Oct. 11, 2022

AI for Real Estate Agents with Nate Joens


Nate Joens is the Co-Founder, Head of Innovation and past CEO at Structurely. Under his 4 years as CEO, Structurely experienced 10x growth in conversations processed in the real estate industry and built a proprietary conversational AI application that 99.9% of consumers believed was human. Structurely also became a Housing Wire Real Estate Tech Top 100 company, and grew to a team of 26 employees.

With over 3.5 million conversations with their AI Assistant Structurely’s Real Estate data set is nearing 10mm individually labeled messages.

With experience in Geographic Information Services (GIS), real estate, financing, urban planning, project management, and graphic design, Nate leads the product, engineering and machine learning teams at Structurely to align with real estate customer goals.

https://www.structurely.com/

Transcript

Good day, fellow deal makers. Welcome to the deal. Scout. On this show, we talk about deals. We go on the hunt for deals ranging from lemonade stands, spacs, and kind of everything in between to educate ourselves in our community about deals and different structures of deals. A lot of our partners go, hey, these are the kind of deals we want. They put us on the hunt for details of the show. If you want to talk about a deal or if you're looking for a specific type of dial, you could always partner with us and head over to the deal scout . com , fill out a quick form, and that might give us an idea of what kind of deals you are looking for. Now on today's show, we're going to have a conversation with a company that's doing something interesting in the world of AI. 


 Property tech. Real tech. All this cool stuff that I probably don't even know what it is. With that, I'm going to talk with one of the founders, nate Jones. Welcome to show Key. 


 Josh. Thanks for having me on. 


 Absolutely. All right, so let's start with this. How old are you and where are you located? 


 I am 27, and I'm located in the middle of the country, surrounded by corn. Just north of Des Moines, Iowa. 


 Yeah. Now, the reason I asked how old you were it's to set the stage of live. Some of the things you said prior to the interview which will pull out, was something that I would have expected from a guy who's like, 70 to say, I said, Nate, what's really important during this interview that you talk about? I know, ladies and gentlemen, we're going to talk about deals. I swear. I was so impressed by what he said. I said what's really important for you to talk about, nate, when I ask you that question, what did you say? 


 Humility. 


 Humility. When I was 27 years old, ladies and gentlemen, life had to humble me deeply. Man So I'm super impressed that you answered that way. Let's go into this. Nate. As we're talking about humility and about your journey, let's first start with some of the milestones and some of the things you've accomplished in your little bit more than a quarter of a century. 


 Yeah. Just some backstory of kind of where like I was telling you beforehand, it sounds cheesy humility. Honestly, it's kind of of a way of life in the Midwest. Not saying that other parts of the country aren't amazing. There's definitely lots wrong with the Midwest, but there's live a phrase in Iowa. In Minnesota called Iowa. Nice. Minnesota. This to claim it and say that they're Minnesota. Nice. It is literally like a way of life that I think is really apparent and relevant, especially here, and that I try and embody. And, I think that my story comes through in that I'm the founder structurally. I've only ever done structurally. I graduated from Iowa State University in 2000 and twelveteen. Sorry. And this is all I've ever done. I decided I'm going to trade out my ramen noodles in college for ramen noodles? Starting a start ups. 


 It was an easy transition. It made sense, so I did it. But that was obviously tough. Starting a company from any point. Even if you're buying a deal with some cash flow in the company or from scratch with nothing. It's hard. Like, really hard. Being self employed is really hard. It always seems glamorous and glorious, but it really isn't. There's tons of stress live, no predictability and little control to some degree. My story is I'm the founder of Structurally. I've been the CEO. I started as the CEO for, like, four years. We grew really nicely. We've Got Like 10,000 Agents On Our Platform Who Use US in various ways, mostly through partners that we've acquired not acquired, but partners that we've got partnership relationships with. I decided what we decided as a company, we need someone who's more experienced to come in and lead the company. 


 As a founder, that probably paints a lot of people here listening who are probably also business owners. Like, why in the world would you give up the reins to your company? That's tough, and it is tough. I'm not going to sit here and say it's been the most fun thing in the world to see someone else essentially like, running your show, but that's where Humility comes in and why it's so important, because I know that the next phase of business flofr structurally probably wasn't right for me. I'm the start from nothing and go to something guy, but I'm not something from the next big thing guy. I'm the zero to one guy, not the one to ten guy. I think just understanding that personally, too, helps. You probably focus in on what you want to do, the type of business that you want to buy, the type of deal that you want to be a part of really fits in to, like, you don't want to get on board with something that you're not a fit for. 


