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CO-architecture closes $330K from east coast fund and local angels

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// // Skalata's first investment in WA is joined by West Coast Angels, and two prominent architects...

WA startup CO-architecture has raised $330k in pre-seed funding from east coast VC fund Skalata, West Coast Angels and two prominent architects, to grow its community platform for professional designers and creatives.

As mentioned on stage at December’s Freo Startup Fest, co-founder Kevin Mitchem spoke about closing a round ‘in the next few days’ (you can hear the conversation on the Startup West podcast), with Skalata itself confirming the deal in a blog post a month ago.

Skalata had sent various personnel to WA to participate in events last year, and venture partner Shahirah Gardner used to live and work in Perth, with her husband Toby, running fintech Finch. She’s now based in Melbourne.

Making a market

CO-architecture looks to connect 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 what is a widely decentralised industry.

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.

Kevin Mitchem

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,” said Peter.

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,” she said. “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 nearly doubled in January alone.

CO-architecture closes $330K from east coast fund and local angels

Skalata Venture Partner Shahirah Gardner (right, in photo above, with Kevin) said she was 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,” she said.

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.


Curtin University is a sponsor of Startup News.

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Startup News has been the home of West Australian startup news and events since 2013. We publish several news stories, interviews, tips and events relating to WA startups every week, with over 1,900 articles in our archives. We also produce the 'Startup West' podcast, and host the 'Hubs (Ecosystem)' database of WA startup programs, places and events.
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