Sumu helps users locate and obtain a great place to live at the best price (in the Boston area). The platform is able to do this through things like financing, social verification modern UX, and secure deposit transfers, according to the company’s LinkedIn page. Sumu is located in Boston, MA and was founded in 2014 by Daniel Tewfik and Ethan Setnik.
On Friday, March 25th I was able to discuss Sumu with one of its co-founders, Daniel Tewfik. Right from the start of the conversation, I could tell how passionate Daniel is for Sumu. It always gets me really excited about a product or service, when one of the founders absolutely loves what they are doing. History shows that when a founder is heavily into their startup it can often mean future success for the company (although there are numerous other factors that play a role in that as well).
Sumu is a platform that helps people find housing in Boston, according to Daniel. It helps people find better housing by utilizing:
- User’s needs (what does the user want?)
- Better analytics & tools
- Nice and clean platform
How did Sumu even come about? Daniel was looking for an apartment a while back and was using things like Craigslist to see what was available. His best friend was looking to buy a home so there wasn’t really any good options for him. As Daniel put it, the whole process was a “horrible experience.” Daniel felt almost taken advantage of during the whole process. It was around this time that Daniel and Ethan thought they could make this process much better. Daniel and Ethan began learning a lot about this space and eventually dove into business. Daniel is proud to say that Sumu has been in business for over a year now.
One of the interesting things about Sumu is that it can technically belong within several different industries. Overall, there are thousands of competitors in the real estate industry. However, Daniel said there are many different types of players within this industry. These players consist of:
- Technology companies
- Old-school companies
- Brokers (this type particularly seems to do a poor job of finding housing for people – according to Daniel)
Daniel feels Sumu has a competitive advantage in this space by offering users a tech-enabled, housing solution with a “CRM experience.” As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of competitors in the housing industry, however there are only hundreds or less within the technology-housing industry, according to Daniel. One of the interesting things with Sumu is that it is an inclusive housing app. The platform will deal with anyone who is looking for help.
Daniel has always thought of himself as an entrepreneur and so has his co-founder, Ethan. He said when he was about 8 years old, he used to work his neighborhood. Daniel would go driveway to driveway offering to shovel driveways. He would never set a price point for his shoveling services, but instead would offer a “pay what you were comfortable with” pricing model. He continued his entrepreneurial ways and when it was time for leaves to be raked, he was there with his rake ready to go. Daniel also said that during college he tried diving into a few ventures as well. Daniel and Ethan are pretty similar in regards to the fact that they like to build a product that solves a problem. As Daniel put it, “Ethan is the brains and I am the legs.” I found that quote and way of thinking to be quite interesting.
The whole conversation up to this point was going swimmingly, but this section in particular really seemed to interest me (I always love hearing where a company’s name comes from). Every year, Daniel along with his friends and family go on a trip in New Hampshire. Daniel decided that on this trip he was going to utilize his friends and family to try and come up with a name for his latest venture. He asked them what he and Ethan should name the company. After much thought, no one came up with a name! Finally, Ethan’s wife, Namika said “the name of your company should be Sumu.” It turns out that Sumu in Japanese means to live or to reside. Daniel and Ethan liked this name and its meaning and thought the “live” part meshed perfectly with the platform since it dealt with where people would find places to live. Another positive that seemed to come out of naming the company Sumu was that the company has really good SEO. If someone were to search Sumu – it would be the first thing to come up.
It is always intriguing to hear about the challenges that entrepreneurs are facing or have faced in the past. Challenges are needed to be able to create a great product or service so it always interested me to hear about other challenges entrepreneurs face (this way there are no surprises – the more challenges I am aware of – the more challenges I might be able to solve). Daniel said that when he and Ethan first started Sumu, they faced a lot of challenges. He said “people see a certain sexiness to entrepreneurship; as if being an entrepreneur is like being a rock star, but what they don’t see are the late nights, high intensity, high volume, etc.” Since being an entrepreneur means likely not getting much sleep amongst other things; one thing is for certain – you need to love it! Daniel went on to elaborate more about entrepreneurship and how it is not really taught in college or education in general (which is a shame in my opinion – entrepreneurship is something that should be taught as early as grade school because it develops creativity at a young age). Daniel also discussed how catch-22s are common. According to Daniel, “You can’t get money without users and you can’t get users without money.” This is one of the better statements I have heard lately and that is mostly because it is so true when you stop and think about it. Our conversation began to wrap up with Daniel adding one more challenge to the list and that was that “building a beautiful product is tough.” It is certainly something many tech-entrepreneurs out there can agree with.
If Daniel and Ethan’s passion for Sumu continues, the chances of Sumu becoming a well-known company in the tech-housing industry will definitely go up. It was a pleasure to have a nice conversation with Daniel about Sumu and entrepreneurship. Hopefully we will touch base in the near-future. Please be sure to check out Sumu’s site at https://sumu.io/ and follow them on Twitter @SumuApp
*StartupConvos has no investment in this company