 Right now, I think my position I am now a product marketing manager, which sounds lame, I'm not going to lie, but it means I get to work on structurally for new markets, structurally for insurance, structurally for automotive, and that's like starting a whole another company again, and that's what's really exciting for me. 


 That's super cool. There's so many questions I want to ask, but do who Dan Gable is? 


 I've heard of him, yeah. 


 Okay. Yeah, he was a pretty decent wrestler, but he's in Iowa State. 


 I knew I knew the name. 


 I'm a Florida guy. Listen, I'm in Florida, but in wrestling, I had his shoes, Dan Gable shoes, and not his shoes, but his brand or whatever. I hear Iowa State, the first thing I think of, are you a wrestler? 


 My dad was, but I did not. 


 Your dad might have even wrestled with Dan Gable. 


 He might have. 


 That'd be pretty cool. Yeah. Awesome. All right, sorry. Back to deals. I get distracted sometimes. You're a zero to one guy. Now, how in the world did you learn this? There's an author, Les McGuin, who wrote a book called Predictable Success, and in the book, he kind of has this path journey on stages of business, and he goes, as an entrepreneur, you should know what stage of the business you actually like working on. How in the world now, he's probably, like, 60 something. I've interviewvalet him in the past, but how in the world did you get that so early on to know that there's probably someone better suited as CEO, I need to jump back into product. 


 Yeah, it was definitely from trial and error. I had heard of the zero to one and the one to ten and the ten to 100 kind of concepts. Definitely. I don't know if I read that book. I probably read lots of pieces of it and didn't put it together until then, but I would say trial there for sure. We also have a board at Structurally who has started public companies from scratch, multiple of them. They've been really social advisors in our corner to say, I've been here, done this. The journey from 5 million to 10 million sucks. I hated it. Maybe you're going to hate it too. Maybe look for someone else who actually likes that. And it's a whole different ballgame. You have to sit there and document everything and process and put everything in order. It's not fun for me. I just like to run around with my head cut off, kind of, and just live fix things and just do a bunch. 


 That's what's really exhilarating for me. That doesn't work when you're running a company sometimes. You have to just kind of sit back and take it all in for a second. 


 Yeah. I got to ask questions on this, right? You started this right out of college. Graduate. What did you go to school for? 


 Very random, but I went to school for urban planning and real estate, so I guess not too random, but I wanted to be like a city planner. 


 Copy that. You said, I want to build a software. What happened that day that you had this light bulb go off above your head? 


 That's a really good question. I don't know if it was ever like a moment where I thought I wanted to I always knew I wanted to work for myself. I thought I would just be like an independent private city planner type thing. That's what I think I always knew I wanted to do. What ended up happening, the structurally discovery story was I just ended up talking to a bunch of real estate agents in school, me and my co founder who went to the University of Iowa. So we b*** heads about that. We've known each other since live second grade, but we just ended up live talking to a bunch of real estate agents because we thought we also wanted to be real estate investors. You need money to do that. We didn't have any money in college. That made no sense to do. We ended up just talking to a bunch of realtors at that time and live shadowing them, mostly. 


 What do you do all day? What do you hate doing? What do you like doing? What are you good at? What are you not good at? It kept coming up that they're great sales people. They love to be face to face. They love to be in the field, but sitting in a computer, replying to leads, chasing leads. And they all have CRMs. They all have thousands of leads. You have to in a business like that for any salesperson, but that job just drains them typically. It was kind of around a time where that problem was also being discovered in multiple markets, including real estate. We had competitors when we started, and I think we just kind of put the market dynamics together with continuously hearing that problem. Instead, we're going to try and solve it and see what happens. We solved it a different way, obviously, than our competitors going the AI route. 


 A lot of our competitors just said, we're going to hire a call center and outsource it to solve this problem. We said we're going to hire really smart AI folks and try it. 


 That way, which we did all right out of college. You're like, we should be real estate investors. Do you have any money? No. Bob, do you have any money? No. All right, let's find a way. Let's find out. People who are doing it, shadow them, work with them. You're like, okay, we can solve this problem. Let's go hire some AI people. Going from let's solve this problem, to hire AI people, I'm sure that there were a few kind of steps live. Did you guys build a prototype? Did you try different things? What did that look like as you were building out the first thing before hiring a bunch of really smart people? 


