Founders & Friends
with Scott Orn
Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

Sumeet Howe of Hover on Startup Product Management

Posted on: 09/04/2018

Sumeet Howe
Product Management Director at Hover

Podcast Summary

Sumeet Howe of Hover stops by to talk Startup Product Management and share her career path. Hover’s 3D Models of houses is revolutionary and Sumeet has helped bridge the gap between Hover customers like Home Depot and the Engineering team. Hover has just raised a large round and it’s fun to listen to the company’s success through Sumeet’s story.

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Podcast Transcript

Scott Orn: Welcome to Founders and Friends podcasts with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting, and today my very special guest is Sumeet Howe at Hover. Welcome, Sumeet.
Sumeet Howe: Thank you. Very glad to be here.
Scott: So you guys have an amazing technology which we’ll talk about in a second, but I thought it’d be cool if you kinda retraced your career a little bit, and explained how you got to Hover.
Sumeet: Sure. Yeah, it’s an interesting story. So, well, I grew up in India, and in India, the society kind of steers people to two jobs, either become a doctor or an engineer. So I-
Scott: Not a lawyer.
Sumeet: Well, a lawyer too, but those are the two main streams. So, I went to school for computer engineering and got a job at Abid outsourcing company as an engineer, but I was always interested in the business side. So, went to Yale for my MBA and then joined IBM headquarters in their data science group. That’s where I got the experience of machine learning, and really got into data, and then a friend from grad school reached out about an opening at GoodData which is a startup backed by Andreessen. And then after three years at GoodData, I became interested in AR and VR, because I was, I started sending an inflection point a lot of the time then magically you’ve got a big funding. So then I jumped on board with Hover when the opportunity arose.
Scott: It’s, it’s always hard picking those new technologies like AR, VR, cause the history of Silicon Valley is like takes 10 years longer than everyone thinks for it to go mainstream. I still remember seeing Friendster, the demo for friends there and I was like, “This is gonna be huge.”, and I almost quit my job actually and join them. And then I wasn’t told Facebook five years later where it really started taking off. So it’s amazing how the cycle [crosstalk]
Sumeet: Thankfully for me though, because I, yeah, I was interested in AR, VR, but the only applications I’d heard of were either in gaming, or in self, or driverless cars, or the defense industry. But Hover was the only platform that was addressing a pain point right now, instead of in some distant future. So, I thought over then [crosstalk]
Scott: By the time everything else comes around, you can, you’ll have five years ahead of [crosstalk]
Sumeet: We’re making money, following a paying client, that’s the real deal.
Scott: That’s your MBA right there paying off. When we talk about what Hover does and what you do there.
Sumeet: Sure. So, Hover is a technology platform where we take in the smartphone photos and translate those to accurate measurements and a 3D model. And I’m the Director of Product Management there’s, and I oversee everything about the 3D reconstruction. So, anything that goes from when a user takes a photo to actually seeing the 3D model that fold [inaudible].
Scott: So we have a common friend VJ who introduced us, and as he … I still think it’s kind of magic. Basically, you can reconstruct the square footage of a house via some pictures. Which is totally mind-blowing to me. How is that possible? So maybe walk through a little bit of that and, and obviously, there’s probably some secret sauce you can’t disclose, but it’s kind of mind-blowing that that can actually happen.
Sumeet: Yeah, well, it is magic. No. No, I mean, the technology has advanced so much now. The phones are carrying so much sensor information that we can actually get that data, and then try to connect these 3D models just by photos. So … And a lot of it is proprietary information, but we use a lot of deep learning algorithm, the computer vision to tie these together, and then ultimately form a 3D model.
Scott: And so who’s the beneficiary of this service? Who uses this service and how is that helpful to society?
Sumeet: Yeah, so, we are actually going after a lot of, or there could be so many myriad applications for this, but our primary target user base is the contractors. So think of this, Hover actually started as a defense contractor, but it pivoted into home improvement market because the value proposition was so much stronger. So, the sales process in the home improvement market has not, if you think about it, it hasn’t changed in decades. The contractors still drive to your house. They take the tape measurement, they give you eyeballed measurements, and the vision of the homeowner on how a remodel should look like versus what the contractor thinks, they’re usually not the same. And that’s where Hover fits in. Now the contractor can just simply take few photos, and then get the accurate measurements. They’ve no longer have to crawl around the house or go on top of the roof. Besides being dangerous, it’s very time-consuming.
