Time flies! We are now one month into our first cohort at Redbud. The Redbud team had a great time chatting with Chloe Fan, CEO & Co-Founder of Design with FRANK about her journey to entrepreneurship, being a part of Redbud, and what her team is building today. check out FRANK’s initial home designs here, and start building with the intuitive and fun design tools here.
Design with FRANK is developing an architectural intelligence product empowering anyone to design and render homes that fit their exact requirements. The beauty of FRANK is that it enables projects to evolve from an abstract idea into comprehensive architectural plans ready for permitting and construction in just a few weeks. Here is a demo of their MVP.
FRANK’s team is led by Chloe Fan and Gabriel Munnich who share award-winning architectural skills and deep software engineering experience. Chloe came to the US by herself when she was 16 with a plan to make a difference and now she is planning to solve a problem that 98% of folks who are building a home face.
TLDR: VA loans were created to offer 100% financing to veterans to lower the barrier to becoming a homeowner. Although the mortgage is 100% financed the closing costs are not, which are typically 3–6% of the mortgage. Today, the average VA mortgage is $300k+, meaning closing costs on average would be $9k to $18k. That means 70% of Americans can’t afford closing costs or would completely deplete their savings to do so. In the current competitive market, sellers aren’t paying closing costs (veterans are less competitive buyers) and it is expensive to ask for a lender credit to pay for closing costs.
Verbatim transcript of the interview below:
Brett Calhoun: Hi, Chloe. Thanks for joining me this morning and you know, really excited to do this third Friday drop, with you and learn a little bit more about yourself and Design with FRANK and what you guys are building. Anyways, everybody watching this video. I’m Brett Calhoun. I run operations and portfolio management at Redbud.
Chloe Fan: Hi. Yeah. Hi, my name is Chloe. I am the co-founder and CEO of Design with FRANK, design with Frank is a simple design tool to allow non-designers to design a beautiful home and get construction drawings immediately.
Brett Calhoun: Thanks, Chloe. I’m really excited about what you guys are building and, prior to joining I know you guys already had an MVP that had a lot of users test the product and were just absolutely in love with it. And, you and Gabriel as co-founders have really cool backgrounds, that are just absolutely perfect for the problem that you’re trying to solve.
And so just to kind of start this off I would love to just learn a little bit more about you. So tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey with becoming the founder of design with Frank.
Chloe Fan: So Gabriel and I are both architects, and we both studied architecture in the Cooper Union a couple of years ago.
And then, for the past seven years, we have been very involved and invested in the intersection of design and technology. Not only do we design many spaces from residential to commercial. We also invented many large scales 3D printers and apps for building and design. Personally, when I was a kid, I grew up in a home builder family.
Every part of my family sells parts of the home. For example, my aunt sells kitchens; my uncle sells floor tiles. I wanted to build a design company when I was a child. During our working process, Gabriel and I worked with many clients and realized that our clients wanted to participate in the design process.
People love to do that. At the same time, we also found out that professionals do not design 98% of homes in the US. People are just creating on their own, or they are buying a pre-designed floor plan. But the problem is that most of the design software is designed for professionals. This requires a lot of training and background in architecture. So we thought if most of the homes are not designed by architects, why don’t we make a design software for 98% of people?
Brett Calhoun: That is a very impressive data point. Which goes perfectly into my next question, which is, you know, you kind of already answered this, but you know, what is the problem you’re trying to solve?
And, you know, how did you stumble upon this? How did you, how did you find out that 98% of, people, design their own homes and, what, what led you to even looking into.
Chloe Fan: Yeah. So, There was a couple of small hints. In my family, I saw how my family worked with different clients. A lot of them don’t have designers.
They just buy different finishes that they like to make up the space on their own. And then another thing is that I came to the US when I was 16, and my host family told me that they designed their own home and built it with their two hands. So. Pretty surprised and went through the architecture school, and like had, we had more time to research the market, understanding the profession as a whole.
And we just found out that most of the people don’t hire an architect. Well, I wouldn’t say that architects are expensive, but it does take time to create a particular design, so that we have to charge for the time that we create. For 98% of people, I think they want to save money and see if they can do it independently.
