New Miami proptech can instantly estimate costs, returns on real estate projects

https://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2018/09/24/new-miami-proptech-can-instantly-estimate-costs.html

By Emon Reiser  – Digital Producer, South Florida Business Journal

Sep 24, 2018, 2:35pm

Deep Blocks, a Miami-based property technology (proptech) company that has amassed $2.125 million in funding from prominent backers including real estate developers and CEOs, will launch its software platform for investors Oct. 3 and for the general public the next day.

The startup built a software as a service (SaaS) that can estimate the costs of real estate developments in minutes, a process that is typically takes three weeks or more. It also provides an estimate of the property's potential annual income and creates a 3D model that factors in density and zoning data.

Artificial intelligence will eventually be integrated into the platform, which will then offer suggestions for developers on how to optimize the properties on which they intend to build. By the end of the year, Deep Blocks' software could offer tips to developers all over the world on how to get larger rents out of their projects through a certain mix of uses, or suggest the best time to build in order to avoid extra costs. The system would "learn" how to do this from other projects inputted into Deep Blocks by its users. The technology will only be available for properties in Miami until it expands later this year.

"Even though Deep Blocks doesn't make a decision for you, what it does is very quickly allows you to evaluate prospective projects and decide if they're worth taking further," said Avra Jain, an early Deep Blocks investor and developer behind notable projects in Miami's MiMo District. "I think the real estate industry has a lot more room to create efficiency, and technology like this is one of the first steps in that happening."

Before Deep Blocks, Jain had to employ the services of land-use attorneys, architects and brokers to get cost estimates for potential projects. She said she is eager for the software to go live so she can use it more frequently for her developments.

"It allows me to be more focused on the right projects at a fraction of the cost," she said.

Jain first met Deep Blocks founder and CEO Olivia Ramos as she pursued her second master's degree in real estate development at the University of Miami in 2009. Ramos had previously obtained a master's degree in architecture at Columbia University and, after her years at UM, she worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), designing big data navigation software.

It was within DARPA that she realized the impact technology could have on solving global challenges. Ramos was accepted at Singularity University, a prestigious Silicon Valley business incubator where she began building Deep Blocks. After a 10-week startup program, her business idea was one of the few – out of hundreds of applicants – accepted into Singularity University's accelerator.

Ramos, who was born in Cuba and moved to the U.S. in 1993, relocated her team to Miami in April 2017.

"Miami is a top market for real estate development, and it's also a very young city," she said. "We felt we could have more influence here and a really good group of investors that could help us develop the software for the right market. We wouldn't have had that anywhere else."

Deep Blocks has 10 employees, many with extensive backgrounds in real estate or artificial intelligence – or both. The goal, Ramos said, is to scale the technology fast as possible and make it "self-learning."

"With the team we have right now, we're confident we can bring this product all of the world," she said. "The software is very flexible. Property owners can see whether they can expand their homes, or it can be used by a developer seeking to do a master plan with retail and office. The idea is to make this the go-to software for analyzing real estate."

Jocelyn Cortez, founding partner of Minerva Capital and an investor in Deep Blocks, describes the technology as a Bloomberg Terminal, but for real estate. She said Ramos has the potential to solve problems larger than just saving developers money. With its AI component, the technology has the potential to eventually factor in effects from climate change or gentrification.

"I've been here for 10 years and this is the first startup I've invested in in Miami," Cortez said. "I think Olivia is solving a very critical problem. She's properly advised and has the right tools to be a global success."

Liduam PongPress, Olivia Ramos, Business