Scott: It’s like a truck, all right. Any business has a truck roll is gonna be super expensive.
Sumeet: Sure. And-
Scott: And it … Does that feed into a simulation that everyone can look at together, or how does that work?
Sumeet: Yeah, and absolutely. So, they can sit with the homeowner advocate and table, and then show them this is how their house looks like today, and we can actually customize a 3D model by changing colors or adding new elements to it and splitting facades. And this is a really good up-selling tool for them. Let’s say I call you just to get my roof fixed, but then you show me this cruel 3D model, and you show me how a wall of stone is gonna look like. And then boom, there you go.
Scott: Or maybe break out a wall or something like that [crosstalk]
Sumeet: Or you can just change everything just with a click of buttons.
Scott: It’s crazy.
Sumeet: And-
Scott: What do they like? What did the contractors like the best? Is that the speed and efficiency, or is it the upsell?
Sumeet: I think, upsell is the cherry on the top, but I think about it like, “I don’t have to use my measurement at all. I just don’t have to do anything with hand. All I need is eight photos and I’m done” So … And on top of that, this is a very good differentiator for them, cause all the other contractors, yes, they can use other aerial imagery measurements, but the 3D model is really the differentiator that sets them apart. When they’re talking to the homeowner, it still gives them a really good selling tool, and form that relationship with the homeowner. And if you’re a homeowner and you see your house in 3D, and you can actually interact with it, versus, “I am another contract who was just telling you the quote.”. Of course, I’m gonna be more invested in the second part.
Scott: It builds a lot of comments too, and I know I … There are not too many people that have a seamless relationship with their contractor users. There are some ups and downs. So having kind of that joint agreement and visualization, it seems really, really powerful.
Sumeet: So that’s one, and the second market that we are actively going after is the home insurance.
Scott: Is good.
Sumeet: Auto insurers are already … They’ve already dumped on this mobile claims bandwagon, and the home insurers are very much eager to do so. And we have learned that the number one focus of home insurers is to improve customer experience. Again, let’s say I got a hail damage, and, right now I have to take a day off, wait for the adjuster to come in so that they can examine the damage, and takes weeks to get my check. But now a homeowner can take photos. They can start their claim profits immediately, and get a check in a couple of hours.
Scott: And that’s for renters insurance or home insurance, something like that.
Sumeet: Yeah, both.
Scott: I happen to have … My apartment burned down like 15 years ago and so my wife, I think it was like a month apart. It was crazy like weird, but you’re right, it takes forever to get the money. And all my clothes got trashed, and my TV got ruined, and I had to go get another apartment and all kind of stuff. It’s actually a really inefficient process.
Sumeet: No, it is. It’s, I think with our technology is the classic example of going after this unexplored market like contracting, and even then, even with insurance, and just bringing more transparency and efficiency to the office.
Scott: So you said there was a pivot from a defense contractor to home improvement. Where’s that … Were you there during the pivot and how did that work?
Sumeet: I was not, but we were creating 3D maps for military convoys to look at them before they would take these routes. So that’s how it started [crosstalk]
Scott: And then they’re like, “Hey, the military is tough to sell to. Let’s … “
Sumeet: It’s tough to sell to. Those sales cycle is very long, but then here, it’s just, you show it to a contractor once, and they keep coming back. And it’s just so easy. I always joke with VJ and other sales folks that, “Your job is so easy. You just show the product and it sells itself.” I went to a conference once-
Scott: Sounds like such a product for [crosstalk]
Sumeet: I know, I went to this conference, and I was showing it, and everyone just flocked around me. And I was, yeah, I was teasing them that your job [crosstalk].
Scott: Wow. I’m sure the sales people love that. Now, you guys have done some big announcements lately. So, you did a huge fundraising, and you also had a kind of strategic partnership with somebody. Can you talk about that?
Sumeet: Yeah. So, earlier this year, we got a round of funding from DV, from Home Depot and Standard Industries. Standards Industries is the world’s largest roofing manufacturer.
Scott: Oh, I didn’t know that. Wow. Good for them for investing. That’s cool.
Sumeet: I know, we have really good partnerships with this, and, and now Home Depot is one of our largest partners, their investor. So, it’s been going really good.
Scott: So you guys have … Do you have locations set up in the Home Depot, or they just promote your technology, or how’s it work?