And at the same time, it’s your home. And everyone wants to create their own space. It relates to their identity so much.
Brett Calhoun: I agree. That’s such a big cornerstone in your life and getting to that first home, or even having the opportunity to construct your own home.
And if you have the right tools to do so, and actually build your dream house, I mean, that’s awesome. So which this goes beautifully into, you know, what is the company’s mission and what excites you about the problem?
Chloe Fan: Yeah. So the mission of the company is that a good design should be accessible for everyone.
For us, we work with many big clients like a huge museum. People were going to build fancy houses. With this software, we want everyone regarding their financial background and their stage of home building to create a beautiful home. Not only in terms of looks but also layout function-wise, so yeah, we want to make good architecture accessible for all.
Brett Calhoun: That’s fantastic. Just going into the actual solution now and the product that you guys have built and continue to iterate on it and build on to, walk us through that product. And how is that different than any of the other solutions out there today?
Chloe Fan: In conventional design software, you have to start with a wall or window, and for people who don’t know how architecture works, drawing a house from a blank canvas is pretty hard. You don’t know where to position things and how things should lay out. So with that, we started. I said basically like a child who, again, when you were playing block when you were kids.
So we developed a programmatic block. So you have the bedroom blocks, maybe room blocks, bathroom blocks, and all you need to do are arrange those blocks. And then, we will take care of the remaining and those blocks out carefully designed already. So no matter how you arrange it, you always create an efficient layout.
Brett Calhoun: Yeah, I think that’s so cool. And it’s pretty funny. Like some people will relate this to, to Minecraft or, or, or using Minecraft when they’re kids and it’s just so easy and intuitive for, for anybody to really use and, just empowering people to be their own architects. So that’s, that’s so cool. I know you guys have done a lot of customer development and have talked to a lot of users.
No. What have you learned today that you didn’t know from day one? And how did you better understand your users?
Chloe Fan: Yeah, so we’ve been taking a lot of design meetings with different people. What’s interesting is that everyone wants a variation of the sensing.
So we. It’s a smart tweak because everyone has a different site and everyone has a different perspective or by home and how they want to use it, use it. So even though we already configured this block, we, we are still learning how to develop those blocks in a much more flexible way so that in the future, the user can create much more creative configuration and much more flexible design for their own needs.
Brett Calhoun: That makes sense. And I’m, I’m really excited to see, you know, what your product looks like and a year from now two years from now. So, but my last question, just to kind of talk a little bit about Redbud. So, you know, we’d love to hear how the program and the team at Redbud have impacted your startup and, you know, what would you tell other founders thinking about applying for the next cohort?
Chloe Fan: Yeah. So, we are very grateful that we got an accepting Redbud. Even though it’s beginning, I think we started in September, so it’s been a month and a half, but we learned a lot. So, Gabriel and I, we a designer. So we don’t have so much background about entrepreneurship or running a big business.
And also the people who run a business, it’s very different than people who never run one. So then being directly from the people who have built businesses, successful business. And I think a lot of lessons that we cannot get from just like going to a class. They are very deep.
So I think in this perspective, we have learned a lot to hear how Willy and Jabbok build their company together. It cannot be found in an MBA class because building a real-life business is different from theoretical services. Yeah. So Gabriel and I have been trying the techniques that we talked about in the class.
Brett Calhoun: Yeah and thanks for that, Chloe. You know, I, I think one of the big things too, is just the fact that Willie and Javin have been in the trenches from day one, with zero customers to getting that first customer, to getting there thousands of customers and some of the insights that they can offer, just, not even on like a company growth perspective.
From a philosophy perspective with like personal growth and just getting a mindset of being able to go through some of the entrepreneurial struggles that you’ll face, regardless of how good of a founder you are. And so, I mean, it’s, it’s even helpful for me to sit in on all of those meetings too.
Anyways, this was fantastic. Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me and do this Friday. And we’re, you know, we’re really excited to, to be alongside you with this journey while you build your business.
Chloe Fan: Yeah. Thank you so much for inviting me really happy to share things about Friday drop.