At its most obvious, AKASHA Immobilien is a real estate company based in Sarnen, Switzerland. But speak to its visionary founder and self-described ‘business angel’, Marcel Gasser, and you’ll soon understand AKASHA is about much more than bricks and mortar, building and profit.
Marcel’s vision for AKASHA is to create homes that are a source of collective and community wealth, that enable participation and collaboration between like-minded people to heal our environments, and that support human nature and inspire citizens around the world. It’s a grand vision – and in his quest to find the best starting point, Marcel turned to Nomoko.
“Real estate is about storytelling. Even the developers know that…”
Born into a family of architects and fascinated by real estate and its impact on how we live from an early age, Marcel now dedicates around 20% of his time to AKASHA and his community development dream. The rest of his working life is spent on the road, traveling, mentoring, coaching startups and, after a life-changing event a few years ago, following a more spiritual path that led him to create AKASHA and pursue his dream.
In this interview we talk to Marcel about the challenges and opportunities of his vision. Of how our spatial services and digital platform for real estate, Praedia, are helping him bring it to life. And why he was so compelled by what Nomoko does – and has the potential to do – that he became an investor.
The first step towards Marcel’s big vision is AKASHA’s initial building development in Ticino, Switzerland. “The project in Ticino combines my shared interests in developing real estate and working with entrepreneurs and businesses in the area of personal development,” explains Marcel.
“The development is actually almost a club – a retreat center – where investors, business people and startups can come together and collaborate around the topic of ‘conscious business’. That is: spirituality, development, shared experience; a place to explore the sharing economy and promote sustainability not only at a business level but also personally and, for some, spiritually.”
The Ticino project is a complex triangular communal building set on the hills over Lake Maggiore. Having worked with a local architect on the building plans, Marcel spoke to Nomoko about creating a real scale 3D model of the location. He wanted to integrate his architect’s CAD designs and ensure every aspect of the building was perfect, from its outlook to its impact on the local environment and community, before beginning construction.
All being well, Ticino will act as the prototype for at least 20 other developments in different locations around the world, created and co-owned with other like-minded investors. Places to rest and reset, to stay and live, to build and grow ideas and businesses – but this throws up its own set of challenges.
“I think that a property is too often built without knowing anything about who will work or live in it. What’s their budget? What’s their idea? Why can’t we think differently? I’m interested in what measures we can put in place to change this, to put ourselves in the place of the building’s residents and see what it would be like to live or work there before we build.
Just as importantly, of course, is money. Too often people are just too greedy and think only about profit. This intention, this focus on money is, in my opinion, short sighted and not sustainable.”
Marcel’s approach is worthy and worthwhile. But real estate scouting is extremely time consuming and labor intensive, especially when done at scale and internationally.
The data you need to invest with confidence is often scattered far and wide, siloed among disparate authorities, aggregators, municipalities and companies. Gathering it can take months or years, analyzing and understanding its value can take as long again and that’s before you consider the costs of architects, planners, lawyers and brokers.
Such barriers to entry can make it all but impossible for individuals, entrepreneurs and visionaries to bring their plans to fruition, leaving it the sole remit of bigger companies whose priority is inevitably the bottom line. A perfect example of this, it took Marcel five years to familiarize himself adequately with the Ticino market before he could start developing his first real estate project.
“I’ve known Nomoko a long time. I actually met Nilson (our cofounder and CEO) in 2015 at a startup event and I was immediately a big believer in his vision. So much so, I became an early stage investor and have followed your growth closely over the last six years.
I don’t think this association changed my decision to work with you though – I would have anyway and hope I can speak neutrally about what you do without being seen as a marketing figure! But I know the passion behind the scenes and it’s this that drove me to use Nomoko spatial services and also, become a beta tester for Praedia.”
“Nomoko has become multi-functional and that makes it invaluable throughout the entire real estate lifecycle.”
With commission in place, our drone team prepared and captured Marcel’s chosen location for his development before passing on to our 3D modeling team for processing and conversion to a working 3D model. At this point, Marcel also asked us to integrate his architect’s CAD designs for the building into the model. Keen to test and simulate a variety of scenarios and better understand the building’s usage, impact on and setting in the environment (everything from shadow simulations to noise level assessments), this was key to Marcel’s future plans.
“Precision!” exclaims Marcel. “There’s nothing more important. If I don’t know the accuracy of every aspect, from spatial views to simulations, the physical impact of the building… This is what I need to know and what I got from Nomoko. For me, Nomoko is definitely the leader in this regard. It is a tool that turns real estate into storytelling, and real estate is always about storytelling – even the developers know that.”
Alongside the precision and storytelling aspect, Marcel understands the value data has in developing successful real estate projects, be they profit-led or pursued with a more altruistic view in mind.
Having no data, especially when developing a property from scratch is one of the biggest challenges to any real estate project. Explains Marcel, “Just like in business, the risk is greatest at the outset because there’s no data. When the company is older, I have sales and key figures I can base decision making on. It’s the same for real estate.
For me, with Praedia and spatial services like my 3D model, Nomoko has become multi-functional. It’s a portfolio management tool, it’s a data aggregator, collator and analyzer, it’s a risk analyst – and that makes it invaluable throughout the entire real estate lifecycle.”