The SpruceUp team has been a member of Create33 from day one– when we still had construction tape on the floors! Less than a year later, we have been delighted to see their progress (you may have read about their most recent $3M raise in GeekWire). SpruceUp is a digital boutique for home goods that are curated for each user, powered by AI and home styling experts. We had the opportunity to sit down with Anne Viggiano, SpruceUp’s lead designer.
How did you get your start in the digital design world?
“I’m a trained artist, and years ago, started helping architects with color palettes. This led to interior design, and even starting my own business.”
“I met Mia (CEO of SpruceUp) through one of my customers who happened to work at Madrona Venture Labs, another Create33 member. Mia was looking for someone with experience in interior design, so we got lunch and just hit it off. I’ve been with Spruce Up for almost a year and a half, and this is really my first time in a technology environment.”
How do you believe AI is changing the design market space?
“AI is speeding up the work of connecting people with products they like. That’s the positive; a downside is that without human touch it can be homogenized design. Right now, people get bucketed too quickly into a style, and end up with the same look. That’s where SpruceUp comes in: we’re making shopping for home hyper-personalized, helping you to mix and match styles, colors, and materials within your budgets and needs and create a look that’s uniquely you. Once you put together the AI and have a human training and filtering the information, that’s when the truly deep level of personalization happens.”
Do you foresee a future where AI has taken over the design space, and there is no need for human interaction?
“That’s a really interesting question, because over at Spruce Up we have a tech team and we have a design team. The whole purpose of the tech team is to get the AI to choose exactly what the interior designer would choose, but there are bits of a person’s life that AI will never be able to take into consideration. I think it will get really close, but to get that feeling that something was made just for you, you still need an interior designer. At Spruce Up, we combine the best of both: our interior designers are training our AI and style prediction algorithms, and we layer in the more nuanced and personalized support from an interior designer to give you the confidence to pull the look together.”
Does the idea of AI growing within the design space make you excited or nervous as an interior designer?
“I think it’s important to differentiate that interior design only physically happens in people’s homes. That is an industry that will never be online. There are customizations, quality, and beauty of things that can never be sold on ecommerce.
SpruceUp is not trying to bring interior design online, but rather leverages interior design expertise to train AI to provide hyper-personalized eCommerce to help you find just the right items and create a look that’s uniquely you. It excites me as an option for people who may not have the means to hire an interior designer, or have more of a transient lifestyle. It can be difficult for interior designers to accept that this market opportunity exists. As long as these two markets stay distinct, they can really help each other. It also helps separate the physical market, I think helping people shop online for quality things is important. People have a hard time differentiating and sorting through the clutter of what’s online.”
How do you see SpruceUp growing within the next 6 months?
“Each week, our AI gets smarter, so our data will become cleaner and more precise. We want the data to really reflect people’s lifestyle and deliver even more relevant recommendations to customers. And of course, we want even more people to know about us!.”
Is there an ideal number of consumers/ feedback you would like to achieve in order for the AI to become smarter?
“The more data, the better. We launched Style Tuner in July to gather learning data and to better map style preferences to create 100% unique style profile for each customer. Our initial goal was to have 10,000 feedbacks, and we’ve actually 10X it to have over 100,000 feedbacks in just the first month.What’s exciting is that people have been enjoying our style tuner, which gamifies providing product feedback. This is just one way we’re trying to take the seriousness out of home decor shopping and make it fun for consumers .”
What impact do you see SpruceUp making within the Seattle startup space?
“Our company is 75 percent women. And that’s partly because Mia is committed to getting women interested in tech who haven’t necessarily had the opportunity, or hadn’t previously considered it (like me). She has a genuine passion for people doing what brings them joy.
For many women, people expect you to play the part of superhero; have a baby and put on an amazing event in the same day, but that’s completely unrealistic. We’re encouraged to have a balanced lifestyle, where we can be passionate about things both in and outside of work, and I hope that other startups will follow suit.”
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity, and conducted by Create33 intern Sarah Jacob.