Interview with James D Marshall, Co-Founder and CEO of Spatial Data Company Pupil

Pupil is a spatial data company that captures and publishes 3D information about property interiors. By providing more accurate data for interior spaces, we can transform global real estate. Our aim is that every inch of the built world will have a digital replica, which will contribute to a smarter, safer and more sustainable industry.

We spent four years and raised $25m to research and test our thesis. Our first product, Spec, was launched in June 2019. Spec is an all-in-one residential property marketing solution powered by Pupil’s technology. Since launch, we have digitised £10 billion of residential property in London alone.

Through Spec, we can now enter an average London property and within half an hour capture all the raw data our cloud AI engine requires to create a digital replica within 24 hours for less than £100.

From a single capture, we provide estate agents with high quality virtual tours, professional photographs, digital brochures and Spec Verified floor plans. Our floor plans are guaranteed to be accurate to 99% of a property’s true size. This is a first for the industry and will help to set the new standard for accurate data in the residential property industry worldwide.

Pupil — Digitising the world's interiors

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

We had our first virtual reality experience on a trip to New York. We were intrigued by the potential of it and wanted to see if we could harness the power of immersive media to sell and rent property remotely. In order to create a property viewing remotely, you have to go to the property to capture it.

So, we set about testing the validity of commercialising previously expensive and laborious techniques to provide every physical space with a digital representation. That is how we refined the vision for Pupil.

What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

The old cliché that people are the key to your business is spot on. Getting the right team around you is so important. Be wary of hiring very senior people too quickly. There can be a temptation for entrepreneurs to be drawn in by impressive CVs, ending up with people that might not be suited to a start-up environment.

Look for something in the people that you hire that shows you they have got the passion and hunger to help the business to succeed. Hiring people that have been there and done it might not be as shrewd as hiring people that have something to prove. Ambitious businesses need ambitious people.

Be selective about who invests in your business and the basis on which they do so.
Don’t give away too much equity early on and look for strategic investors that can add value to the business. People who are personally invested in your business and have a wealth of relevant experience can help you along your journey.

Do your market research and don’t go to market before you are ready. Keep fighting for every inch, because at first no one is going to believe in the idea like you do.

What can we hope to see from Pupil in the future?

Expansion into key markets and cities around the world will be very important for us. We are also continuously working on new products powered by our data and proprietary software.

Our vision to provide clear, accurate data for the property industry involves extensive machine learning and, ultimately, computer vision. We are progressing towards teaching a computer to understand everything in a room and knowing its associated position. This will unlock a huge number of insights about a space.

The ultimate aim is to be able to document a property in 30 minutes, automatically inputting the raw data into our cloud AI system from any city in the world and programmatically auditing the whole property.