 Yeah, I built the first prototype using like, a run of the mill dummy chatbot builder online way back in the day, like 2016 ish. I took it to a brokerage, demoed it in office and said, Live, what do you think? It was terrible. It barely worked. They said, I like the idea well enough. Let's see what you can do. That was enough to keep going to the next step. Went to Zoom web conference inman and National Association of Realtors Nar conference with of money from at that time. We did get Live angel, like a tiny angel check. We said, we're just going to go sponsor these conferences with this dummy demo and just live kind of vapourware it and say, live, this doesn't work, but would you buy it? And people came to our booth. They liked it. We amassed, like, a sign up list of 2000 agent emails who were interested, and then were off. 


 We said, that's enough for us to validate the idea. At that time, we recruited some really smart AI folks from Iowa State University, actually, and got them on board with some equity, essentially, and told them to build it the right way. We also raised some seed funding kind of around that time from all that validation, essentially. 


 Yeah. One cool thing that you did is you got validation super early on, right? You took something that was existing. This is for all the tech founders out there, someone who wants to buy and build a tech company. It took something that existed, a chatbot. I remember when chat bots were super hot, 2016 or whatever. You took that. You said this could apply to you. They said, okay, it's kind of clunky, but yes. You got some traction, you sold it. How many of those things did you sell before you went to the next level and vapor worded it? 


 I don't even know. I think we might have sold one or two into brokerages. It was literally like, would anyone pay any money at all? I just need one dollars, essentially. I think we actually got some prepayments. They couldn't use the product. They knew that. I remember getting Live a few manual invoices that we sent out and said, pay us upfront, we'll get it to you. It's a little you have to kind of be able to live in that uncertainty. You have to find customers that are willing to live in that uncertainty too early on. 


 Yeah, I love this. I love market validation. Market validation for me is so cool. Live people ask me all sorts of cool ideas. I've been in venture capital and such. And they're like, what about this idea? And I got another idea. I'm like, Listen, I got a drawer full of ideas, right? 


 Yeah. 


 Can you sell it to one person? Then it becomes valuable. Right? So New York guys validated something small. Okay, the idea is important. We could work on it. Raised of small angel, tested it out. Did it work? Cool. Friends, family, they supported. They believe in it. But you got traction investment. Traction investment. Traction investment moved up the path. Are you allowed to talk in terms of funding rounds, like size or distance? How far you guys have gone? 


 Yeah, the very first check was tiny, like $50,000 tiny, just to let Andrew and I live. Andrew is my Cofounder, go into this. We left out and got a free place to save flofr, my grandpa. Lots of our expenses were minimal, but we needed something to just tinker with. That was the first really early check. We just raised about a little less than a million dollars seed round, I don't know, four years ago, not too long after that first one. We kind of raised some follow ons to that. Our model is less VC blitzcaling, live, explode at all growth at all costs. The Midwest way of life is a little more conservative, a little more we're going to be aiming towards cash flow positivity and keeping things close to the chest there. We've been pretty careful about how much we've raised. We really only raised over that initial million dollars to call it over time. 


 When the time is right, we're going to look at a bigger Series A to go into new markets. Obviously with the economy the way it is right now, we're trying to make sure that does make sense for us. We don't just go into blitzcaling mode for no reason. 


 Yeah, I've got some friends I'll introduce you to as you guys are going through this journey. So just remind me later on. I got a few buddies I want to introduce you to. You're going through this process and you went to this Nar, right? I love that. I was a realtor for a long time. You got 2000 sign ups, like the people going, yeah, this is interesting. If you build it, I will buy it. When you guys were walking into that event as founders, did you ever hit the Imposter Syndrome? We don't even have something built for these guys. What are they going to think? What are they going to live pitch fork us out of here? Live. Were those thoughts ever going through your head as you guys were going in? 


 Absolutely. There's no way they couldn't I would say live. The biggest turning point was so you talked about Live, the Chat Bot Hype in 2016. I forgot what this is called. I think it's the Gartner Hype cycle curve or something like that, where it's like Peak of Enlightenment, Trough of Despair, and then it kind of comes up. We were at the peak of enlightenment in 2016. Chatbots were all of the hype. Every single person was talking about them. They went through the Trough of Despair because they all sucked and people exploited them for horrible use cases and purposes. Now it's really exciting is we're coming back to the mid level where AI should be and everyone's kind of getting excited again, at least what I've seen about AI. So that's really cool. At the time in 2016, were at the peak of enlightenment. That was great for us because Inman asked me to be a multiple time speaker in front of thousands of agents about a product that wasn't even really built, which was insane. 


