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Andria Santos is the CEO and Co-founder of Fülhaus, an AI-powered interior design and furnishing company providing enterprise solutions for the real estate and hospitality industries. Before Fülhaus, she had a career in law and real estate. Andria’s passion for design and technology led her to start Fülhaus with a focus on vintage designer furniture before pivoting to the tech-driven enterprise it is today. As CEO, she enhances property performance through smart design and cutting-edge technology.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [2:59] Andria Santos shares her transition from a career in law to CEO of a design-centric technology company
  • [3:10] From small e-commerce vintage furniture site to an industry-disrupting platform
  • [3:42] Scaling furniture sourcing and meeting the growing demands of large-scale properties
  • [4:50] The challenges of pivoting from labor-intensive processes to streamlined operations
  • [6:46] How Andria leveraged social media to drive demand for unique furniture collections in the early days of Fülhaus
  • [10:34] The proprietary AI tool developed by Fülhaus to customize property designs at scale
  • [22:54] The strategic decision to offer Fülhaus’s SaaS to the public
  • [30:12] How Fülhaus has evolved and the key developments in their technology
  • [43:59] The value of having mentors and lessons learned

In this episode…

Have you ever wondered how technology and design can come together to change the way we experience furnished properties? Can an e-commerce startup evolve into a powerhouse of innovation in the real estate industry? How did a company that started with vintage furniture navigate the shift to becoming an AI-driven enterprise?

Successful entrepreneur Andria Santos delves into her captivating journey. Beginning with an e-commerce vintage furniture site, she and her team rapidly scaled up to meet the exploding demand for furnished properties, developing an AI-powered SaaS tool that revolutionizes interior design. Andria’s candid sharing of Fülhaus’s evolution from delivering designer collectibles to providing enterprise solutions demonstrates the transformative impact of technology in traditional industries.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz interviews Andria Santos, CEO and Co-founder of Fülhaus, about making bold moves from the garage to AI in the interior design industry. Andria shares the intimate details behind Fülhaus’s rise, the challenges, triumphs, and strategic decisions that shaped her company’s path, insights into adapting to market demands, using technology to solve complex problems, and drawing inspiration from personal mentors.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “Real estate isn’t just about the property, it’s about the relationship between the owner and a furnished dream.”
  • “In the ever-evolving real estate landscape, adopting technology isn’t just innovative, it’s imperative.”
  • “If you’re gonna create something new and innovative, you might as well see other users and their use cases for it.”

Action Steps:

  1. Embrace Adaptability in Business

    • Being open to change and pivoting strategy, as Andria did with Fülhaus, enables a company to stay relevant and capitalize on emerging trends.

  2. Invest in Technology to Scale

    • Leverage new technologies like AI to streamline business processes, similar to how Fülhaus optimized the furniture buying experience.

  3. Understand Customer Needs

    • Just as Fülhaus began with customer insight, focusing on the client’s vision and translating it into actionable services can significantly impact retention and satisfaction.

  4. Tap into Government-Funded Research

    • Utilize local resources and government institutions for research and development grants, which played a crucial role in Fülhaus’s evolution.

  5. Cultivate Personal Mentorship

    • Seek guidance from entrepreneurs with real-life experiences, as their lessons learned — like those of Andria’s father and boss — can be invaluable for navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:15

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz 0:22

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of, where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today so different. I’m Andria Santos, a Fülhaus that’s And not like the TV show. And Andria, before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes, people should check out of the podcast. And there’s been some interesting episode of the year, some of the fan favorites have been the co-founder of Pixar on. And he talked about how the company started. And he talked about some Steve Jobs stories, some George Lucas stories. So that was a fascinating one also, because we’re gonna talk about SaaS as well, with Andria’s journey in the SaaS.

