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Transcript: uDrew – Tom Young: Simplifying Council Approvals

Kylie Davis:

Tom Young, welcome to the Proptech Podcast.


Tom Young:

Oh, thank you so much for having me.


Kylie Davis:

No, that's great. I'm really excited to have you on the show. So we always start with our elevator pitch. So tell me what the uDrew elevator pitch is?


Tom Young:

Yeah, sure. So we're a platform that allows anybody to create their own fully council-certified and engineering-certified building plans in a couple of minutes. So basically if you want to build something, you just tell us what you're building, give us your address and position it on your look, sort of SimCity. And as you're doing that, it's checking live against all local, national regulations and engineering principles as well. And the result is, it then generates all of the plans instantly.


Kylie Davis:

So that sounds awesome. And as anyone who has gone through the pain of renovating, and I don't know if everyone can hear, but in my block, I think out of the 30 houses that are around, at least 15 of them have been having worked on and someone is using a chainsaw or ankle grinder or something in the background.


Tom Young:

It's kind of relevant actually. It's good.


Kylie Davis:

I know it really is. It really is, if only. I mean, I know how long they're all sitting through waiting to get through council. So what kind of renovations can you do through it? How big or small and how much skill do you need to have to be able to do it?


Tom Young:

Yeah. So I'll go in reverse order there. So we've designed the system so anyone can use it no matter what their background. So we've done a lot of user testing, ranging from people who understand how to turn a computer on, all the way to my mom.


Kylie Davis:

Right. Okay. She doesn't know how to turn a computer on?


Tom Young:

Yeah. And everybody's been able to start with a blank project and fully complete in less than 10 minutes.


Kylie Davis:

Wow.


Tom Young:

My record was one minute and 26 seconds, from a blank project to fully-approved plan. So that was pretty cool, but I've had practise on this. But yeah, it's a couple of minutes process. Where were we? What was the… I shouldn't have gone in reverse order really, should I?


Kylie Davis:

That's okay. So what kind of renovations can you do or what kind of building can you do in it?


Tom Young:

Yep. So the system's comprised of four main modules and each of them has different capabilities.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

So if you want end-to-ends generation of building plans, engineering and the whole shebang, we generally focus on smaller residential projects. And that's for the sake of the lower risk to human life and learning to crawl before we walk scenario, but that can do everything from start to finish in a couple of minutes. We've got a marketplace module which allow industry to bring in their own designs so they can upload them into the system, position them around the lot. And that's not really limited. We could do bridges if we wanted to, but there's not much of a market to that at the moment. And it really comes down to their creativity, what they want to do. And they still get that streamlined process by bringing in their own plan.


Kylie Davis:

Okay.


Tom Young:

Yeah.


Kylie Davis:

So I love this idea, I just want to make sure it really lands because I want to make sure I really understand. So I wake up one morning and say to my husband, live example, "Babes, we need to renovate the bathroom." Or, "We need to add an extra space out to the back of the kitchen or open plan the back of the house." Using uDrew… Well, traditional method, extraordinary amount of pain, trying to work out, are we allowed? Is this in our envelope? Are we extending the roof line? What do the council regulations say about what we can do? Let's get a builder or a planner in.


Kylie Davis:

And so that takes weeks, months, awful conversations like partners have that say, "I don't want a thing there, I want something else there. And don't make it look like that, or I'll divorce you." Or is that just us? No. I'm pretty sure it's not. Using uDrew instead, we wake up, have the conversation, open up the computer and then let's start playing to see what we can do and… Now happens after I've opened up the computer?


Tom Young:

Yeah. So for transparency, we're not doing bathrooms right now.


Kylie Davis:

Oh, okay. Right. Okay.


Tom Young:

But-


Kylie Davis:

What about the back end of the house, changing the back of the house?


Tom Young:

Yeah, the smaller reside things. Things like that and carport, swimming pools. External things we can do pretty quick. And so you could just jump on, tell us what you want to build and it will generate everything from there. So it's really powered by our rules engine. So we're very geolocation-centric, and so there's no reason why we couldn't put any rule-based outcome in around bathrooms or extending whatever. We just need to capture and digitise that rule and the engine interprets it. So we're not restricted at this point. We can print out a report for example, very quickly, saying the bathrooms requirements or whatever. But at the moment, it's really focused on those smaller external additions for the end-to-end process.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

But the rule engine does have the capability to add all these things in.