Sumeet: No, they, they have their brand, or their pros are professionals who use our technology on a daily basis. So they are going to… When they are talking to homeowners they use our technology. And, there is our app, but we have branded it in the Home Depot way so that they can [inaudible]
Scott: That makes sense. They probably wanna show off the [inaudible]. That’s really cool. Did you help? How did that whole partnership come along? Where they just … Were the people at Home Depot hearing about Hover, and they’re like, “Oh, gosh. We gotta get into this.”
Sumeet: Yeah. All the other contractors were using them and they said, “Okay, what the heck is that?”, and then they got to know about that. And then that’s how it came about.
Scott: That’s amazing. Wow. Cause a big partnership like that’s really hard to get, especially from a retailer. I mean, so has there been any … Did you ever have any hiccup moments where it was like, “Oh, gosh, this Home Depot rollout could get a little scary, cause there’s so many contractors, or so many stores and everything.”
Sumeet: It’s not scary. It’s just exciting. We’ve been seeing our job volume just grow tremendously, and it’s exciting [crosstalk].
Scott: That’s awesome. Good for you. Well, maybe talk a little about, cause you do product management. So, I was telling you before we turned the mics on, that we are writing law software, and doing a lot of nation here. What’s … What is kind of some of the basic tenets of product management for you, and how do you apply that at Hover?
Sumeet: One of the things that I would say, being an engineer and coming from an analytics background, I always used to place intuitively more importance to the quantitative elements, but I think as a product manager, you also need to be very careful about the qualitative aspect. Because it’s not just looking at the NPS scores, you have to talk to your customer because NPS rarely correlates with body language.
Scott: Oh, interesting, cause we do NPS scores here. And people were like brutally honest. Good God. And I get … Sometimes I’m like, “Holy God-
Sumeet: Do they give the comments, or do you just [crosstalk]
Scott: Yeah, yeah, they get … Actually-
Sumeet: That’s, that’s better than just getting the score, right?
Scott: Yeah, the angry people always give a comment. So, it’s like … And we, and we have a really high NPS score that’s if you’re curious, but it’s like … Sometimes I’m surprised. I mean, I can’t believe the people who, like love us sometimes the most, they’ll give us like a five, and I’m like, “You, You just told me last week that you love us so much.” Our expectations are out of this world.
Sumeet: Well, back, that’s another factor, but, yeah, I think that’s why it’s just important to talk to them and not just solely rely on data. There was something recently I read about the difference between being data-driven and data-informed. And data-driven is when you let data guide your decision-making process, but I think data informed is when you let data act as a check on your intuition or gut. And I will rather be a not and at least my team, we try to be more data-informed, where we use both intuition and data to come up with a set of testable hypotheses of a product rather than just looking at data and then making decisions off the bat.
Scott: You don’t want to be like a prisoner of it. Cause I understand you do mostly houses right now, but skyscrapers, or like corporate floors that needing a remodel, or something like maybe you do that, maybe you don’t, I don’t know, but I was like, “A hut seemed like a really big thing too.”
Sumeet: Majority of it is we are still going after the residential homes, but the commercial is something that is on our roadmap. So, another … I mean, this is a perfect example of, “Where do you start commercial right now, or do you first direct the … “
Scott: And I know there’s a use case for us. We’re sitting on the Kruze office, and it’s like, we moved in here, we gotta put a lot of work into it, and figure out the colors, and figure out if we should knock down the wall, and things like that. So I can see how the application will be super valuable. But you gotta, I guess do the trade-offs, right?
Sumeet: Yeah.
Scott: Go deeper in the Home Depot crew, or do we go after a whole nother market segment? So you … So how do you do, you look at leads, or do you look at, and be … How do you make that decision?
Sumeet: I think a lot we do have other product managers as well who are behind my domain this particularly on the 3D reconstruction, but yeah, we look at leads, we look at, I mean, just especially on the insurance side. The sales cycle is very long there as well relative to big contracting [crosstalk]. But there … If you just focus on the top carrier, even if you get one of those, others will follow.
Scott: Makes it [inaudible] Broadway.
Sumeet: So, that’s, that’s what we’re going after. Just trying to build relationships with top carriers, and then going [crosstalk]
Scott: That’s where you need the salespeople. That’s what VJ brings on. That’s awesome. Now, you talked about an insurance going after insurance provider. What are the steps there? Do you have to just … Do you show them our wise, you show them that the contractors using it? Are you trying to build a workflow, an example workflow?
