In the latest of our Community Member Spotlight series, we grab an hour with Yvonne Chua – chartered architect and co-founder of Pitch Your Concepts. We talk digitisation in the world of design, architecture and beyond; the importance of community within the sector; and her thoughts on starting a business with her sister, sharing advice to anybody else looking to launch a family venture.
Fed: Hi, Yvonne! So, tell us a little bit about what you do…
Yvonne: Hello! I’m currently building Pitch Your Concepts, an online marketplace to assist property owners, businesses in physical locations, and SME developers to more effectively find architects and interiors designers for their property renovations and developments. Prior to co-founding Pitch Your Concepts, I was practising as a chartered architect on high-end residential developments, retail and hospitality schemes.
Fed: How did you come to start Pitch Your Concepts?
Yvonne: When I was practising as an architect, I saw the importance of the right client and architect fit, as well as the collaboration within the design team. When the design team is right, and when I say “right” I mean compatible from all aspects across the vision in quality, cost and time, the end result is often better spaces built.
At the same time, I also saw many potential clients walk through the door, spend time visiting various architecture practices to talk through their requirements, share the existing information they have, answer questions (which a number of people who have gone through the process said are similar questions), then wait for the initial proposal. This is very time consuming. I discussed what I observed with my sister, an engineer who worked on various oil and gas projects, and that was the starting point for Pitch Your Concepts.
Fed: Where did the name come from?
Yvonne: We were really thinking from the perspectives of the architects and designers. We went through a lot of names but we found Pitch Your Concepts to be a lot more friendly and familiar.
Fed: What led you to working around the digitisation of architecture in particular?
Yvonne: To be honest, we did not hone in on the digitisation of architecture but in the process of evaluating the workflow inefficiencies, architects being one of the first professionals hired by the client, and scrutinising where the co-founders’ skill sets can add value for people looking to renovate or develop properties, we were naturally drawn towards it.
It was also our desire to assist people regardless of their project budget, whether it is 5,000 pounds or 5 million pounds. You see, for large-scale architecture projects, it is already common to hold architecture competitions, but they are expensive to organise. And there is nothing like that in the market to facilitate individual property owners and SME developers.
With our platform’s automation on the low risk tasks, and assistance to draft a project brief that speaks the architect’s language, we estimate that can save property owners 60% time from the start of search to the appointment of a suitable design professional. With initial design and price comparison, which we commonly do before making any large purchase – that is: property renovations and developments are a huge investment, so we’ve built Pitch Your Concepts in a way that will allow property owners to save time, and make better decisions on which practice to hire. And we are keen to further develop the platform in the next phase to reveal further information that can help with the decision-making process.
Fed: How do you think digitisation is going to impact the world in general going forward?
Yvonne: Digitisation has a huge impact and it has already impacted many industries in a positive way. A relevant example in recent time is the matured development in communications, which allowed us to continue to communicate and work from home during the pandemic. Somehow, design and construction is one of the last industries to be digitised. McKinsey published a Digitisation Index, and the design and construction industry was revealed as the second last industry to be digitised – only after agriculture!
If you really think about it, real estate is the largest asset class in the world, and yet digitisation has not occurred or is still low so far, so there is lots of room for improvement for the digitisation in architecture, proptech – property technology. Whether it is Pitch Your Concepts or other startups, I’d hope to see more digitisation that’s developed from within the industry, to drive the positive impacts that is ultimately to build better spaces and places for people, hopefully in a way that maximises the resources, and build the industry’s resilience.
Fed: If you could make one part of your daily routine digital – what would it be?
Yvonne: A gauge that tells me how clean or dirty a surface is and if needed, clean it via automation!
Fed: You work with your sister, Von – do you have any advice for other people thinking of starting a business with a family member
Yvonne: Haha! Well I’m fortunate that my sister and I are working within the architecture, engineering and construction industry, so we have a relatable professional experience. Having said that, my sister and I have different skill sets that we bring to the table. Since the beginning, we have a clear understanding of what we are each good at, and this allows us to take the lead in specific areas within the business. I know when to step back and take the supporting role and so does she – knowing that and having absolute trust in each other have been working well for us.
One tip I would say is to separate business talk with private talk. When it’s about work, it’s all about work, constructive criticisms that’s about what’s best for the company or how we can improve our minimum viable product, and there’s no hard feelings there.
Fed: What made you become a Creative Industries Fed member?
Yvonne: I’ve been reading the Federation’s news on supporting the UK’s creative industries for a few years. It’s during the pandemic recently that I had the chance to look into memberships and I wanted to connect with like-minded creatives across the UK.
Fed: Is a sense of community an important part of what you do?
Yvonne: Definitely. As an architect, buildings are just an empty shell without the community in it. As for building Pitch Your Concepts, democratising access to architects and interiors designers to build better. The people are in the heart of it all.
Fed: What plans do you have in the pipeline at the moment?
Yvonne: We have completed building phase I of Pitch Your Concepts platform, and are currently actively speaking with our target markets. They are individuals and organisations carrying out renovations and SME developments, from your next door neighbour’s extension to your local restaurant who may want to renovate. We are also looking to raise investment to further develop the platform and accelerate our marketing efforts.
In our next phase, we are keen to further develop the platform to reveal further information that can help with the decision-making process, and drive collaborations within design teams. If the Federation’s community can connect me with anyone relevant to these areas, I’d greatly appreciate that.