Kylie Davis:

Okay. Awesome. And I mean, you're a startup, you've got to start somewhere. So we are talking about external additions to your property at the moment. So like you said before, swimming pools, carports, sheds, changes to the actual physical, the existing property, extending it out or not yet?


Tom Young:

Not yet with the attached to the dwelling side, unless you're bringing in the full dwelling plans yourself.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

So the two parts are the DIY, and that's where you get to create everything in the system. And that's where we're limited to those smaller external structures at the moment for the dynamic generation of everything.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

We don't have as much limitations when people are bringing in their own plans of their block, and you can play around from there. So it's a lot more flexible by doing that. And we did that intentionally because we don't want to be restricted to just say small external structures. We want to work with the industry to allow them to bring in their own little niche areas. And it's not restricted by just the plans, people can bring in their own engineers, architects survey. Any aspect they can bring in themself. And it enhances the system. So you're not just restricted to those smaller external things, but you've got the flexibility to do those larger things down the track as we get more industry partners on.


Kylie Davis:

To be fair to you guys, I don't need council approval if I'm just trying to renovate a bathroom because it's happening inside the existing envelope and it doesn't require inspection or anything like that. But what's the benefit that uDrew adds? If I'm bringing in my own plans or I've got an architect who's done plans for me, what's the benefit of adding them into uDrew? What does uDrew then help do?


Tom Young:

Yep. So we can streamline all the regulatory checking and all the sites, environmental and engineering properties and allow you to play around and position that on your block and still get that digital, streamlined process. So the bridge leading it to the stamping authority or all the analytics that you need. And you can possibly source an architect through the system if you want to down the track and go from there. So that's our marketplace module however, but really our focus is the DIY, dynamic side, which is those smaller external structures at this point in time.


Tom Young:

And the reasoning for that is, for example, the top 12 by volume structures that are submitted to local council are these small external things, so patios and awnings and things like that. And it takes up about 70% of the planning and regulatory department's time in processing these small, high volume things. So that's where we're focusing to get rid of that pain point early. And the cool thing by doing that, for example, with the wind tunnelling effects and the engineering calculations around that, it's the same algorithm for a front fence as it would be for a 70-story high rise to get that engineering analysis.


Kylie Davis:

Oh, okay.


Tom Young:

So by starting with the small things, it's intentional, it's one there's a large market and it's quick value return. It's a bit easier as well than doing a daycare centre in a cyclonic wind region or something as well. And we're able to recycle all of the smarts from the more complex structures as we roll out.


Kylie Davis:

Okay, awesome. So these things have traditionally been really painful if you have to go to council to get approval for anything, whether it's a gazebo or a carport or front fence, like you said. That's traditionally had quite a long… You have to do the design, workout if it's compliant with council, then send it into council, wait for them to get around to responding to you. I'm in Sydney, some of our councils have up to nine months of approval processes for things, so it can be horrendous. And I imagine that the council side, it's horrendous for them to do. So this is really speeding up that checking, that what you've suggested is compliant or allowing you to see what you could do to that design to make it compliant. Is that right?


Tom Young:

Yeah. We're guiding people towards compliance. And if it's not going to be compliant, it'll suggest how you can be compliant and-


Kylie Davis:

Awesome.


Tom Young:

… keep you going in that direction.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

And it's funny as you'd mentioned the nine months in Sydney. So usually was inspired very much by my own experiences with dealing with the councils and also on the other side of working in the construction industry. So my background was in design drafting, in the engineering world and geotechnical analytics.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

So I had a pretty good grasp of the building industry side of things. And in 2008, I was finishing up renos at my house. It was a four-year project. Me and my friends just did it slowly after work and things like that, so it took ages. But the end of the project, over here in the West, they're very strict about front fences and engineering and things. So I quickly designed it, got it to the council that afternoon and it took seven and a half months to get approved. A very compliant, boring brick fence. And then I've got the documentation back and they had misspelt my street name. So being younger and naive, I rang up to see if this would be a problem for resale, law purposes. And they had to reassess the entire four-year renovation project.


Kylie Davis:

Oh, no. Oh, no.


Tom Young:

Yeah. So in fairness though, it took about two and a half months the second time round, but yeah, we're talking over 10 months just to get a brick fence approved.


Kylie Davis:

Yeah.


