Cameron Billings, DMSB'16, and John Puma, DMSB'17, founded Wizio, a startup that provides virtual reality tours of rental properties using high-definition 360-degree photography to improve the experience of apartment hunters looking for their next home.
“There's an extreme lack of transparency,” said Puma, who graduated from Northeastern University in 2017 with a business degree. “Between poor-quality photos and inaccurate listing info, there's often a disconnect between the online experience and what you see in person.”
The virtual reality tour allows renters to view an apartment as though they were actually standing in it. Wizio lists properties with virtual tour capabilities on social media and charges clients a fee when a virtual tour is created.
The startup has created almost 5,000 virtual tours since launching in 2005. One of its first clients, Encore Realty, was founded by Brian Kitchens, DMSB'07. Since then, Wizio has created around 200 virtual tours for Encore.
“As a real estate agent, it's filled a gap for us,” Kitchens said of Wizio's virtual tour technology. “I'm an advocate for what they're doing.”
Puma initially connected with Wizio in 2015 when it was a part of the Husky Startup Challenge, a semester-long start-up boot camp run by Northeastern's Entrepreneur's Club.
After winning the Husky Startup Challenge, Wizio built a prototype of its platform with funding from IDEA, Northeastern's student-run venture accelerator. IDEA then connected Wizio's founders to other resources within
Mosaic, an alliance of student-led organizations at Northeastern focused on supporting startups.
Wizio's team is comprised of four Northeastern alumni: Puma, Billings, Devon Grodkiewicz, CIS' 19, and Emily O'Brien, AMD'07. The Boston area is the company's primary area of focus but the team has recently expanded into the Houston market.