. I hope we'll update that info really soon though.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I've been in the real estate industry for almost 4 years before moving on to start-ups. However, I lacked an opportunity to develop my talents. Since then, I made it my #1 goal to build a team of creative professionals who aim to fulfill their potential and find their place in life instead of being an office monkey.
Move fast and break things. Broaden your horizons and be curious - you never know what skills might come in handy.
I became an entrepreneur in 2014 when I started Hasten — now one of the most successful virtual staging and architectural rendering companies. Together with my team of talented architects and designers, we have earned the loyalty of hundreds of real estate professionals in NYC and all over the world.
Then my itch for product optimization stimulated us to build an easy to use virtual staging platform — Tantify. The platform and all the team members are constantly evolving to improve both the inner processes and customer experience.
On my journey with Hasten and Tantify, I faced numerous difficulties with outsourcing companies that could not develop the website either on time or within budget. That was actually where Bloomy Lab started from - we developed our own products and became pros in it.
Since I've always been fascinated by innovative and scalable companies aimed at the international markets, especially projects connected with life quality improvements, in Bloomy Lab we made it our mission to create products that make people healthier, happier, and more productive.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Our first product was Tantify - a platform that changed our lives and made it easier for our clients to place their virtual staging orders.
Virtual staging is the process of adding 3D furniture and decor into existing interior photos of real estate. Special software is used to recreate a room based on its photo including windows, doors, walls, and floors. Then 3D furniture models are added. Together with realistic textures and lighting it’s called “a scene”, that is rendered with the help of software and then tweaked out in the graphic editor. This process is really complicated and takes much diligence, understanding of perspective and space, and a sense of aesthetic.
This service is especially popular among real estate brokers, photographers, and interior designers as it’s a profitable and useful alternative to costly home staging.
Frankly speaking, real estate agents and designers are mostly not tech-savvy, that’s why in creating a platform for them our main goal was to achieve simplicity - make our interfaces as intuitive and friendly as possible.
Honestly, before we’ve created our one-of-a-kind virtual staging platform it sometimes took us weeks and tones of emails before gathering all the necessary details for the project. That was the exact reason why we designed Tantify - interactive platform where order info is collected in just a few clicks, without burdening our clients.
Tantify allowed us to improve quality, lower prices, increase loyalty, speed up the production process, and reduce the number of errors together with image corrections by means of algorithms we use.
It is also super easy to use: all clients have to do is upload photos and drop a hint on what designs they like, the rest is made by the professional team of CGI artists and architecture. Our clients love Tantify, so I guess we succeeded. You can check the full case study if you are interested.
Video tutorial on how to use Tantify
Review of the best virtual staging companies.
Describe the process of launching the business.
It all starts from market size evaluation after that strategy is formed. Ask yourself:
- Where will we play?
- How will we win?
... and make a list of competitors and their advantages.
The answers will help product managers in defining the features of a product. In 1-2 weeks the prototype is created: approximately 80% of features are eliminated in the initial prototype with Occam's razor principle, and the remaining 20% is enough to get users feedback. I also recommend using Porter's Five Forces Framework for analyzing the competition.
The strategy doesn’t have to be complicated, it should be formulated and captured on one sheet of paper. Always keep in mind that each member of your team will need to understand the entire strategy of your company.
it is almost impossible to know where you’ll find the new opportunities in advance, so we conduct a thorough analysis, monitor trends and try to predict them using collective predictions in the team and conduct small experiments.
After that, we decide whether to work further on this prototype:
- Have we identified the key functions of the prototype correctly or is it worth changing them?
It usually takes about 1-2 weeks to collect this information.
After specifying the characteristics, we make changes and show an updated prototype to users.
Only after several cycles of user feedback, we create an MVP.
If you haven’t got any clients within the 3-month time frame, you should pivot.
Our company hasn’t experienced it yet, but I’m sure you’ve all heard of the most legendary pivot in social media history - the transformation of Odeo into Twitter. Odeo began as a network where people could find and subscribe to podcasts, but the founders feared the company’s demise when iTunes began taking over the podcast niche. After giving the employees two weeks to come up with new ideas, the company decided to make a drastic change and run with the idea of a status-updating micro-blogging platform.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I believe that it is necessary to constantly experiment with marketing channels and campaigns. What worked before may not work next time, the same as for someone else's experience.
By now, we haven’t yet done any large-scale advertising, we just tried to test our product and contacted potential customers to find out their needs and discover the disadvantages of the product in order to make our products better before even starting a buzz.
We used geek communities with early adopters such as Product Hunt, tech publishers or any other magazines aimed at our target audience.
That’s the list of websites where you can showcase your products I’ve collected so far:
- Product Hunt
- Startups List
For Sale By Maker
- Launching Next
And even more in this article.
I hope you’ll find it useful as I guess it helps a lot in testing any product before blowing all the budget on advertising.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
By now we are just a small startup. However, we are ambitious and expect rapid growth.
We are planning to cover as many areas as possible, including healthcare, AI, banking, and IoT.
As for long term goals, we want to attract investment and apply for startup incubators with some of our products. And of course, increase revenue and go public with an IPO.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Starting a business taught me a lot:
- I made some mistakes in hiring staff, so now I carefully select and compile a list of necessary skills in advance, not to deviate from it during the interview.
- I do not work with assholes anymore, only the win-win strategy.
- I’ve beaten loss aversion error, so now it is reasonable for me to invest in development and not to be afraid to spend money on experiments.
- I do not make hasty conclusions, do not weed out beginners and give almost everyone a chance.
- I have developed emotional intelligence and the ability to be empathetic in order to understand customers and create better products. It also helped me trust people more.
- I improved my project management and decision making skills, by learning to deal with cognitive errors in decision making.
- Now I use 5 whys technique, checklists, and charts to meet deadlines and achieve my goals.
- I also walk in the morning and meditate to stay calm and balanced.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Airtable - simple tool to organize the work of a team
- Workflowy - zen tool to organize your own work & life
- Gliffy diagrams - to visualize any processes or strategy for teams and products
- Zoom - free tool for conferences
- Figma - the best tool to use for UI/UX design teams and super fast feedback
- Telegram - just a secure chat
- Toggl- free time tracking
- Sensor tower- app competitors monitoring
- App Annie- app analytics, far better than App Store Connect
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Well, I read a lot. Some authors that came to my mind are Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Daniel Kahneman, Nate Silver, Joel Mokyr, Thomas Schelling, Edward Thorp, Eric Reiss, Atul Gawande, Clayton Christensen, Karl Popper, Yuval Noah Harari, Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Angus Deaton, Philip Tetlock, Eliezer Yudkowsky. All of these books taught me not to make mistakes, or rather to make the right mistakes and be quick.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I often notice that people around take little and/or wrong risks, are not communicative enough or afraid to ask for help. But you’ve got nothing to lose, especially if you are 20 years old. You win a few, you lose a few.
Move fast and break things. Broaden your horizons and be curious - you never know what skills might come in handy. Implement new technologies as quickly as possible, even if you’re used to old ones. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate, and adapt quickly.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
No exact vacancies, but we are always open and looking for creative people to join us.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Our apps (currently iOS only)
- Product Hunt
- Some design inspiration from our team: Behance & Dribbble
- Reviews on our work
- Become beta testers of our upcoming products
Bloomy Lab has provided an update on their business!
About 1 year ago, we followed up with Bloomy Lab to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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