 And I said yes, of course. That's like on top of what got us a ton of attention and a ton of those early sign ups because we had one of the biggest press orgs in the space giving us of cloud, asking us to speak about the topic. And then were like domain experts. One year out of college, were domain experts on AI for real estate, essentially. I think that helped ease the Imposter Syndrome quite a bit. In the wrong hands, it might have live beefed me up but I knew we didn't have a product to back what I was talking, but I knew we had really smart people to get there. I wasn't the only one on stage. We brought our machine learning engineer to talk about it legitimately, so I think that helped a lot. Looking back on it all again, the timing of the market is so important. 


 If it wasn't the peak hype curve of Chat Bots at the time, probably structurally probably wouldn't exist. We wouldn't have been asked to be speakers, we wouldn't have got press from inman. We wouldn't have been able to get attention at NR. There wouldn't have been the demand there probably, or the attention. I think that the timing of the market, although we probably didn't realize it at the time, was super important. 


 You've gone through multiple rounds and you built the company and you went from ramen noodles to at some point maybe taking on a small salary or a salary of a CEO because you guys have crossed over multi million dollar mark, is that right? What were some of the things that I'm going to ask you a lot about? I think mindset, because that's what you said was important to you and I feel like there's a good storyon here. What were some of the things that you overcame from graduating poor college kids to building a multimillion dollar business? 


 Yeah, I think just like again, humility live giving up being able to give up the reins when you start a company or when you buy a company or when you acquire a company, like probably a lot of your listings to a degree, you're like, I'm the one, this is going to start and end with me. Basically. I'm going to take this thing to the next level. At the end of the day, your goal is actually to replace yourself. That's something that I always try and remind myself of no matter what. When you start a company or when you buy a company and take over its operations, you're wearing every hat. You're doing sales, you're doing marketing, you're doing CS, you're doing fundraising, you're doing everything, you're doing operations, you're doing accounting. I've done it all. Every single part of structurally I have done. Over time I just kept taking off my hat, one hat after the other. 


 I didn't ever really think I would get to the point where I would take the CEO hat off. Live a really good opportunity presented itself to hire a founder, a CEO who specializes in the one to ten, the next step after zero to one. Right? We said, sure makes a lot of sense. Got to figure out what that means for me. I think it's still extremely necessary to realize when that makes the most sense because there is still an aura of scrappiness that startups, especially in businesses, need that you can't lose. You have to make sure that you balance those. At least that's what I found. 


 For you. You're building this out. At what point did you realize, like, you started moving hats, right? You maybe got an operations person. You're like, oh, cool, I'm not in operations all day. It sounds like you're visionary, right? Like running around with your head, checking with a head cut off, fixing problems. You enjoy that. You said, I find fulfillment in that. Right? I find joy in that. At what point you start removing hats? What was the first major hat that you removed? Was it operations? Was it sales? What was that? 


 Yeah. Well, luckily, I would say my co founder Andrew is live, the complete opposite of me. I'm the visionary. I love product, I'm decent at marketing. He's operations and loves sales. He was and is a great salesman. He sold the first million dollars of recurring revenue structurally before he replaced himself as salesman, essentially. I would say I lucked out in that regard because I didn't have to sell. I did occasionally not well. I'm not the best salesman. That's what he's there for. I would say the first half that I definitely needed to remove. This might be live, really unique, but was investor relations and the board, essentially. I'm not good at that. I'm not good at the regular updates to investors. Here's how things are going. The formality between running board meetings and running investor meetings and shareholder updates, I was really bad at that. 


 I think that wasn't the first hat that I removed. Definitely. I kind of fought through it and learned it and got beat up along the way of how not to do it. It was definitely one of the most important hats that I was constantly knew I needed help with to remove and get someone better at that because it's super important, obviously. 


 I don't know if you have time to even watch movies or shows or anything like that, but you can watch a show like Get Pumped where it talks about the Uber guy and he built it in a massive ego that drove some of these startups to do really big things, maybe not sustainable or whatever, maybe even harmful, the way they structured things and did things. And you can't believe all movies, right? You kind of take a different approach. Now, let me ask this question. Like, you started removing these hats and did it feel a relief? Did you ever feel like a resistance to let go with this question is what, out of all of these things, did you try to hold on to the most? 


