Startup Spotlight: Wizio

Mar 11, 2018


Startup Spotlight: Wizio

Mar 11, 2018

Meet John Puma- Co-Founder and CEO of Wizio, an affordable and scalable virtual reality tour solution for real estate.

GH: What is Wizio?

Wizio is an affordable and scalable virtual reality tour solution for real estate. We work with property managers and brokerages across Boston to create virtual tours of their listings.  With that content, Wizio is building the first apartment search platform, exclusively in virtual reality. 

GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Wizio get started?

Wizio was started as a result of our experiences searching for apartments online. Today, there is an extreme lack of transparency in the online search process, ranging from inaccurate listing details to poor-quality or misrepresented photography content. We saw an opportunity to utilize virtual reality to create a more transparent and accurate experience in the market.

GH: How did you build/ are you thinking about building your team?

Our core team met at Northeastern University, where we all connected over the shared problem of apartment hunting. We even hired our first co-op from the school this past Fall! Looking ahead, we’re planning to leverage other resources in the city and the network our founders have built to continue supporting our growth. We’re always looking for individuals who are passionate about tackling a large problem and have an eye for real estate.   

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?

Transparency and accuracy drive all of our decisions at Wizio. We strive to change the dynamic and industry norms that currently exist in real estate to transfer some power back to consumers.

GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

Specific to Wizio, the company’s first CEO stepped down in the Fall of 2016, in our very early days. This hit the company quite hard and left it without direction until the following Spring, when another team member stepped into the role and developed a planned product pivot that injected revenue back into the business at a time we were running on empty. This is actually how I ended up joining the company, through a need for an operations focus with the new product direction. The success rate upon founder divide is extremely low but we endured and it made us all that much stronger as a result.

GH: What did you learn from your first customers?

The lessons learned from our initial customers are invaluable. They have been instrumental in overall product feedback as well as referrals to other customers and partners. Those initial customers not only saw the value in our product  but were also committed to our vision and helping us succeed. To this day, we have regular check-ins with those customers to provide motivation and guidance on how we can continue to improve.

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

Boston’s startup ecosystem has been very beneficial to Wizio and our team. We started as a result of entering the  Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club‘s accelerator competition (Husky Startup Challenge) which gave us the resources and confidence to pursue this venture. The culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at Northeastern provided us support, feedback, and access to other driven students who would later join our team..

Wizio’s table at HUBweek Demo Day

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?

While it is improving, we have found that innovation in Boston is often siloed into different neighborhoods, campuses, co-working spaces, and industries. One initiative that recently launched to address the lack of collaboration across campuses is InnovateEDU and I would love to see additional initiatives launch to tackle the issues in other spaces.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

The best was to always ask for advice and feedback and you’ll receive much more.

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

While we are focused on real estate, we force ourselves to think beyond that market and try new things. As a result, we have created virtual tours of events, neighborhoods, major attractions, and more. Stepping outside our comfort zone has led to partnerships in other markets and even additional product features. My favorite event that I personally photographed was Sail Boston, when the Tall Ships made their historic visit to Boston. You can check out one of the ships in VR  here!

GH: What does the future hold for Wizio?

This Spring, we’re excited to be releasing the first apartment search platform with exclusively VR content. Our goal is to become the go-to site for apartments or short-term rentals. Longer-term, we plan to expand into additional verticals and tackle other important issues in real estate, such as addressing affordable housing problems many cities face.

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