We had some of the founders of Zapier and their journey we had PipeDrive I remember, when I had them on, they had 10,000 customers, I think now they have over 100,000 customers, so they’ve grown quite a bit. And check those out. And MailShake was interesting one to where he’s grown to 70,000 users, and he’s been acquiring SaaS companies too, so check those out on And this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect their dream 100 relationships and how we do that we actually help companies launch and run their podcast, we’re an easy button for a company to launch on a podcast we do the accountability, the strategy and execution. Andria, call ourselves the magic elves that work in the background and make it look easy for the company and the host. So they can run their business, develop amazing relationships and create great content.

For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way over the past decade to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should maybe have questions, go to I’m excited to introduce Andria Santos. She’s CEO and co-founder of Fülhaus. As I said, it’s Fülhaus, it’s an AI-powered interior design and furnishing company. And they’re dedicated to improving performance of furnish real estate properties and hospitality businesses through great design. And her role CEO Andria strives to transform the furnish real estate industry through technology. And that technology actually empowers the owners and managers to design better. And so they have Enterprise done for You Version. And they also have an AI power tool that helps people do it as well. So, Andria, thanks for joining me.

Andria Santos 2:59

Awesome. Thanks so much for having me here.

Jeremy Weisz 3:01

Start us off, talk about Fülhaus. And we can then talk about how they all got started. Inception.

Andria Santos 3:10

Yeah, well, so exactly. You said it perfectly. Well, Fülhaus is an AI-powered furnishing and AI design platform, which just launched last year. So we’re really excited about that. And we’ve been furnishing properties for real estate owners, managers, operators, since 2015. So, it really was about time that somebody created a little bit more innovation in this world. And we were really set out to do that. So here we are.

Jeremy Weisz 3:38

So how did Fülhaus get started?

Andria Santos 3:42

Yeah, so at 2015, I had originally had a career in law, and I had worked at Air Canada and their legal department and then went into private real estate firm in Montreal, and there was a lot of Airbnb hype, obviously, happening around that time. So we had this microphone and I kind of started this e-comm site. It was vintage designer furniture online. We started, you know, came up with a branding Fülhaus the .com was available. And sure enough, we got picked up by what was BlackBook at the time is now Sonder. And from there it really just kind of caught wind snowballed opening across Canada and the US. And yeah, we’ve been servicing the furnished rental industry ever since. So we really focus on either multifamily single family rentals, helping properties ultimately perform better through good design.

Jeremy Weisz 4:40

Early on with the e-commerce site, what would be an example like something on the site, and the company went and purchased something. What did that look like early on?

Andria Santos 4:50

Oh, man, that was like the best time that was driving around in a U-haul picking up vintage furniture from what I like to call the heyday of Montreal, which is where I’m from. And Montreal was lucky to have both the 76 Olympics and Expo 67, which allowed it to really harness — be this kind of epicenter of design. And that mid-century modern aesthetic. So there’s a lot of that kind of lurking in various places around the country and the province. So yeah, so really just kind of focusing on that focusing on those design heroes of the time. We built Fülhaus, which is based on actually Buckminster Fuller and Bauhaus. So that’s where the Fülhaus comes together. And it was, it was a great time we’re literally squatting in one of the properties that I was, managing, and just revamping and refinishing furniture, and yeah, just kind of getting a lot of people involved. And it was really early days for e-comm too.

Jeremy Weisz 5:58

How are you finding where you just going on estate sales, and then going picking this stuff up and bringing it back? What does that look?

Andria Santos 6:08

Literally, yeah, that’s literally it going to state sales and flea markets. And luckily, my co-founder, who’s really the design mind behind everything, had a really good eye for design product design or product, right. So, you know, finding those themes, loungers, and a lot of those quintessentially beautiful product from the heyday of that time. So yeah, so it was cool to source and find and collect and revamp and bring back to life. Until of course, we saw scale. And then the whole world changed.

Jeremy Weisz 6:46

So the first version, it’s pretty labor intensive, where you’re going around, you’re picking it up, you’re bringing it back, you have to maybe, restore it a little bit, and then you have to sell it. How are you getting people to your site?