 Yeah, that's a really good question. Definitely just live. The CEO one was the hardest. Like, replacing myself as CEO, obviously that's a really hard thing to do. And I think everyone live. I don't know if there is a playbook to actually go through that transition really well. Because as a founder, maybe if you're a non founding CEO transitioning to another non founding CEO, it's. Easier. When you're a founding CEO, it's like your baby and you're asking someone to adopt it and you're not a parent anymore and that's really hard no matter what you do. I'd say that I held onto a lot of those things too long without just meeting ID Go. I would say, like a success storyon where I thought I would fall flat is on the product side. We hired a director of engineering almost immediately because we knew we needed better Live scaffolding and that hire was and is still live an absolute shining light instructionally. 


 And he just runs with it. The whole R and D product and engineering and other teams report to him and that just runs amazingly smoothly. I would have never been able to be that strong in a role like that. Even though I historically have been super involved in the product roadmap and want to put my vision on things, he's the leader there. I'd say that one was one where it was a lot. I thought I would suck at it, but I kind of said, live, wow, he's way better than I could ever be. We're just going to leave him. Let him do what he does. 


 What were your friends and family saying when you started removing hats, releasing control and removing yourself from CEO? Were they like, whatever you don't lose control of this. Keep the equity, keep the voting rate, all this stuff? What were they saying? 


 Yeah, I think my family was confused. Live, you're just live going to get a demotion. You can't go up from CEO, so you're just going to take a demotion down? I said, yeah, that makes the most sense right now. And I didn't really question it. I don't think it has ever really been about the control for me or my co founder. Some people, for a good reason, want to hang on to a lot of equity and voting rights for this company, like a lot, and will not part with it by any means. You can definitely do that if you get to a point where you can bootstrap, that's a huge part of it. If you're going to run the thing with money from your pocket, you probably deserve every inch of that company in every right. Like you're the one funding the thing. This was we had no money. 


 We weren't investors instructionally, weren't bootstrapping. We had to bring in smarter people and say, help us. You've been through founding public companies before. Tell us what we're going to miss. Tell us who we need to hire next. I think that just it was never really a question of Live control for us or anyone. They never really thought that were doing wrong by taking our self out of control. I guess it was always the path. 


 I would say, yeah, you're zero to one guy. Do you think you're going to build more tech companies in the future. 


 Yeah, absolutely. No question about it. 


 No question. Yeah. Let me be d*** clear on this. Like, you are a person that people will invest in. You have a very strong investor friendly founder mindset. Nice work. 


 Appreciate it. 


 Yeah. Holy moly. Yeah. Because I think one of the biggest fights within an organization, you get partner fight, you get investors. People don't realize this investors are still partners. You still have to work with them. You've got the board, and it sounds like you have a superpower of taking something from nothing to something, and you have no problem in sharing in the upside of it. 


 Right? 


 Super cool, man. 


 Super cool. 


 Along this journey, and you're learning at an accelerated route. What most fascinates you about business? 


 That is a really interesting question. I would probably say it's vague, but live just generally the customer journey. It's super high level, but I'm absolutely fascinated in figuring out in detail where did this customer come from, where did they hear about us? Did they hear about us on this podcast? Did they see us on a Facebook ad? Did they do a demo and then did they sign up after that? What happened? Did they get on boarded correctly? When was their AHA moment? Are they going to stick around with us for a while and how long? Once I really understand that, I love going through individual customers journeys and seeing if I notice any little ounce of a trend. I love figuring out where could we pour the fuel on the fire in any parts of that to say, okay, they heard about us on this podcast. 


 Do a bunch more of them. They feel an AHA moment when they connect an integration to your product. Invest integrations. They really resonate to RCS team calling them once a week, do more phone calls. I think there's so many levers in any business that you kind of get overwhelmed. Live. It's like looking at a spaceship. You could click any one of them, but which one is going to move the needle? Really? The biggest that's a little cliche to say, but it really is that simple sometimes. Really you do have to hone in one customer. Not just like, look at a sea of data, look at some random trends. Live literally shadow a customer occasionally, and I'll do that regularly. 


 Customer acquisition, I had a hard time saying that customer acquisition is the journey of live. How do people come to you and how do they attribute yeah, a structurally specializes in customer acquisition and customer journey for real estate agents, is that right? 


 Yeah, mostly less on the customer acquisition side, more on the conversion side. Once they're in, once you've got leads, we're trying to convert them to an appointment to phone call to something so that you can actually close the deal. 