Sumeet: I think the very first thing, or whenever we meet with them, and we talk about our technology, and it’s never been a case when they’re not wowed. Just by seeing what we can do, that’s a very good wow factor with the technology.
Scott: And It’s cool for them, cause it’s like money in their pocket. [crosstalk]
Sumeet: Yeah, cause they are saving. Absolutely, they are … It’s directly affecting their bottom line. They are saving money, not sending anyone on the field every then. Plus I think it’s also the expectations of the consumers to be more technologically savvy. They wanna be with the insurer who-
Scott: Cause they know that insurer’s more efficient. It’s like Metromile. I checked it. I did, it doesn’t work for me, but I checked it out the other day, cause I was like, “Well, they figured out a more efficient way. So they’re probably cheaper.”
Sumeet: Absolutely. And we … Everyone wants to just do business on the phone, or, if I can just take photos and get my claim check. I mean, why would I even talk to someone?
Scott: I know.
Sumeet: So I think they see all these steps that how the workload can be so much more efficient. How it can bring transparency, and also accuracy to what they’re saying, cause it’s just a win, win.
Scott: That’s exactly how we do it here. We were building so much automation and little tools that help our clients self-serve themselves. Cause that’s what they want. It’s like exactly you said, we wanna do business on the phone, help themselves, don’t necessarily wanna talk to someone if they don’t have to. Which is kinda nice. It’s … We liked the relationship, and I’m sure you do too. I’m sure your sales team loves going out to Home Depot, insurance cars, but it’s also nice to have a [inaudible] that’s so good that people just use it seamlessly.
Sumeet: Absolutely. And I mean, on the insurance side, we’re also exploring the front of the funnel. So, while they’re calculating the underwriting or the premiums, even there our product can be used. So, the same concept, you take photos, but this time you also include some of the risk factors that are used to calculate those premiums. So we are asking users to, let’s say, take photos of their yard to figure out if they have a swimming pool [crosstalk] and we can detect those. And even if a house has an aggressive dog, the premium could go up.
Scott: Oh, interesting.
Sumeet: So, things like that.
Scott: Do you look and see if dogs like napping, or [crosstalk]
Sumeet: Yeah, We got a really cute picture. We have a whole slack channel full of dogs.
Scott: My wife loves dogs. She would, she would like to subscribe. That sounds good. I hope you did content marketing for a year. You should totally do it. And so, and so that … So is it now, cause when you do insurance you are filling out a lot of stuff. The insurance guy’s probably taking it on, on your word that you’re actually accurately providing it. So this is … So is it, is it shifting away from people giving quotes over the phone to just an automated quote over the …
Sumeet: I mean, with this, yeah, a lot of our carriers are trying this, or in the pilot stage with a lot of them, and we’re getting a really good response. And on top of that, we’re also doing the interior in this case. So also figuring out what kind of … Is the kitchen remodeled? It’s a …
Scott: And it’s probably good, I know when my place burned down, they asked me a lot of questions about my clothes, and what the room looked like, and my furniture. It’s nice to have … This is before, this is how old I am, it’s before smartphones. So there wasn’t a way to take pictures, but it would be nice to have a record of that.
Sumeet: It’s like everything is documented, and it’s with the insurer, and when the claim does get submitted, you already have those pictures. So you don’t even need to ask them for another, or [crosstalk]
Scott: Used to have to fill these huge … I had to fill a huge list of every shirt I owned and everything. I was like, “Oh, it’s so terrible.”
Sumeet: That would be a lot. Right now we’re just asking for basic stuff, but I think that’s, that’s more than enough, or what more than what they get today.
Scott: And in terms of your retail partnerships, there are other firms like Lowe’s and Costco or you, like Home Depot all the way through. When you guys talk to those other firms, you have to kinda play it cool, because Home Depot probably wants an exclusive or something like that.
Sumeet: Yeah, we’re still exploring that. I mean, right now, we haven’t even scratched the surface with Home Depot, but once we get traction there, I’m sure that it will open doors. Other …
Scott: They’re like, “Hey, we, we’re, we’re, we’re gonna help, help you for the next couple years unless you stick with us.” Awesome. Well, so talk about a little more of a product management flow internally. Are you … Are they coming to you if they wanna spark a new vertical, and they’re saying, “Hey, how does this sky … Can you build a skyscraper model? Is that even possible? Or is that … “, cause your job sounds like the hardest, which is actually getting the models to work and make sure they’re tested.
