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A look into entrepreneurship, AI, and home design
There's an app for seemingly everything these days, but a lot of the time it requires wading through lots of poorly-designed or ad-heavy apps to find one that fits your needs.
It doesn't take long after downloading one to realize if it's going to be a dud or not due to paywalls, but it's also surprising just how poorly some of them are laid out. I'm currently in the process of buying a house and have gone through my fair share of apps only to be generally disappointed with the experience.
During this time, I actually had to the chance to talk with Alexey Sheremetyev of Planner 5D, an app that brings VR and AI into home design, to learn more about his home design tools that are available Web, iOS, and more.
We had the chance to discuss the hardships of starting a business, the inspiration behind the company, and features that make the app feel more like a game of The Sims than that of a home design tool.
Check out the full interview below:
Care to introduce yourself and your role at Planner 5D?
I’m the CEO and founder of Planner 5D. I began my career working as a web and graphic designer and, during university, founded my own design studio.
I was also the Head of UI/UX at Oversun Scalaxy, the first Russian cloud hosting provider; a UI designer at ABBYY; and the Art Director of Virtual Space, a web studio. Then, I founded Planned 5D with my friend Sergey Nosyrev in 2011.
In just a few sentences, what is Planner 5D?
Planner 5D looks and works like the Sims, but for real life, and for designing your dream home.
Basically, it’s an easy-to-use 3D home design tool that lets anyone, without any technical skills, fully customize their homes—everything from wall colors to flooring materials to room dimensions.
But it’s also quite cutting-edge, in that it applies AI, VR, and AR to that end. Already, we have over 40 million users who have designed over 80 million projects.
What was the inspiration behind the project?
Planner 5D came about because Sergey and I were both encountering home planning difficulties. I bought an apartment with plans to renovate it, while Sergey bought a piece of land on which he planned to build a house.
We each had a vision for a unique interior for our respective spaces, but couldn’t find any tools that matched our visions and skills. The ones tailored toward amateurs were insufficient, while the ones for professionals were confusing. So, we built the first version of Planner 5D.
Our app makes realistic renderings of user designs, complete with shadows, physical lighting, and reflections, like a professional but for a sliver of the price.
What type of hardships did you and your team encounter during the early days of Planner 5D?
We wanted to start earning money as soon as possible, but it was very hard to do. We made lots of experiments with different business models, but none worked.
Tried to do B2C and B2B at the same time. Couldn't find right the way of monetization with B2C and couldn't find strong B2B partners and so on.
Eventually, we focused on B2C only, worked a lot on A/B testing and found the first strong revenue channel.
While we were working on B2C model, time passed and we came back to B2B with bigger awareness, knowledge, and experience and finally made it work for us, as well.
Also, we've made a lot of marketing mistakes as we've grown, which is something to always consider when growing your product or service.
You have a new feature coming out, right? One that use AI to build out floor plans? Want to expand on that a bit?
Yes, we are super excited about our new AI-driven floor plan recognition feature.
Put simply, users can now upload a floor plan to the app and the platform will recognize walls, objects, doors, and windows, then create an interactive 3D floor plan to be used and customized within the system.
What challenges did you face with the new feature? Is working with AI difficult?
Developing AI isn’t easy, but we’ve put in the work. We launched an AI R&D department in 2016, as we plan to apply AI to home planning, robotics, scene-understanding, and more.
The great thing about AI is that the more data we have, the better our AI offerings get. And the popularity of Planner 5D means we have lots of data.
Any advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs or funding tips?
Know what problem your app is solving. Planner 5D takes a problem that everyone has and makes the solution dramatically more affordable.
For instance, the average architect costs for a homeowner are between $2,000 and $8,300 in the U.S.
Any other features coming to the service in the near future?
We plan to add a smart furnishing feature very soon. The feature will automatically render blueprints into fully furnished designs, taking into account the room type and existing items.
We are also using our vast trove of data on home renovations to build an AI assistant that is able to learn about users’ families, needs, and aspirations—and automatically create a custom design.
Anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?
One other thing we are quite proud of is the fact that Planner 5D has been used in schools since 2015, for everything from art and match classes to more niche areas like interior design and architecture.
So far, over 100 schools use it and being able to provide an educational tool has been very rewarding.
I'd like to thank Alexey for taking the time to answer some of my questions. Planner 5D is available on a bunch of devices and platforms.
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