Software providers in the building operations space are usually faced with daunting costs and complexities when searching for an indoor space visualisation tool to complement their existing apps and dashboards. How about finding a simpler way to visualize your space?
Founded in 2019 by Wanlyn Tiberghien and Thibaut Tiberghien, Smplrspace is a digital floor plan platform aims to address this gap by providing an affordable and quick layout digitisation solution for Proptech and IoT softwares to deploy their solutions across both commercial and residential real estate.
In this Startup Conversation, we got in touch with Wanlyn Tiberghien, Co-Founder and CEO of Smplrspace. Read on to find out about the couple’s journey to starting a Proptech company together.
To start off the session, tell us more about Smplrspace. What inspired you to start it? Any backstories to the founding of Smplrspace?
Wanlyn: We first started Smplrspace for real estate agents to be able to quickly and affordably create 3D layouts for residential properties. The goal then was to solve the problem of missing layout information on property listings that was resulting in excessive physical viewings and waste of time for homebuyers, sellers and agents.
While participating in a few accelerator programs and startup events, we were approached by Proptech companies asking if they could integrate our ‘noiseless and interactive’ digital floor plans into their apps and dashboard to provide a complementary visual element to existing charts and statistics. We spent 6 weeks validating that new value proposition and market demand before going through with the pivot.
As both you and Thibaut came from vastly different backgrounds and industries, what made you decide to start a company in the proptech sector?
Wanlyn: Both Thibaut and I have no prior professional real estate experience – neither as architects, nor interior design or construction. We consider ourselves ‘industry outsiders’ who set out to solve a personal pain point (time wasted on excessive property viewings), and are now tackling a large gap and opportunity in the Proptech industry. The quote that we resonate with when thinking about what lies ahead with Smplrspace:
No radical innovation in the last 40 years was brought by somebody who knew the domain. […] Experts are experts in the previous version of the world, not the future world. […] Listening to experts lead to minor innovation.
— Vinod Khosla, founder Khosla Ventures & co-founder Sun Microsystems
What are some of the challenges you faced?
Wanlyn: Pivoting to find a problem with a large enough addressable market, building a product that clients want, bringing the solution to market, and fundraising for the next stage of growth. We executed all the above as a bootstrapped team of two. Put simply, we don’t believe in fundraising on an idea, so we validated the problem with a solution built in-house, and subsequently fundraised to bring resources and people on board to scale growth.
Is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
Wanlyn: We would definitely engage the startup community earlier than we did. The founder’s path can be lonely, and there are lots of unknown unknowns. Surrounding ourselves with experienced founders or Proptech mentors who have been in the ecosystem for a while right from the start is something we would do.
How is it like having your spouse as your co-founder? Is balancing work and family difficult?
Wanlyn: To begin with, we have contrasting but complementary skillsets and characters – that made it easy to define roles and responsibilities within Smplrspace. Having been together for 14 years, we deal with decision making and conflict resolutions efficiently. There is little to nothing that we cannot communicate transparently about, and we are each others’ toughest critics.
We are both equally hands on with our kids, and surround ourselves with a good support network. When it comes to balancing work and family, we simply make good use of our time and prioritise ruthlessly. Checklists for both work and household related matters are the way to go.
I don’t believe we have an easier or more difficult time than anyone else just because we operate a startup – every person has entitlement to the same number of minutes in a day – it’s what we make of those minutes.
What are some of the memorable experiences as both of you work together on this journey?
Wanlyn: We decided to relocate back to Singapore primarily due to the company’s pivot and new direction. We sold our house, sourced for and found a new home virtually, uprooted our kids, dog and ourselves to a new phase of life. All of this was done within 7 weeks while the pandemic and strict cross border regulations were still in place. Fun times.
Smplrspace has syndicated with AngelCentral recently. How is the experience so far fundraising through AngelCentral?
Wanlyn: The syndicate led by seasoned investor Sam Gibb has resulted in a fuss-free experience for us. As founders we appreciate that the timeline and processes have been clear and streamlined, resulting in an oversubscribed and efficient fundraise close. Angelcentral has also brought together investors from established backgrounds in different industries – we look forward to learning and leveraging on those networks and experiences.
With this funding round, what is the next target Smplrspace plans to work towards?
Wanlyn: Funds will be deployed primarily towards engineering efforts to build and introduce features that clients in the pipeline are waiting for. The next 12 months are about scaling revenues, realising milestones on the product roadmap, and gathering the metrics necessary for our next fundraise.
Where do you see Smplrspace in 2-3 years time?
Wanlyn: In 3 years time we hope to have a billion sqft digitised and hosted on the Smplrspace platform. Success for us is becoming the de-facto standard for indoor space visualisation. We hope the industry will agree that having an independent and open player providing that part of the stack will benefit the ecosystem at large.
Is there a quote that you resonate with most in life?
Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last but not least, what is one word of advice that you like to give to anyone who wishes to start a business?
Wanlyn: Bill Gates once said “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” So go into it knowing it’s almost definitely going to take longer than you think, but that the perseverance will pay off, even in ways you didn’t expect.
Smplrspace (pronounced “simpler space”) was founded with the purpose of creating tools that empower people to access and understand spaces through better communication, hence increasing their autonomy to make improved decisions.
From property hunting to hotel booking, from renovation planning to navigating malls, we face space-related dilemmas in our lives. Smplrspace believe that 3D technologies can help enhance communication about spaces, making them easier to grasp and reason about, resulting in the betterment of our experience of them.