Sumeet: And I think usually how we are approaching this is even with, let’s say, the underwriting concept that we are currently exploring that. We’re looking at the pictures of the yard, and that’s a new concept for us, but so far, we’ve only been asking for the photos. So, it typically works as we come up with the concept that this is how it’s gonna work. We run some pilots and then based on what traction we get, we go after that. So it’s not that the very first idea we come and we build a lot of prototypes, get feedback early on. So the whole customer development phase. Show them a bunch of MVPs, and then get their feedback, and then iterate on that. So-
Scott: Do you have like … Have you had these moments where you’re like, “Oh my gosh, the square footage was totally off.”, or, like on an MVP, or something like that. Or how do you …
Sumeet: Well, so because the square foot as a feature, is still based on our core product. That it’s so-
Scott: It’s iron tired.
Sumeet: It’s iron tied, yeah. Never had that issue, but there have been other things where we have, let’s say, because we can’t really see the basement square feet, and we are assuming you’re actually asking that question to the user. And now, there we have been off, or like our algorithms would detect, let’s say, if there are two windows, we would say that it’s a two storey building. That’s actually a very giant, like the huge window, and it’s actually just on the storey.
Scott: Like a loft or something like that.
Sumeet: So I think those kinds of things we are currently working on, but [crosstalk].
Scott: That’s probably like point one percent of the use cases there.
Sumeet: Yeah.
Scott: That’s amazing. So where’s … Maybe talk about where Hovers going next, like whether or maybe … Sometimes you can’t talk about the new products so reject that but, what’s the most exciting thing that gets you up every morning when you go to work?
Sumeet: So I think this whole insurance vertical has been my focus and we’ve at least on the underwriting side we have just begun, we’re doing pilots. So that’s very exciting. It’s just a new, a new application of our technology. That and then I think ultimately there will be an opportunity for Hover to be a data provider. A lot of companies are looking for 3D, or they’re interested in 3D property data. But … And companies such as Google, they’re actually gathering such data, but they’re doing it stereoscopically using aerial.
Scott: Oh, or satellites [crosstalk]
Sumeet: Or satellites. I think a lot of these companies are looking for next generation of accuracy, which we have, where you can actually give you by the end what the software depth. No one-
Scott: I’m sure Google made the investment thinking like, “This is a really good data source.”
Sumeet: So I think that they are looking for some technology that could update regularly, and if a company can embed itself in the contracting process, or even the insurance process, it’s a very efficient means to just keep updating those. Anytime you have a remodel, you update it.
Scott: I mean, they could probably bring those data to maps and, tons of stuff. Eventually. That’s … They’re insatiable with that stuff.
Sumeet: But even with that, even if they, the new technology, yes, but we always think about right now, they’re very much dependent on the aerial and satellite, which has its own shortcomings, right? Like, the cost of a refresh. Here, you just need to take a phone and then take eight pixels-
Scott: [inaudible] around.
Sumeet: It’s a, I think, though, I’m very excited about that. We’re becoming the data provider, and creating this next generation of accuracy. Just and that’s [crosstalk]
Scott: [inaudible] It’s awesome. VJ was really excited when he joined them. I met up with him six months later he’s like it’s actually working. This is amazing. I think he was a really early employee and now [crosstalk]
Sumeet: Yeah, no, he was, he was. He was the one who actually … We were at GoodData together. And he had to let me let me know, and then that’s how it happened.
Scott: That’s how you find out about the good stuff. Well, this has been amazing. Will you kind of maybe just reiterate where everyone can find Hover and …
Sumeet: Yeah, absolutely. And this is actually great because you don’t have to be caught. Even homeowners can just download the app, take, take pictures, and then get the three cool 3D model, and just try to customize. So you can find our app both in the Apple Store and Android. It’s Hover 3D.
Scott: Check it out. Tell your contractor use it, if you are not using already.
Sumeet: If a contractor comes in, the first question you should ask, “Did you hover? Do you know about that?”
Scott: I love it, I love it. It’s me. Thank you so much for coming by. It was awesome.
Sumeet: No, it’s okay.
Scott: And congratulations on your success, and the company success. Thanks for having me.

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