Florian Schaffner has had a passion for architecture ever since his childhood. After he finished his bachelor’s degree in business at IE University, he went straight on to pursue the Master in Real Estate Development. We spoke to Florian to find out more about his experience in the MRED and to learn about Triadic Labs, a real-estate startup project founded during the pandemic.
What is Triadic Labs?
Triadic Labs was founded to create more transparency in pre-sales of real estate projects. We wanted to give consumers more choice and clarity in terms of what their future home will look like, and digitize sales processes for developers. We developed a virtual-reality sales tool which, like a car configurator, allows interested customers to envision a personalized version of their future home, including choices in furniture, fixtures, material, and sunlight exposure at any time of day. We want an interested buyer to be able to view the specific unit they are looking to purchase. This means providing them with approximate views from each unit and with more information to create confidence in the buying process. Since launching our platform, we have recorded that buyer’s confidence has increased by 150% for purchasing off-plan property when using Triadic software, when compared to current methods such as Matterport, floor plans and static renders.
We started working on Triadic to eliminate the guesswork for people looking to buy off-plan, but soon realized the power of our Cloud-based platform. While it is impossible to eliminate the bricks and mortar from real estate, it is possible to digitize and analyze sales processes and customer behavior. Our aim is to push the data side further, using big data mechanisms to provide our customers with market insights, leading to more efficient and targeted development.
Could you tell us a little bit about your current position and your daily responsibilities?
I partnered with James Spooner, Ashley Howells and Alex Tozzi when the idea of creating this platform first emerged at the Warwick Startup Incubator, back in March of 2020. Just as the first wave of the pandemic struck Europe, we launched our first demo and took it to as many developers as possible, hoping someone would give us a chance. My role at Triadic is business-development oriented: while I have a basic understanding of the technology behind our platform, I bring ideas to help drive our product and company forward, alongside overseeing sales processes and acquiring customers. No two days are the same at the moment, because the needs of our target audience are evolving, but generally speaking, I spend a lot of time reading up on markets, new developments and emerging players, in an effort to generate sales leads. When speaking with potential customers, our goal is to improve sales processes, and provide insights, which of course vary from industry to industry and market to market. It’s my job to make sure we can cater to and understand our customers’ needs, meaning I need to understand complex situations and find ways for the technical team to push the limitations of our platform.
Which sectors do you work in? Who are your clients?
When we started working on this project, we focused on real estate to eliminate the bottlenecks in an industry we knew a lot about. In the early stages we managed to get the Berkeley Group on board, which has allowed us to successfully approach other developers around the globe. Once we caught momentum and thanks to our clients, network, friends and interested people, we soon explored other sectors, like trade shows, industrial training, art and other creative avenues.
What technology do you use in order to take action in your projects?
The virtual-reality models are built in-house using gaming software Unreal Engine and Blender, rather than traditional architectural software, which essentially makes a photo-realistic video game of a real estate asset. The model is then uploaded onto a Cloud-based gaming engine, powerful enough to cope with rendering and customizing an apartment or house in real time, for example. This is crucial, because it eliminates the need for any hardware, other than a laptop or phone, to operate the model from. We coded the back-end platform from scratch, which allows sales agents to coordinate viewings, organize their contact book and most importantly, structure and interpret the vast amount of data we collect when the model is used.
Can you tell us about the project you are most proud of where 3D design was used, and for what purpose?
Recently, we started working on a luxury residential project in Costa Rica, where our client wants his customers to be able to fully customize their future home, to the extent of choosing their tabs, furniture and light fittings, so when they move in, their home is perfect and completed. The developer builds core and shell only, so options in layout are unlimited, meaning the project needs an awful lot of coordination with the architect, interior designer, suppliers and manufacturers of these options. The project is exciting, because it opens doors for partnerships and our plan to develop a blockchain-based real-estate sales platform, where people will be able to purchase their home purely online, essentially removing the need for an agent.
In addition to being proud of a specific project, I would like to say how proud I am of the team that we have built when forming this company. They are all young, willing and passionate individuals who are driven to produce their very best work. Each project we do goes from strength to strength. The contrast between the first project vs. the projects currently under development is vast, and this progress would not be possible without such a great team, and the ongoing support of our clients.
How did you find the Master in Real Estate Development (MRED) program?
I grew up in an original Bauhaus building in eastern Germany, and always had a passion and appreciation for architecture. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree in business at IE University, I was looking to specialize in something I love and see my future in. The MRED was the right program for me. It taught me the business and financial skills required for working in the industry, while exploring the foundations of architecture and importance of design. The program was all about understanding markets and finding balance between financial feasibility, architectural structure, user-focused design, sustainability, innovation and social implications of real estate development. Every stakeholder involved in creating or trading a real estate asset has very different motivations and intentions—the MRED highlighted those and gave us the skills required to find our place in the world of real estate.
What skills gained from the program have helped you throughout your career?
Having a good understanding of the players and processes involved in real estate has been very helpful in designing and improving our product. For example, knowing about the financing and cost drivers of real estate is crucial to understanding pricing and margins. Knowing about architectural processes and the timeline of a development helps us to identify where we fit into the value chain of real estate development. The list is endless, because all the skills are useful both individually and collectively—when taking a whole year to study real estate, you quickly understand the links and importance of different stakeholders. Entrepreneurship is all about spotting opportunities and solving issues—but it is hard to identify problems when you don’t know the whole picture. Rather than learning a simple skill set, the master has given me an understanding and appreciation for processes.
In what ways do you think the program has changed your life, professionally and personally?
I joined the MRED right after completing the undergraduate degree. I had some experience working for developers and real estate consultants, but I was younger and possibly more inexperienced than my peers. Personally, the program has helped me grow and make friendships all over the world. Professionally, it opened my eyes to the industry and led me to PropTech. I had the chance to work with architects, lawyers, consultants and other industry professionals for a whole year, in the risk-free university environment. We had the chance to explore visionary ideas with our peers and push the boundaries of creativity in real estate, working on ways to make real estate more feasible, sustainable or targeted. About two months into living with COVID-19, we designed a repositioning strategy for office buildings in response to the pandemic, which included an architectural overhaul, but also a new property management strategy and sustainability concept. The feasibility was assessed by an investment committee of real estate professionals. Both the positive and negative feedback stuck, so I’m sure I am a better professional for it.
What advice would you give to students who are about to begin the program?
Have fun and challenge the norms. University is the time to explore ideas and push the boundaries of existing concepts. Have an open mind and appreciate people for their unique input. Work hard, play hard and you will learn, explore your potential and innovate.
Define your experience in the program using one word