Tom Young:

So the inspiration was, if someone from the industry is having so much difficulty, what chance would someone who might not have that experience or background even have of getting through the process? So yeah, that was largely the inspiration behind it. And like you say, I didn't have a lot of sympathy for councils at the start of the journey, but after working with so many over the years, they've got it just as hard as all of us. They're dealing with layers upon layers of bureaucracy that built up over time, as each head planner leaves their legacy behind. And there's so much confusion and subjectivity. And the systems that the councils are dealing with are very outdated. And they're also dealing with grumpy people from the industry who just want to get their project done and confused homeowners who don't understand what they can even do. So the goal of the system is to stay on that-


Kylie Davis:

Have you all pay rates, goddammit, and demand service?


Tom Young:

Yeah, absolutely. But yeah, I do feel for the local governments in this sense. It's a challenge for them.


Kylie Davis:

And I imagine, look, traditionally a lot of that depth of information around planning and compliance has all been very one-dimensional, just sitting in documentation, which hasn't been able to be extracted. It's actually required a human brain to know what was in that law and then apply it, right?


Tom Young:

Oh, it's a total pain. And our rules engine that interprets that, it took a while to design that, but we've built it, it's very sophisticated actually. A way to get that English or English I say. It's written in legal terms, isn't it?


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

They have these codes and regulations. But we've come up with a way to break those down and make the machine readable and digital. So it's just giving a clear black and white, yes, no. And what does this rule even mean for my project? There's just so many. And even from the industry, I struggle to interpret quite a lot of them.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

But this core of the system now does that for us. So with your bathroom project example, we don't do bathroom designs. I wouldn't want to mess around with trying to match taps and tiles, definitely not.


Kylie Davis:

That's right.


Tom Young:

But the rules engine can handle this type of logic and we could hypothetically put in any type of rule around that to assist in figuring out what the best bathroom is for you.


Kylie Davis:

Right.


Tom Young:

That's-


Kylie Davis:

You should talk to my husband because he's got a plan with a spreadsheet and he's got it all nailed. He's-


Tom Young:

Ah, cool. I think I'd get along just fine with his.


Kylie Davis:

He'll lend you his spreadsheet.


Tom Young:

I'm a total spreadsheet nerd. In fact, the first ever alpha version of uDrew, I guess, was all coded up in Visual Basic and Excel. So I actually had Excel drawing up, building plans autonomously for me. So-


Kylie Davis:

Where would the property industry be without Excel, if I asked?


Tom Young:

Where would any industry be?


Kylie Davis:

We love you Bill Gates.


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Kylie Davis:

So look, hang on. I just want to make sure we stay on track. So how many councils are you guys working with? Are you national or are you just in WA or what's the-


Tom Young:

Yeah, we're collaborating with quite a few. It's about 22 in total. The first live to the public versions will be out pretty soon actually. Let us say before the end of the year. We've got WA, some great collaboration happening here, some really good stuff happening in Queensland as well. And New Zealand has been really, really great. And we've got our first few early conversations in the US and a few other places around the world as well.


Kylie Davis:

When are you coming to New South Wales? The councils are terrible.


Tom Young:

I'd love to. You've got the introduction, that'd be great.


Kylie Davis:

Oh my God. Yep.


Tom Young:

I'd love to set up a pilot in New South Wales, test the region's complexity in the system. But so far, I mean, Western Australia versus say New Zealand, for example, it's polar opposite in environmental sense. In a regulatory sense, they're quite aligned actually. So testing in different regions is really important to me. Background in science, I want to be really sure that the scalability is there. And at the moment, all these regions, they're all very different, but it's all working beautifully. So the more the merrier, if there's any in New South Wales, I'd like to reach out, I'd love to have that conversation.


Kylie Davis:

Oh, look, I'm sure. A big shout out to all the town planners out there, because I think your job is actually very difficult, so look, we'll work out who we know because I'm sure we know people that we need to connect you up with.


Tom Young:

Cool.


Kylie Davis:

Because planning in New South Wales is exhausting. That's the best way to say it. So let's talk about the market size around this. You are in WA, you're in New Zealand, you're looking at going into the US. That's a very interesting spread for a startup like yourself. But how big is the potential in this market? How much market size are you guys going after?


