The story of Convaron (formerly VRnow)
A good idea often starts with a problem. Alexander Dolokov's problem, one of Convaron's co-founders, was to find a subject for his master thesis in robotics, machine learning and computer robotics. Brainstorming about it with Tim Meger-Guingamp, the other co-founder, around a couple of beers in a bar, implemented a seed of an idea in both of their heads: how to use new technologies in markets that are already established but need modernization like, for example, the real estate market?
Die Themen im Überblick:
The funny thing is, they didn't go into this bar with the precise goal of creating a startup, it just kind of happened. One thing led to another and from a spark of an idea became a flame and it was impossible for them not to dig further. They wanted to revolutionize real estate viewings by programming a deep learning algorithm, which should recognize automatically architectural information in floor plans in order to build Virtual Reality visualizations and tours.
After thinking about a name, a logo and recruiting a good team of friends, 2014 was the year VRnow was created and later officially founded in 2015.
Big milestones (and a lot of moving around)
Everything started out very small, because the company had only small funds. Jumping from one apartment to another, working in different living rooms, to co-working spaces, it's in 2016 that VRnow moved into its first real office. A first milestone, maybe small in retrospect of all the things that happened afterwards, and yet it was the first time the whole team of four (Martin Wirtig, now Head of Data Operations, Matthias Renneke now Project and product manager, Alexander Dolokov, CTO and Tim Meger-Guingamp, CEO) worked together gathered in one place.
The second milestone and maybe the most important of all was the first clients, who tested the new product and technology. Those first experiences brought a lot of knowledge - user cases are important, especially when you're working with new technologies. Examples and pilot projects are primordial to be able to refine and improve your product. It gave a much clearer direction to VRnow, especially of the things they wanted to enable with the core idea of their product.
The startup life can be a lot of fun, but it can also be quite hard. We would be lying to say that since 2015, the company didn't meet any lows. On the contrary, they were times where it seemed like the company was stagnating. But the important part is that, even though nothing's going as planned (and maybe that's how it is supposed to be for young companies), the motivation of the team that surrounds the idea stays intact, and if it is, then a company can continue to improve and expand.
Focus on data analysis
At some point it was clear, that the company wasn't going in the right direction with its product of real estate visualizations. The idea of visualization was interesting and helpful, but it wasn't what potential clients needed or wanted. The algorithm created was based on image recognition and if at the beginning it was supposed to recognize walls, windows, etc. to create 3D-models, it could also be used to extract data out of assets, meaningful data.
A change in a company's business model is never easy, it often leads to complication and you ultimately must revise a lot of things. But the idea was good, was helpful and could solve the problem that VRnow wanted to solve: how to digitize and modernize the real estate market, a market in dying need of tangible data?
In November 2017 VRnow took part in the accelerator program of the Blackprint Booster together with twelve other startups. The booster coached the company for six months. Workshops, meetings and brainstorming sessions helped refine the new business model and products. It was also the first time that the idea of renaming the company was mentioned.
Die Deutsche Wohnen
September 2018 was another milestone for VRnow: Deutsche Wohnen joined the startup company both as a client and an investor. The cooperation between both companies has helped to gain more insights of the processes in the real estate market.
This opened a lot of doors for VRnow and enhanced the idea that using new technologies such as artificial intelligence to facilitate cumbersome processes in the real estate market, could change and revolutionize a well-established market.
In a span of a couple of years and months, a lot has changed. It started out with a new office and from 15 employees the company today reached around 40. The decision to change the name was unanimous, the focus not being on virtual reality anymore, it was only fair to find a name, a logo, and colors that suited the company better.
So, what’s next you may ask? Well, now that the rebranding is done, Convaron has still a lot on its plate, like the relaunch of the website and the customer portal. Convaron, as it is today, hasn't necessarily taken the short-curt to arrive to what is today, on the contrary, there was a lot of moving around (quite literally actually), changing and refining the core of the idea.
But the people in the company like challenges and believe in the saying that there is a solution to every problem. That's why the researching and development of new products is also one of the main focusses.