Andria Santos 7:00

It wasn’t so hard at the time. Instagram was really early days, right? So you make a little bit of noise on some social media, and some people show up, I remember we had this really fun warehouse, this garage, that we collected all this stuff in and we didn’t think anybody would show up. And we came, we had this little garage sale, and we open the door, we arrive at our studio, and there was a lineup outside. And we were just kind of like, whoa, how did this get around so far, and within hours, everything was gone. And it was just, it really just picked up steam really quickly. But yeah, to your point, it is really difficult to do all of that labor intensive work and get it all really up to speed. So, yeah, so we had to pivot a little bit away from vintage, sadly, as much as I really do love it. But it’s too hard to actually scale vintage right now.

Jeremy Weisz 8:01

We’ll talk about the pivot points a little bit. And, you know, so it sounds like early on, you were getting this kind of antique furniture, and you use social media to really drive demand. And then what was the next pivot point from and that’s also, it’s time intensive, is capital intensive, to because anyone in e-commerce, you have to buy the stuff, typically, unless you’re doing drop shipping, and then sell it. So what was the first the pivot point then from there?

Andria Santos 8:34

Yeah, so we got a couple of really large volume contracts, and people just wanted more, they loved what we’re doing, they wanted more of it. So, and again, you can imagine that this time 2016 17 everybody’s just buying up units and occupying spaces whether it’s leasing it long term to sublease it short term. It was that time where there was just so much drive in the market to pick up a lot of this sort of Airbnb, coattails, right writing those Airbnb coattails. So there was a ton of demand for this type of Quick Install, quickly, turnkey furnished property that could get up and running as quickly as possible. So that’s when the vintage labor intensity could not really withstand what the demand was asking of us. And, and it was interesting, because we really didn’t know what to do, right?

Like, how do we then procure stuff and still maintain a certain amount of margin that’s going to keep us alive, right. And so yeah, so we had to pivot and we started, we got a friendly tip from somebody to go check out one of the furniture markets and they’re like, just go, you’ll understand it. Just go, and it’s in High Point, North Carolina. And once we got there, that’s when it really opened up our eyes to the wholesale vendor approach to this kind of business. And we’re always on a mission to do this kind of packaged furniture product where you can get this well-designed turnkey product, which is the hardest thing to really achieve is you can buy furniture anywhere, but how do you do it with good design quickly? That’s really the hardest thing to achieve. That’s been kind of a mission ever since is offer turnkey packaged homes furniture, and do it with good design.

Jeremy Weisz 10:34

So the first iteration was people are just getting the furniture from you and then placing it themselves. The next is you’re getting demand, and they may want you to furnish like a whole house or apartment or something like that. What did you figure out from that point? Were they asking you? Because at that point, I don’t know, if they’re just only asking for furniture? It sounds like they weren’t sure what they should do. How did you then price the service? Now you’re doing a service and the product right at this point?

Andria Santos 11:04

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. So the scale was coming in more like we want 30 units a month, 50 units a month, 70, and it just kind of, that volume of buying just had to be done through different channels. Right. So pricing is always tricky. And I think anyone will tell you that right? In furniture, it’s kind of we learned later on that there’s a lot of benchmark pricing to just kind of work with, given how old this industry is, there’s a lot of benchmark pricing out there. But including the service, including the logistics, including all of the very many pieces that we’re just starting to understand and trying to appropriately price. Obviously, we didn’t do so well in the beginning and have since improved upon. But yeah, it’s interesting to see, and I think a lot of the market has changed in its learnings around what is the stuff cost inflation has greatly changed the cost of products today. So, yeah, so it took us a while to learn, but you got a test and you test into it, and you figure it out.

Jeremy Weisz 12:15

At that point, were they I’m just curious, were they taking pictures of their house, and you were making recommendations? Or did they kind of knew what they wanted, and you are helping order for certain rooms.