Tom Young:

Yeah. So with our modules, we've got those four that I mentioned. So the first one is the site inspector module.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

And that effectively, you type in an address, tell us what you want to build. And it provides a report on all the regulations in full project and location, specific context. So if you're building a house, it'll just show you the rules for that particular house in that exact area. It shows you all the site inspection engineering stuff. Basically, there's 200 variables that are all to do with design and whatnot.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

That will scale very quickly anywhere. Still working out the market potential on that. But it's big. We get to the marketplace, that'll also scale anywhere and work anywhere. It's very custom-designed for the construction industry and that's where people can bring in their own services and products and skillsets to the process and still get that streamlined service. It's almost creating a community in a sense. And then the interactive planning side as well, that complements the other two and the digital application side where all the analytics and things happen. So for the full end-to-end service in Australia, there's about 800,000 of these small residential applications lodged each year with local governments.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

And so it's a very big market in that. And our company, it's a bit like a restaurant. We don't really have a set price for things. Different structures have different costs. And if people don't want to use us for the engineering, they can bring their own engineering and we don't charge for engineering. We're looking to create that cost-saving for all of our stakeholders, from government, to building industry, to the person who just wants to build something. And they all have different models. But in Australia, just for those small structures I was talking about, the end-to-end design, it's about a $400 million opportunity per annum.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

Just for that module.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

And with the other ones, it'd be close to, I'd say a billion per annum. Still working out the numbers exactly. But that's the best number we've got at the moment.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

Once we get out of Australia and New Zealand, it does get complicated to calculate, but we've identified all of the countries and the regions where something like this would be handy. And typically they're the bureaucratic kind of countries you can imagine. And the markets are just enormous there. So at the moment it's primarily Australia and New Zealand, but we're exploring and doing our feasibility studies overseas already. So-


Kylie Davis:

Awesome. Okay.


Tom Young:

Work in progress.


Kylie Davis:

Yeah. Okay. So how long have you guys been around for?


Tom Young:

It's a two-part answer. So unofficially, after my renovation project in 2008, I started researching and looking into it and teaching myself coding and collecting and digitising core samples from all around Western Australia, the geotechnical core samples.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

Because there was just no data available. So it took about 10 years of just a boring hobby/research and development, see if it could work. And then officially founded in 2017, which is where I made the leap into the tech world and put on 30 kilos.


Kylie Davis:

Yeah. So I was having a chat to another founder the other day who was saying launching product's a bit like having a baby. You put on a lot of weight and then afterwards there's a lot of screaming and-


Tom Young:

Oh, yeah. A lot of tension-


Kylie Davis:

… they need constant feeding and then they poop everywhere.


Tom Young:

Oh, gosh. Yep. That's a very accurate analogy of age probably about 10 years. Been great for the health, really?


Kylie Davis:

Yeah. Yeah. So the stakeholders that you need to set up a new area, you need to get the council in that area on board? Do you have to onboard a council or do you just simply need access to their bylaws and codes and regulations?


Tom Young:

Yeah. Yeah. We don't necessarily need to onboard them, but we want to. We take a collaborate, co-innovate, sort of co-invest model. So we want to work with industry, with government.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

If the government hasn't signed up in the area, we can still do the public knowledge regulatory checks. But at the end of the day, we're a tech company and we don't want to be the people saying, "Yes, that's the exact answer for that" without the blessing, I guess, the authority figure giving the endorsement for that. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of tech nerds dictating what they think people can build.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

So we like to work with the governments. It's just a lot smoother for us. It's better for them and it's better of the end user who just wants to build something too. But at the moment, we could hypothetically do it anywhere in Australia. We started setting up all the stuff for Queensland WA and Victoria as well and a little bit on New South Wales. So we could still do the process, but then you'd just have to print out your plans and manually hand them to your local authority as you would today or email them through or something. But yeah, so that digital bridge is really powerful.


Kylie Davis:

Yeah. So do you need to onboard a council or do you… I'm just trying to get clear on-


Tom Young:

Yeah, sure. So-


Kylie Davis:

… that. Yep.


Tom Young:

So yeah, we're dealing with a few strategic councils at the moment just because we have 12 staff and only so many hours in a day.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

And we've got a bit of a centre of excellence model happening. So the larger councils will support smaller, less-resourced councils in their vicinity and assist with them rolling out. So it's really important to us to have this accessible not only to the giant account councils, but also the smaller ones. And so by doing this, when we get one council, we get a whole batch in one hit.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

So we're also chatting with industry bodies and council bodies to get… So rather knocking on the door of every council, we get large waves of them. So yeah, that's how that works, if that makes sense.


