Perth startup secures pre-seed funding to lay foundations of designer and architect community

Western Australian startup CO-architecture has raised $330k in pre-seed funding from east coast VC fund Skalata, and west coast angels to grow its community platform for professional designers and creatives.

CO-architecture connects independent and job-seeking design professionals with small businesses hiring for projects or work. Users can seek permanent or temporary roles, bypass more expensive recruitment methods, and build networks in a widely decentralised industry.

Founder Kevin Mitchem says, “sole traders and SMEs represent 98% of the industry, yet a disproportionate amount of resources are shared exclusively between larger practices. Little has been done to help the ‘little guy’ strategically recruit talent or access the same pool of projects and contracts.”

CO-architecture has attracted additional investment and support from some of Australia’s leading design firms and architects.

Director of multinational design studio Hassell, Peter Lee OAM, believes the platform offers a unique solution for a volatile industry.

“As the world of architecture is so closely tied to construction, projects fluctuate drastically depending on the state of the market and economy, making traditional means of finding work challenging.”

Architect and former Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Perth, Sandy Anghie, has watched the venture grow from an idea into a thriving community.

“This idea of a networked studio is one that happens informally across the industry. What’s smart about CO-architecture is that it formalises this idea and scales it nationally. The platform improves the hiring process, and it provides smart, efficient and accessible technology to help support the wider architecture and design community.”

Kevin and co-founders Wade Smith and Luke Hallaways founded CO-architecture after being accepted into Curtin University’s Ignition program for aspiring entrepreneurs, in 2020. CO-architecture later participated in the Curtin Accelerate program, where the founders received a grant to build their first MVP.

In 2022, CO-architecture has onboarded approximately 8% of Australia’s design professionals and aims to bring on 20% by the end of 2023, with the introduction of its new designer directory. Registered users have nearly doubled in January alone.

Skalata Venture Partner Shahirah Gardner is inspired by CO-architecture’s aim to not only revolutionise industry networking, but to help gather crucial insights.

“CO-architecture’s ability to collect data on larger scale issues will help support research and conversations around equity and diversity.”

CO-architecture recently published a comprehensive industry salary guide, with the intention of closing notoriously large gender pay gaps in architecture, design and construction.

This coincides with recent changes to the Australian Fair Work Act where pay secrecy terms can no longer be included in employment contracts or other written agreements.

Samantha Rigby
Samantha Rigby
Samantha is the head of content, lifestyle and entrepreneurial columnist for Best in Australia. She is also a contributor to Forbes and SH. Prior to joining the Best in Au, she was a reporter and business journalist for local newspapers.
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