 All right, so I became a real estate agent 2001 maybe ish long time ago, over 20 years ago, back in the day. I had a pager, so it might have been like I might have just got a cell phone or something like that. I bought a bucket of text messages. Everything at that time was emails and phone calls, but I would have to constantly check email, send emails and all that stuff. Your machine, compare it to where we are today. What can your stuff do? 


 Yeah, I like to explain it to my parents or old people like me. 


 Right. 


 The mom test. I've always heard that in software, if you can't explain your startup to your mom, you got to start over from scratch. It's like siri for texting. So it's AI. It texts leads. It follows up with leads so you can think about all those texts that you were sending by hand. A computer is doing that now for you. It's not just doing it for fun. It's doing it like a trained salesperson would. It's aggressive, and it's follow up, because most sales people in general stop following up way sooner than they need to. Once the lead responds, we actually have a back and forth conversation with them that feels like you're talking to a human. We try and convert them to an appointment, basically a qualified appointment. It's kind of like a conveyor belt. We're taking unprocessed raw leads and turning them into gold nuggets that you can essentially just walk into an appointment, say, hey, saw you were talking to my assistant Jordan. 


 See you're moving in the next three months. Let's get you a house so you don't have to deal with all the rest that are all the rest of those. Team chat aren't ready to move or just bad leads in general. 


 At what point does the real human come? Josh come in and be like, oh, my, Josh. I get a green light on my phone. I guess I pick it up and take it over from here. Right. Team chat. Does that look like they hand off to the human? 


 Exactly. Kind of like you mentioned it. They get red alert to say, hey, hot lead. You need to follow up with them, call them, or text them yourself. We'll go so far as to even get time from the lead when they're available for a call if it isn't right then and there. Or get time for a showing or listing appointment or in person appointment as well. So it's alert to the agent. They step in, take over the lead, and they do so however they need to. 


 Interesting. You already mentioned that you want to do multiple tech companies live. You just enjoy this. You find great fulfillment. Enjoy. Let's step aside business for a second. What else in your world do you find great fulfillment. Enjoy in. 


 Yeah, sports, definitely. Sports were a huge part of my life growing up. I was a basketball guy, not a wrestler. So that's a big part of it. I think the competitive nature is super important to my upbringing and to where I'm at now. I am married, so I have to say my wife, I have to. 


 Say, you get to say, all right, here's is an opportunity in case she ever listens. What's your favorite thing about your wife? This is an opportunity to earn some Brandon T points for the week. 


 She's an entrepreneur, too. She owns her own vintage company. Almost the complete opposite side of the spectrum, which I always think is hilarious. I saw software on the Internet. She sells old things in person, like two complete opposite sides of the spectrum, but both entrepreneurs. 


 Super cool. Super cool. You're building this out, and you demoted yourself. Do you look at it as a demotion? Because that's what was posted. Are you really going to demote yourself from CEO to product guy? 


 Yeah, I don't, but I definitely understand how that does look, and sometimes I have to fight myself on that. You have to explain it to people like, oh, you were CEO. Why aren't you anymore? What happened? What? I chose to bring in a more experienced CEO, and then that usually is like, oh, makes sense. Especially with my agent experience. I'm not the most qualified. I've never had a job. This is my only job, so I quite literally cannot be the most experienced or the best for the job. That's just pretty much how I sell it to myself, I think, to a degree. I also know in the back of my head live, me and my co founder, there's no one as a founder of a company, there's no one who will ever know more about the company than you, no matter what your title is. 


 As long as we're at the tables haven't been able to be a part of the discussion, I'm okay with it. Doesn't matter what my title says. 


 Let's play Dr. Jekyll. Mr. Hyde. In a parallel universe, there was a guy named Nate Jones, which you spell your name super unique. J ome. 


 You spell it right. I like to say I spell it the right way. 


 Got it. All right, so we're going to play Dr. Jack Owens to hide. In a parallel universe. There's the exact same scenario, except you, sir, are more ego driven maniac. What side by side comparison of this universe versus that universe? How do you think you would feel or how do you think the company would be doing right now? 


 I think I have a fun, sad example. There was a competitor in our space, so I won't drop their name, but they started almost the exact same time as us. And honestly, their founder was pretty egotistical. Live really over the top. I think he's pretty well respected, but he's about my age, and he comes from a different background. Live kind of the coastal background where big name accelerator, big name investors, the cream of the crop. Live the Silicon Valley way type thing. And it was actually really funny. They put me on a stage with him at Edmund, both of us at the same time, and said, live, here's his company. He does everything with humans. That was the angle. And Nate does everything with AI. What's the difference? Why should this audience of live 3000 people care and about which one? I still remember before we got on stage, he was live super braggadocious. 