Kylie Davis:

Okay. Awesome. So you guys… I've heard you described as the Archistar in single dwelling residential property. Is that an accurate description?


Tom Young:

It's very complimentary description. Archistar, a great company with awesome product too.


Kylie Davis:

Yeah.


Tom Young:

There's some crossovers, but effectively, we are quite different. It's a bit of a misconception.


Kylie Davis:

Yeah.


Tom Young:

We do focus on the core, so we've built very much from the ground up, focusing on science engineering and the remote calculation of variables that you need for design and the regulatory sense. So we've got a lot of science happening in the core and it's built to be scalable. And we can put any skid on top of that, that we want. And so our focus, the slight crossover bits would be for some of the regulatory stuff, I suppose, that we are doing. But Archistar has got just such a great product for developers in their area. It's just such a good fit. Whereas uDrew, it's more broad, it's more government and broader industry-based.


Kylie Davis:

Yep.


Tom Young:

And we're encouraging government and industry to innovate on top of the platform. We don't want to dictate to people. It comes back to the collaboration approach that we take. We don't know every industry in the building industry. What we do know are our industries, but there's a lot of value in those numbers that we can calculate for different sectors, which we don't know much about. So we've opened it up. It's all API-ready for other companies to start innovating on top of the uDrew platform. So a great example of that is very large pool supplier we're working with. We are also working with a VR, augmented reality company.


Tom Young:

And they're just clicking a module on top to allow people to walk around their backyards with their smartphones and place a swimming pool and check against a structural under mining and a bunch of other engineering things and also all the regulations. So it's been designed with flexibility of mind, scalability and functionality, but it's really that core of how we can calculate the geomechanical properties, the wind tunnelling effects, all of these other hardcore variables that are needed before you can even design something. And the reason for that is those numbers, not only does it affect the design, but it also determines all the materials that you need and the costs. And so it's really the foundation, I suppose. That's really where our focus is. But I'm always quite chaffed to be compared to Archistar.


Kylie Davis:

Yeah. I mean, it's a great comparison because I guess it shows how connecting all of these big data sources together and modelling can really start to streamline and change how quickly we can get stuff built but with better outcomes and considering all of our options before. I remember in the very first podcast I did with Dan from RealAR, he said it's so much cheaper to move a pixel than it is to move a brick.


Tom Young:

Yeah.


Kylie Davis:

And that's kind of the whole thing underpinning this, isn't it? Is that, if we can get the planning right, if we can make that easy to be compliant, if we can make it easy for people whose brains are not necessarily 3D, looking at a plan is hard to understand how you are going to then live in that space or be in that space. If we can then help people visualise what that finished product's going to look like, so many great things happen. You get better communities that are designed better because people are making decisions at the beginning that have flow on effects. You're getting that stuff done faster, there's less waste involved in building it because you're not having to bring extra materials on board. And construction is such a environmentally damaging thing to do to the planet, even though it's essential.


Kylie Davis:

And I think it also means what we'll start to see in five-plus years time when this stuff becomes absolutely mainstream is just design taking off and much more creative design. Because if you know what you can do is a baseline-compliant design, you can then stretch those limits as opposed to coming up with a wild idea and then having to scale it back to make it compliant, if that makes sense.


Tom Young:

Absolutely. You did right. And information is power. It enables just so much innovation, getting this information and making better decisions. I like your comment about the environmental impact. So in our first pilot, actually, we found that we had 34% reduction in environmental impact through designs that were compiled within the uDrew system. And great example of that is one project that we were running through the system, it had been previously approved. We found that the engineer had specified six time volume of concrete that was needed and this really high grade steel that just was unnecessary. And this would've added probably 20% cost to this entire build.


Tom Young:

And just little things like that, that it's able to streamline and less invasive site analysis. So less need for giant drill rigs and things, it's needed. And with information, we get the ability to innovate and find ways to make it more efficient for everyone. So yeah, it's really cool and exciting, the direction it is going. And it's only going to get better as data becomes more widely available and publicly available as well and better. So it's just going up from here. It's really exciting.


Kylie Davis:

Yeah. Awesome. So you've got a team of 12, a very big geographic spread of where you are scaling to. Where's your business at the moment? What are your current challenges in your business that you are dealing with as an entrepreneur?


Tom Young:

Yes. How much time have you got?


Kylie Davis:

This is not a therapy… Well, it could be a therapy session maybe.


