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How Poetry Influences This Cofounder’s Real Estate Startup 32

How Poetry Influences This Cofounder’s Real Estate Startup


Saturday February 23, 2019
Maryann Reid

Founder, Huvvit, Elias YabarowCOURTESY OF SWIZZYSWORLD

Elias Yabarow is a Somalian-American poet and cofounder of Huvvit, a real estate platform launched in 2018. Huvvit sends out a trigger to all available agents in a particular zip code when someone makes a request. The first agent to reply to that ping gets the lead and Huvvit immediately enables text or call communication between the two parties. Numbers are masked between the users and agents, and personal information stays private.

According to Yabarow, Huvvit’s on-demand approach is a sweet spot for millennial first-time buyers, who tend to spend a lot more time in the home-buying process and are more receptive to on demand services.

Also known as Alakkuu, Yabarow was influenced by poetry after moving to Nairobi at 13. He studied and became a trained engineer and had to learn to retrieve the best both worlds had to offer. He launched Huvvit months before his new book, Wet Grass Vanilla, was published because he thought the insight of launching a company would help him market his book successfully.

With his first TEDx talk in Washington, D.C. on April 13 called “Layers of Love,” Yabarow hopes he can inspire other engineers and programmers to take advantage of their interests in other areas, and not choose one path or make a “binary decision.”

Maryann Reid: It’s a big difference between engineer and a poet. Why both as full-on careers and not choose one?

Elias Yabarow: My mother noticed early on that I was excelling in math and science classes, and since then she’s always been a huge proponent of me getting into the engineering field. And having poetry not depend on my financial status gives me the flexibility to write and perform solely out of the love I have for the art form.

Reid: How does your work as a poet influence your work as an engineer?

Yabarow: When I was an engineering student, there wasn’t much focus on preparing students to communicate and deliver ideas in an efficient manner. Most of an engineer’s formal education revolves around the intricacies of science and finding solutions to complex problems, but there is no emphasis on a student’s ability to convey an argument in a simple, yet efficient manner. I was fortunate enough to have poetry serve this purpose for me, as this art form sharpened my ability to take technical issues and convey them in a way that is easily digestible to my broader team.

Reid: You found a way to still take ownership of your skills by cofounding Huvvit. Why was it so important to be a cofounder?

Yabarow: There aren’t a lot of minority cofounders or CEOs, especially in the tech startup world. So, it’s important to me to show other kids in my community that it is possible to build and own a company out of an idea. Also, I think it’s important to be a cofounder if you’re building something because equity in a company gives you a seat at the table and allows you to be in conversations that drive the company forward.

Reid: What problem does Huvvit solve?

Yabarow: Huvvit is an iOS mobile platform that allows home buyers to connect with local, vetted agents in real time. Kind of like an Uber for real estate. Users can search for properties, and when they’re ready to speak with an agent, they can connect with one inside the app within 90 seconds of requesting one. This allows users to have an interview-style experience with real-estate agents, instead of being fed an agent by the company.

Reid: How is Huvvit different from the more common platforms like Zillow that connect you instantly to an agent, anyway?

Yabarow: Huvvit is currently in the DC/MD/VA metropolitan area, and we ensure that users don’t have to leave the app to connect with an agent. Zillow is operating under the premise that users should reach out to agents. What we’ve noticed from this approach is that agents tend to get complacent if they’re already getting a consistent stream of leads. At Huvvit, we’ve built a patent-pending algorithm that rewards the proximity and proactiveness of an agent. Agents subscribe to our app by zip code.

Reid: You’re also actively involved in relief efforts in East Africa. What are you working on?

Yabarow: I just completed a U.S. poetry tour with a Minneapolis-based relief organization called The American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), which aim to bring relief to those suffering from hunger, illiteracy, disease and poverty in East Africa through several different programs they’re running. The tour included other East African poets such as Boonaa Mohammed and Ammar AlShukry and we performed in San Diego, Columbus and Minneapolis to raise awareness for ARAHA and their overall mission to help others.

Reid: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Yabarow: As long as you’re able to distribute your time and energy to all of your interests, then diversifying your career, and your paths could be a really rewarding experience.

Maryann Reid is an author, and co-founder of Alphanista, a learning platform for multicultural women in management.

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