The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Urbanbase seeks overseas expansion with AI-based home furnishing technology

Korean proptech eyes bigger presence in Japan, with Singapore being next target market

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : July 20, 2023 - 18:00

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Ha Jinu, CEO of Urbanbase, poses for a photo at the company's headquarters in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Thursday. (Urbanbase) Ha Jinu, CEO of Urbanbase, poses for a photo at the company's headquarters in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Thursday. (Urbanbase)

Furnishing a home is a strenuous venture, as performing a holistic analysis of measurements for a slew of necessities such as furniture, floor area and structure of a building, can be costly and tough to pull off for everyday consumers with little knowledge in architecture.

Urbanbase, a startup specializing in providing three-dimensional spatial data and artificial intelligence-supported styling services for home refurbishment, is one of the first companies in South Korea that attempted to simplify the assiduous experience of designing a home, with online simulation technology.

Ha Jinu, CEO of Urbanbase, said during a recent interview with The Korea Herald that based on its some 70 patented technologies, its mission is to turn the difficult concept of independently styling living spaces into an intuitive process for all.

According to Ha, he attempted to streamline the process of visualizing 2D architectural drawings and allow the simulated placement of various pieces of furniture using 3D technology. With the use of its exclusive AI, he said the firm is also knocking on the doors of functioning as a home design consultant, by having its system recommend furniture options to consumers, based on the structure and the size of the living space.

"Our AI-backed, virtual reality technologies have limitless usage in various stages of architecture. We believe we have the potential to exponentially extend our field of business," he said.

In recognition of the firm's potential in establishing a unique approach to building viable business models, Ha said the company has secured sizeable funding from large investors since its establishment in 2014.

Having raised $1.6 million in its Series A funding in 2017, the company succeeded in securing Series B and C funding from a slew of backers, including Shinsegae Information & Communication, an information technology arm of retail giant Shinsegae Group, and Samsung Venture Investment, the venture capital arm of Samsung Electronics, in recent years. The CEO declined to reveal the exact amount of investment.

"During the ’80s and ’90s, it was the number one priority here to build apartments that provide good quality of life," said Ha.

"However, the trend has changed drastically. Individual (design) preferences are now generally considered as one of the top factors taken into consideration when designing living spaces."

For its plans going forward, Ha said Urbanbase is seeking to actively expand its presence in global markets, especially in Japan. The company achieved $1 million in exports in 2021 and the figure more than tripled last year, the CEO added.

"Japan’s housing market is very similar to Korea's. The market is full of living spaces that are similar to Korean apartments, and also receptive to sales of high-end real estate," Ha said. According to him, Japan has high-density residential culture, with a slew of ultra-small living spaces and compact furniture arrangement that require careful approach to space customization.

Since establishing its Japan corporation in 2019, Ha said Urbanbase has clinched contracts with a slew of top Japanese real-estate developers and furniture firms such as Mitsubishi Estate Company and Nitori, to provide them with Urbanbase's 3D interior solutions and consulting sessions.

"Our next target is Singapore, where the high-end market for real estate is thriving and the demands for moving houses are high, due to diverse expatriates with strong financial means living there," Ha said.

"We are also seeking into making an inroad into Europe, as the market there is receptive to luxurious interior designs, and consumers generally have high individual economic power."