 That's the right word to me. Here's my cool founder shirt. He went up there with a grout fit on, like, grape sweatpants and live a cool founder shirt with Nike hyper dunks on. I was like, that's pretty cool, man. It ended up being team Chat was actually the last time they ever spoke. They went out of business almost after that, immediately after. I think that was to a degree, in my opinion, still not knowing him too well. Probably of his ego, because they raised a lot of money before we did. And were like, that's not good. They're going to kill us. They lost a lot of money because they're not in business anymore. 


 What a great side by side lesson, right? That's a great reminder. Now, this happened to me today, this meeting. ID just dropped off my kid, and I'm in the process of writing a book that's important to me. It's a mission driven book. Has nothing to do with business. I mean, there might be some business stuff wrapped into it. I looked at one of my favorite authors is writing a book in the same category, in the same theme, very d*** close to the same book. Right? I saw that. The first thing Team Chat you said is like, oh my gosh, this isn't good. Right? 


 Yeah. 


 How did you respond to keep going? How did you respond? Give me some advice. How did you respond to go, no, what I'm working on is important, and I need to keep going no matter what is against me, whoever is against me. How did you do that? 


 Yeah, I mean, it's cliche, but like, you just gotta you got to keep your head down. Something that I've kind of learned over the past, more recently in the last two years, from some founders that I like to follow. I can't remember who they are. I just see them on Twitter and everything. 


 I really like them. I don't remember their name. 


 My whole Twitter feed is just founders with advice. I just lump them all on the Twitter people. Time and time again, I would see them say, live, know what your competition is doing but they've never seen a competitor kill someone like kill a company. They've never once seen it live. It doesn't happen. Everyone's always so scared of competition, and you should be to a degree. But competition is good. Even though investors will kind of constantly say, oh, this is your competition. What if Google would do this? What if Apple would do this? Right. They like to see competition because it means there's a market there. If there are competitors, there's a market. You just have to figure out how to be better and then a lot better. And that will come over time. You're never just going to launch one feature and just leapfrog them. 


 It's going to be heads down. Keep releasing, keep talking to your customers. Go through a customer's journey, figure out why they really like you, how they heard about you, and repeat. And maybe that's for you. Talking to people on the podcast about their life, who are your readers, talk to them about what they want. It's good that there's someone in your space. Acknowledge that's okay. And I think that it sucks. Our competitor, who is now defunct, they got so much press. They got so much attention. Realtors were all over them, and I still can remember it. They're just I think they churned through all their customers in the course of two weeks and had to shut down. They had no choice. They just lost all their customers because they just couldn't figure it out. They got their egos way too far in the way. 


 Yeah. 


 Because I was so enthralled in their journey, because they were so close to us, competitively. Like, I kind of had a first front row of seats live. I knew what was going on really closely, but I still think to this day they were on the human trajectory. We were on the AI trajectory. We were always going to live, go different paths. It's just this path ended a little short. 


 And we've seen the movie Terminator. AI wins in the end anyways, right? 


 It does, yeah. It depends on who you ask. 


 Copy that. All right, humility question. How did you stay humble? Because part of me, the computer, when I win, I just want to go, told you so. Right? Like, there's something in me that kind of but then I got to go, okay, we're all in this game together. 


 How did you respond, like, to that when we saw them shut down, basically to them? 


 How do you remember humility when you beat a competitor? 


 I mean, I think the most humiliate humbling part of that whole thing was, like I said, I got a front row seat. For whatever reason, they did something that we watched their customer base turn out live, astronomically high in two weeks time. They had no customers left. We watched them leave because a lot of them came to us in that time. It was like that could happen to us at any time. I still to this day, don't know what one thing really sparked that, but I know over time, what I found out was their conversation quality, believe it or not, with humans, was terrible compared to AI. They hired a bunch of essentially live part time college kids across the country to be the call center to man these conversations. I think what they found was those conversations could never live. You could never train a workforce like that to be consistent. 


