proptech chronicles kevin mitchem
Kevin Mitchem is the co-founder of CO-architecture. Image: The Property Tribune.
  • CO-architecture empowers job-seeking design professionals to build their career.
  • It was founded by Kevin Mitchem, Wade Smith, and Luke Hallaways in 2020.
  • The platform currently has around 7,000 users, with a third of them being referrals.

The proptech outlook is bright, as some of Australia’s finest minds tear down the barriers of real estate with innovative solutions. The latest in our ongoing proptech series follows CO-architecture’s Kevin Mitchem, with special thanks to Cullum Ashton and Proptech Hub WA.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, countless career trajectories were cut short or otherwise altered.

CO-architecture co-founder, Kevin Mitchem, was no exception.

“I started out in a Canadian firm working in the resource sector,” Mitchem said.

“Around 2012, the global financial crisis really hit WA and, like many other practices and firms, they were making redundancies left and right.

“The office I was in ended up with 60% capacity reduction; it was quite significant and I was amongst them.”

kevin mitchem co-architecture explains the startup
CO-architecture’s Kevin Mitchem discussed some of the challenges earlier in his career. Image: The Property Tribune.

Mitchem added that he was at the early stages of his career, so it was a hit he could roll with.

“It wasn’t that difficult for me, I guess, compared to people who had families and houses and things like that.”

Nevertheless, it was a formative experience for Mitchem and paved the way for the formation of CO-architecture in 2020.

What is CO-architecture?

CO-architecture is a startup intended to connect and empower architects and design professionals searching for a gig in a tough job market.

“Architecture is tied to the construction industry, and we all know that it is quite cyclical and it impacts a lot of design professionals,” he said.

“Our goal and mission is to build a better design industry and eco-system, to help improve the efficiency and accessibility of opportunities.”

The website evokes a social media platform feel, a design choice that was deliberate, said Mitchem.

“We tried to figure out what makes people engaged,” he said.

“A lot of the engagement came from social media – this kind of social engagement and connection.”

kevin mitchem co-architecture spoke with the property tribune
Mitchem explains how the platform works. Image: The Property Tribune.

Mitchem said with two architects on the team, one of the main points of feedback CO-architecture has received has been in praise of its design.

“Our development team probably hates us because we’re so picky over those things,” Mitchem joked.

However, CO-architecture is not only for architects and designers; clients looking for a designer or architect can also avail themselves of the platform.

“The number one thing clients say is, ‘I don’t know where to start, where do I go to find an architect?’ Google is usually the first answer,” said Mitchem.

“But there’s so much we can do just in terms of helping them get the information, and in terms of helping them make decisions on who they want to hire.”

The founders’ fortes

Wade Smith and Luke Hallaways are the two co-founders who complete CO-architecture’s triumvirate.

“Wade’s background is in digital marketing, specifically for architecture and design practices, and he’s worked with some of the largest design practices in the world,” Mitchem said.

Hallaways has a more industry domain perspective, having spent eight years focused on the residential sector.

Some of Mitchem’s experience derives from education, working as a unit coordinator at Curtin University.

kevin mitchem co-architecture discussion
The differing perspectives of the three founders is extremely valuable. Image: The Property Tribune.

With differing backgrounds comes not only a breadth of experience but a multitude of ways to tackle creative problems, too.

“That’s the value of having three founders; we expect one of us to always disagree or have an alternative perspective,” he said.

“I think it’d be bad if all three of us thought the exact same way.

“The biggest thing is the design; we all have different perspectives on that but if only Luke or I designed the platform, it’d be too one sided.

“But Wade has the client’s perspective and points out when something makes zero sense – that’s extremely valuable.”

Fitting into the industry’s mould

In doing the research to build the foundations for CO-architecture, Mitchem and his fellow co-founders discovered that the majority of the architecture and design industry was small – and intended to stay small.

“It [CO-architecture] is about relying on those informal networks rather than formal ones that large businesses have; that way, they can stay small, because clearly the industry values being small,” he said.

“So, hopefully, that improves the opportunities businesses have, and the accessibility to hire for projects and vice versa for people working in the industry.”

Raking up users

As of July, CO-architecture has reached 7,000 users on its platform.

“We’re niche focused in terms of architecture and design roles, so that’s almost 10% of the market,” said Mitchem.

“We’ve been building out a lot more features on the client and consumer side to help them connect with the right designers or find the right projects for inspiration.”

Mitchem added that they have recently discovered a third of their users have been coming from referrals.

“I think that speaks to the value we create,” he said.

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