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Five Lessons Learned from Andrew Dickelman and Nate Joens, Co-Founders of Structurely

August 21, 2017

Andrew Dickelman and Nate Joens, Co-Founders of Structurely, were the guest speakers at the Square One DSM Startup Stories event on Aug. 16. Structurely provides artificial intelligence services to realtors to nurture and qualify their leads. Its product, "Holmes," utilizes messaging channels like Facebook, text and live chat to instantly and intelligently recommend properties, evaluate a seller's property, advise on market conditions, schedule appointments or look up information on nearly any property in any market across the country. Dickelman and Joens talked about the artificial intelligence (AI) technology they are using, how they started the company and how they plan to launch.

Key Presentation Takeaways

AI is Powerful

Holmes is a form of artificial intelligence that helps connect realtors to customers. It is programmed to be able to say hello, ask potential home buyers what they are looking for in a home and use available data to help recommend houses for the user to check out. Holmes aims to own the initial five minutes of conversation with potential home buyers and then turn the lead over to the realtor.

Chase Down the Rabbit Hole

The co-founders were in college when they got the idea for using available real estate data to help solve problems for realtors. They referred to the process as chasing down the rabbit hole of problem solving. There were a lot of different directions they could go with the data and technology available. To determine what problems to solve, they talked with hundreds of retailers. Their advice: Get out of the office. Find out what the problem is. Then solve it. In this case, they have been able to save realtors time by helping them automate the initial follow-up with new customers.

Make Your Launch Manageable

Dickelman and Joens are preparing to launch their service to 3,500 agents. How do they plan to do a launch that large? Rolling it out in six different waves, with a new wave each month. They believe this will help them give their customers a good experience right away and help them see the value of Holmes.

Know Your Exit Strategy

As the company has received outside seed funding, the founders have already thought about an exit strategy down the road. This is common, as angel investors invest with the goal of getting their money back within a certain period of time, and an acquisition is often the best way to do that.

Gear Your Policies to the Workforce You Need

Dickelman and Joens strive to provide a flexible, fun work environment for their seven full-time employees, all of whom are in a young professional age range. That means things like monthly hackathons, “Bagel Fridays” and general autonomy for employees to get their work done. What it doesn’t mean, however, is remote workers. In trying to hire back a data scientist that had left the company for Apple, they had to decide whether they could let that potential employee live in California or require a move back to Iowa. In talking with their team, they decided the work environment dictated a need for employees to be in the office. Therefore, they held off on making the hire.

Make sure to attend the next Startup Stories event hosted monthly by Square One DSM. Learn more.

Mike Colwell

As executive director of entrepreneurial initiatives of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Mike Colwell leads works with startups to build their business model, financial model, marketing strategies and capitalization plan. He is also co-manager of Plains Angels, a group of Iowa-based Midwest angel investors. Mike spends his days coaching, mentoring, consulting and asking tough questions to help entrepreneurs reach their full potential. Mike assists with business strategy, business planning, business plan execution, business model development and capital acquisition strategies.