 Where we found you could train AI to be really consistent. That's what this job is to do. Yeah. I think it was like the humbling part there was live. We could screw our product up so bad that we see a lot of people leave. We don't know at any point this could happen to us. Just a reminder for us that real estate agents, salespeople too, they are commission based. They are notorious for saying, this isn't going to work. My commission depends on it. I'm going to leave live. They don't care. They're kind of cut throat. That's the market that we're in, the real estate space is cut throat for sure. We can see half of our customers turn at any moment for no reason. Really? 


 Yeah. Holy moly. Nate during this interview, there's probably a question that I should have asked you other than where can people go connect with you? Do a dial. We'll get to that. There's probably a question that I should have asked you that I screwed up and did not ask you. What question is that? 


 Some basic questions that I constantly kind of see are like, should I have a co founder? Should I have advisors? Should I have a board? 


 Yes. Answer those three. 


 Yes. 


 Dig into those. 


 Oh, yeah. Those would be my answers. Yes to all three of them. So I agree with you. 


 But why, Nate? 


 Yeah. Like a co founder, for sure. If you can find someone who is the opposite of you, better skills in the parts that you suck at, find them. My co founder is phenomenal, and there is no reason structurally would exist without either of us. If it would have just been me or him individually, structurally wouldn't exist. Advisors, you do have to make sure that you pick the right ones. Same with the board. I'll lump that in to say, like, on the flip side, be careful that you're not listening too many opinions. Too many opinions can also really screw you up. As a founder, as an operator of a company, something that I always struggle with is live. As we've grown up, everyone's like you have to be data driven. You have to make a process. If you're not looking at a bunch of data to make your decision, it's probably wrong that's to agree. 


 Correct. Same with opinions. As founders and operators, a lot of the time your gut's right and you have to go with it. I think our gut has been right more often than not. Even with of data, you have to make quick decisions, even when you're only live 60% confident. Sometimes when you get too many opinions in the room, your conference link a lot because one person is saying this because that's what they feel. Another person is this, another person is this. You have your own opinion and it's good to hear them all. At the end of the day, your board typically isn't in the business. They're not operators. Your advisors aren't in the business. Typically they're not operators. You are. You're probably going to know more often than not what actually needs to be done. So just make the call. 


 Super awesome. Now is the time for real estate agents and people who are dependent on creating a real estate deal. Where could they go with you, connect with you and do a deal? 


 Yeah, you can always find me at Native. Structurally.com, like I said, we have a network, in quotes, of live 10,000 agents or so who use structurally one way or the other through a partner or through us directly. If I'm not the right guy, I think at one point we're powering live twelve to 15 of the top 50 teams in the country. They've got deals. I've seen some of our teams do. I think one of them does like 1000 deals a month. That's insane. I never even can't even believe that sometimes. There are plenty of deals within our network. I might not be the right guy, but I definitely am plugged into some folks in at least the real estate, mortgage and leasing industry. 


 Super cool. All right, so you do mortgage, real. 


 Estate and leasing and insurance as well. We're in the insurance industry, auto, home, renters, life, peter, travel, umbrella, you name it. We can work and do work with insurance agents. 


 Super cool. Super cool. 


 Structurally spell that out for us structurally.com. So it's like the word structure. Adenoly at the end.com. Structurally.com awesome. 


 Nate, great job. Thank you for sharing your journey and sharing some just golden nuggets of wisdom and truth with us. I appreciate you, man. You're awesome. Fellow deal makers in the audience, as always, reach out to our guests, say they heard you on the show and I want to find a way to do a deal with you. I hope these kind of conversations are helpful for you to learn more about different types of deals, but the mission and purpose ultimately is to put people and dial together deals, and deal makers connect them. Reach out to our guests, say thank you, and if you would like to talk about a deal that you're working on or looking for, head over the Deal Scout.com. Fill out a quick forum. Brands, we'll get you on the show next till then, we will talk to you all in the next episode. 


 Bye, everybody.

Nate Joens Profile Photo

Nate Joens

Nate Joens is the Co-Founder, Head of Innovation and past CEO at Structurely. Under his 4 years as CEO, Structurely experienced 10x growth in conversations processed in the real estate industry and built a proprietary conversational AI application that 99.9% of consumers believed was human. Structurely also became a Housing Wire Real Estate Tech Top 100 company, and grew to a team of 26 employees.

With over 3.5 million conversations with their AI Assistant Structurely’s Real Estate data set is nearing 10mm individually labeled messages.

With experience in Geographic Information Services (GIS), real estate, financing, urban planning, project management, and graphic design, Nate leads the product, engineering and machine learning teams at Structurely to align with real estate customer goals.