Andria Santos 12:28

Interesting. So the way that I say it is that everybody comes to you with two pieces of information, a floor plan, and a dream. Right? So they have this idea of what they absolutely want. And they have a floor plan. So that’s really what we get. And now we have to interpret that floor plan, interpret that dream, and provide them something that they can afford, right. And that’s usually the hardest part, sourcing and procuring and trying to maintain that idea of that dream alive, right? While you’re also being filtered through budget and timelines and availability, its stock levels and all that stuff. So that’s where the wheels started turning into this is a data problem. Right? This is a data aggregation problem, right? So we need to know, inventory stock levels and images of the product, right? And there’s so much of it out there, right? There’s no lack of furniture in the world. So if we could figure out how to bring all of this data and centralize it and standardize it, then we can figure out how to sort it and get us our answers faster. So that was what we set out to do that.

Jeremy Weisz 13:41

We’ll get there because the kind of where you want to scratch your own itch and build a tool to make it faster, easier, and also give people what they want. From a service perspective, what was a major milestone for you in the company as far as clients or customers go?

Andria Santos 13:59

Oh, man, major one. I mean, Sandra was great. And they were a great, great client to have. But one of the major ones for us, which unfortunately didn’t materialize was Airbnb. We had started, we kicked off a pilot program with them early 2020. So sure enough, by the time we were rolling it out, and they were getting such a demand as well for like help to refurnish properties, right. So help us get up list and optimize our properties. Right. So they were seeking a service that could help them help their users, right.

So that’s where we came in. And so we started a pilot project with them, just in San Diego, and the volume that came in just with that small, pilot was more than even we can handle and unfortunately, it was March 2020. So do an after the World shutdown, and that kind of ended, but that was a really exciting time in which really shed some light on the fact that this was kind of a problem that people were finding everywhere. So, yeah.

Jeremy Weisz 15:07

I’m surprised, I like your philosophy on there’s a lot of people who are just renting or they’re moving Airbnb and they don’t want to buy their own furniture, you just, I’d rather show up. It’s there, and I pay extra amount per month. And you know, the owner probably makes a bit of money off of that rental, and the person doesn’t have to buy all the furniture, and then figure out what to do with it when they want to move in six months or a year. So have you found that over the years, the mentality has changed or not really?

Andria Santos 15:43

Absolutely. The interesting thing is whose mentality has changed? So, yeah, the tenant is definitely in that space, in fact, I just shared it on LinkedIn a few days ago, CORT Furniture recently shared a survey on 70% of tenants that they had interviewed, had wanted to move into, or would consider moving into a furnished rental as their next property versus 40%, the year before, right, so like, that is a huge increase over one year for the amount of people that are actually looking for a furnished rental. Right. So and it’s not just in the short-term rental world, or flex living, as they’re saying. Now, it’s really like long-term tenants, it’s coming to me that if I don’t own this real estate, why do I have to lug around all this furniture? Right? It makes absolutely no sense.

So that whole, like built-to-rent world, which has really been commonplace in Europe for a long time, people have been renting furnished rentals for a long time, because it makes no sense to move sofas around London. Right? So we’re starting to see that mentality migrate over here as well. And we’re seeing I mean, I, myself live in a lot of places. And I couldn’t imagine having to furnish that and I own a furniture company. Right. So it’s just, I just see a lot of generational change in that mentality. The problem is, is it actually changing the mentality of the owners of the properties? Right, so to invest that extra amount into the property to furnish it for a few extra dollars? Right? Is that shift really happening amongst owners and operators, owners specifically, because they’re generally the ones that have to invest in the property that way.

Mildly, mildly, there’s interest, there’s definitely, we’re seeing a lot of operators and property managers who do understand the benefits of renting, burnish really kind of egging them on in that direction. So you are seeing some shifts where they team up with operators, the better than going to manage this property. Yes, we’re seeing those owners and those managers come together to kind of nudge them in that direction. Like, we attend a lot of conferences, we talk to a lot of owners, and it’s still very tough for some of the large real estate owners to imagine why they would invest that additional cost. And also to have it easy for them to do, which is where we’ve set where we want to come in, right, we want to just make it really easy for you to like, understand what the cost is. See your return. If there’s management of this product, it’ll be easy to deal with. That’s kind of the goal. Yeah.

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