Zuma takes in fresh capital

Looking for a new apartment is either a leisurely thing to do or something that has to take place quite quickly. When you don’t reach anyone in the leasing office, you often move on to the next one on the list, even if it was one you would have considered.

Zuma wants to ensure that any reach out for information is answered in minutes versus days. Today, the company, which adds artificial intelligence to sales engagement, exited its beta phase with $6.7 million in seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz.

The company was co-founded by CEO Shiv Gettu, a former real estate consultant, and president Kendrick Bradley, a former Boeing and SpaceX engineer who left his job in 2018 to work at a property management company. They both saw the pain points for real estate sales teams and together built a tech-driven Airbnb-like hospitality property company that grew to $2 million in revenue in nine months.

When the global pandemic hit, they had long-term lease commitments, but with business and leisure travel halted, they pivoted their company into a virtual leasing office using AI to automate the conversion process, which became Zuma, Gettu said in an interview.

He noted statistics that showed a majority of real estate leads tend to come in at night and on weekends, when leasing agents aren’t usually on the property, and that response gap of waiting until the next business day can account for a decrease of 100 times after half an hour.

Zuma’s AI-powered agent, Kelsey, answers complex questions about a property as they come in, and via text message, to encourage any hot lead to become a booking customer, even outside of normal business hours. It also brings in a human-in-the-loop aspect, if the questions are outside the scope of Kelsey’s ability, to respond.

“We understood the value of leads and the importance of nurturing them,” Bradley told TechCrunch. “Text messages engage with prospects immediately. If you’re interested in an apartment, you might not hear back for 48 hours, but Zuma integrates with property management tools and when a lead inquires, Kelsey gives them information on the property and the policies with the idea of them then coming into view the property and sign a lease.”

Since January, the company has grown revenue by 10 times and is working with customers like Bungalow.com, which see an average conversion rate increase of 2.1 times in 30 days and 35 times return on investment while saving an average of 50% on sales staffing costs.

Joining Andreessen Horowitz in the investment were Y Combinator, Range Ventures, Liquid 2, Day One Ventures, Soma Capital and a group of individual investors, including Apartment List co-founder Chris Erikson, former Y Combinator COO Qasar Younis and Lambda School founder Austen Allred. The latest funding round gives Zuma a total of $7.2 million raised to date.

Gettu says the company has hit a good rhythm with its initial product, so the new capital will go into new features, hiring and expanding sales to capture the market. Zuma is also looking to implement its business model into other industries with sales teams, like healthcare, automotive, insurance, education and fashion.

“Zuma’s blend between human support and AI creates a magical conversation experience for prospective customers that drastically increases conversion,” Connie Chan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, shared in a statement. “The Zuma team has proven their impact for property management teams, and the sky’s the limit as this platform grows to serve and help scale any industry that has leads that require nurturing.”

Zuma seems to make an automated sales agent that converses with inbound leads, ultimately improving the way consumers interact with businesses and organizations. I’m sure the company will continue to prosper in its journey ahead. My best wishes to the team of Zuma.

Shishir Gupta, Founder and CEO, of StartupLanes.

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