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Two EPITA graduates aim to improve the real estate sector with Lokimo

Two EPITA graduates aim to improve the real estate sector with Lokimo

Members of the EPITA class of 2020, with a major in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (SCIA), Binta Gamassa and Martin Noël have launched Lokimo, a start-up that aims at transforming the daily life of real estate professionals through data. Developed in the EPITA StartUp Lab, the school’s start-up studio, this student project turning entrepreneurial does not lack ambition, just like its two creators who have joined us for this interview.

Martin and Binta, the two masterminds behind

What is your academic background?

Binta: I chose to study at EPITA, because in my last year of high school, I realized that I really wanted to learn more about new technologies: I wanted to know about programming and how the world of technology works… This is also why I majored in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. As neural networks and Data Science are sectors of key importance in the 21st century, I found it interesting to better understand how these fields work and how predictive algorithms are designed.

Martin: My background is quite similar to Binta’s. I also enrolled in EPITA after graduating from high school and chose to major in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. As a huge fan of science fiction, I’ve always been drawn to anything related to Artificial Intelligence (AI). By chance, Binta and I began working on a joint project for our major. A project that, as it evolved, went above and beyond the framework of our school…

What exactly did this joint project involve before becoming Lokimo?

Martin: Our end-of-studies projects had to involve data. So, we started looking for a field where data is important. Naturally, our research led us to real estate, as the vast majority of professionals working in the sector were making decisions based on too little data, despite its importance in their work. We found that almost no technology related to Big Data or AI was used!  So, we started gathering as much data as we could to see what could be done with it. While working on this, we realized that we wanted to take this a step further and decided to launch Lokimo.

So far, what data has been used by real estate professionals?

Martin: Traditional data, which we call “Conventional data” such as population, socio-economic data, price per square meter in the targeted area, number of transactions made, etc. Whether they are real estate agents, developers or investors, real estate professionals always look at these data before making decisions in a specific area.  And to process and compile this data, they traditionally use Excel to create tables and graphs. In addition to being very time-consuming, they miss out on a lot of so-called “unconventional” data. These data can be obtained through the semantic analysis of ads, demand analysis or saturation analysis. Saturation analysis may concern sectors where there are more properties for sale than demand, such as areas with more vacant properties than new arrivals. This is why Lokimo is more effective: it offers professionals a platform that incorporates and centralizes all these data, as well as allowing for more advanced data processing with search and prediction possibilities. This is all the more important because, to obtain unconventional data, it is necessary to scrape Internet sites, cross-reference certain data, and so on. A genuine process of real estate data valuation that professionals don’t have the time or often the skills to set up. Not everyone has the means to hire Data Scientists to achieve this.

While working on your project, when did you decide to turn it into an entrepreneurial endeavor?

Binta: In September 2019, we launched a prototype of our platform. Similar to a first draft. After this, an article was written about our project on the Actu IA website. After this article was published, everything began to accelerate: we received a lot of messages and requests for appointments from real estate professionals who were curious about our tool. These discussions made us realize that the need for data was real and that many people wanted to benefit from our know-how. We were on to something.

Prior to that, were you familiar with the world of real estate?

Martin: Not at all! That’s why, from the moment we felt this booming interest, we wanted to learn more and improve our skills in this field. This was also the reason why we met with professionals following the article’s publication, so that we could align our value proposition with the needs of those working in real estate. We wanted to know all the ins and outs. This approach is fundamental because, when we make predictive algorithms for the development of a specific area, we don’t simply stop at the price per square meter: behind this price, there is also a socio-economic change, a change in population, new constructions and public works, etc. This reflects the profoundly human dimension of real estate. And we are particularly interested in that!

As a result, will your platform be of interest to public and institutional players, for example, to monitor changes in different neighborhoods or define the needs for retail space in a specific area?

Martin: Definitely! We have begun to contact certain people in the public sphere. Nonetheless, we are still in the beginning phases of the project and no official collaboration has yet been established. We are experimenting first. We are already using the work done by these individuals to produce data.  Open Data is booming in France, especially in large cities like Paris, which even has an Open Data workshop.

How operational is Lokimo today?

Martin: We started to work on creating the company before lockdown, due to COVID 19.  Unfortunately, this health crisis prevented us from finalizing certain documents. We are now moving forward again and looking for a new support structure for next year. We are in contact with various incubators and startup coaches, allowing us to continue our development, while being supervised and benefiting from external feedback.

Binta: The project was developed, thanks to EPITA’s StartUp Lab, which also led us to focus on real estate. We had weekly meetings with Daniel Jarjoura, the director of the StartUp Lab, which allowed us to better build on the idea, understand how we wanted to develop it and win over our first clients, etc. Whenever we were stuck, he was there to help us find a solution as quickly as possible.

Martin: What you learn in the StartUp Lab is different from what you learn in class. And it covers a great deal of topics like knowing how to create an email marketing campaign, for example. This is a great advantage for people like us who, apart from our internships, have not had much experience in the business world until now. It has also enabled us to meet other entrepreneurs and speak with them about their career paths. This is how we realized that entrepreneurs often take the same paths, meet the same challenges, and have the same doubts. The StartUp Lab has prepared us well and provided us with support. We are not alone.

What are your roles in this adventure?

Binta: I am in charge of the Back-End development of the application and data processing. I also manage communications, user acquisition and growth hacking.

Martin: As for me, I’m mainly in charge of R&D for AI as well as the commercial strategy, customer meetings…

Data processing and visualization can be tedious for those not specialized in the field. Is your mission also to make this part of the process simpler, more enjoyable and appealing for future users? Does ergonomics play an important role in your approach?

Martin: Definitely!  In real estate, professionals generally feel very disappointed by the lack of attractive Business Intelligence tools, while three-quarters of other sectors benefit from great graphics and super modern online platforms. Real estate is still very austere in this respect and nothing has really been done to change the situation for professionals – yet several sites for individuals are far more advanced. So, we’re also focusing on that, especially since we’re very sensitive to the question of design and interface. Even if it means slowing down the development of certain functionalities, we give priority to having the most modern and accessible platform possible, which is pleasant to use and represents real change.

Binta: We really want to make it easy to handle the data. In Excel, it’s not that simple or aesthetically appealing to cross-reference data. With Lokimo, in two or three clicks, you can easily get all the data you want, and it looks nice. The design and user experience are very important to us.

What about the business model?

Binta: The main target is real estate professionals. We offer them monthly subscriptions that can be canceled at any time. We are currently preparing to expand our offers and are considering future collaborations with major groups in the sector.

Martin: Smaller businesses can subscribe to use the platform as is. Other companies can opt for a subscription with a customized platform, their own wording and design of reports. An option also allows them to use our APIs to leverage their own data. Our offer can be adapted to each user’s needs and desires.

Will the team be expanding soon?

Martin: We have thought about it, but in the end, we prefer that just the two of us work together as long as possible. We are currently in an advantageous position because we are doing our final internship in our own company. This allows us to devote a great deal of time to our structure, and help it grow. Our main goal is to gain a thorough understanding of our market and provide the best possible offer. The team will grow next year, when we will have joined a new support structure, as we still have many ambitions. We will then be looking for people with other backgrounds because, although Binta and I are very complementary, we both have very technical profiles. People with more sales or communication-oriented backgrounds will be able to help us take the company to the next level.

Discover Lokimo on its website and LinkedIn

Also, read the article by Maddyness as well as that in the Journal de l’Agence devoted to Lokimo!

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