Tom Young:

Yeah, I've put a couch behind me, I could go and lie down. Yeah. Wow. So we're at really exciting stage right now. So we're just finalising our first rollout licences for the first few modules. So getting prep to go live, and we've got 22 bodies with onboarding at the moment and going through that process with-


Kylie Davis:

Wow, that's tripling your size really?


Tom Young:

Oh yeah, easily. Oh, so 22 potential clients, I should say-


Kylie Davis:

Oh, okay. Right. Sorry, staff that are coming onboard. Wow.


Tom Young:

I wish, yeah. Struggling to get staff at the moment. Actually, it's just our little fortress in Western Australia, just yeah, it's strange. But yeah, definitely looking to get some more staff onboard in the near future.


Kylie Davis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Tom Young:

Where we're going, this is literally the tip of the iceberg of what we do. And we've got some very exciting and game-changing things coming out over the next six months, which I'm very excited about. And-


Kylie Davis:

Can you tell me what they are or will you kill me afterwards?


Tom Young:

Oh, no. No. I'm too lazy to kill people.


Kylie Davis:

I'm in Sydney, you can't get me.


Tom Young:

Yeah.


Kylie Davis:

It's a ring of steel around me.


Tom Young:

Yeah. Plus our premier won't let us leave the state. So you're pretty safe, I think. But yeah, this is in areas adjacent, sort of opportunities that are popping up. There's some massive implications for the science that we've been doing for climate studies and agricultural sciences and mining. In West Australia, everything's about mining. But there's all these benefits that are popping up through this research that we are doing. And a lot of it isn't commercial in nature, a lot of it is research in nature, but I firmly believe that we are going to have a bit of an impact on some of the Australian building codes in the near future. Our goal is to save between 20 and $50,000 per new house that's built. And-


Kylie Davis:

Awesome.


Tom Young:

… I'm not at this stage confident to say it will definitely happen, but all the results are looking very positive at the moment. And these are things we want to release to the general public and share with people because we are from the building industry, we want the industry to go well, but we just want it to be more efficient and more profitable and easier and less frustrating for everyone. So-


Kylie Davis:

Well, I tell the real estate agents that I talk to that the only thing more frustrating than trying to buy or sell a house or rent a house is build a renovator house. The only industry I think that is probably slower than… Well, not the only industry, there's a lot of slow industries out there. But while people beat up on real estate or property owners for not being particularly fast around innovation, I think builders are even slower and that the whole building and construction industry is also quite slow. So the entire spectrum would benefit. What are the biggest objections you get to the tech?


Tom Young:

Yeah. At the start of the journey, because I spent 10 years just researching it myself and playing around, it was too much too quickly for people but they didn't believe it was doing what it was doing. They just said, "It's too hard. You'll never be able to do that." And I was like, "I just literally generated a structure from nothing in front of your eyes."


Kylie Davis:

What is his witchcraft?


Tom Young:

But they still wouldn't believe you? Yeah, it was very much like that. So it was challenging. And to get around that, it breaks my heart, but we have to dumb down the product and we've still got all the bells and whistles there, but we're now releasing it in these modules to make it a bit easier for people to grasp. But COVID has really sped things up. It's really amplified the value of digitization and streamlining of these processes. So that's not so much an issue anymore. At the start as well, we'd get a lot of criticism that we were potentially taking away work for people. And it's never been designed or intended or built like that. It's a tool.


Tom Young:

So a great analogy is when CAD first came out, draftees were a bit nervous and a bit angry and a bit grumpy. But then they realise, "If they use CAD, they can do drawings 10 times quicker. If they screw something up, they can just press control Z." And they don't have to rub it. It's a tool and that's exactly what uDrew is. It's a tool for multiple areas of the industry, from the planner and the planning department that really hated us at the start actually. Before the first pilot I interviewed them all and we had 0% approval rating. They just hated us. Perhaps it came down, I wasn't communicating it very well at the time. But after the first pilot, that had flipped, and 96% of them approved of the system and said they would use it.


Tom Young:

So once they realised it's a tool to just filter out that repetitive crap and make their jobs easier, more enjoyable and allow them to focus on the more complex and challenging areas. I mean, a planner doesn't go to uni to study how to approve a carport or a retaining wall or something, they want to be doing urban planning, smart city design. Or instead of taking six months to approve that three story house, it might take one month because we've got rid of all that backlog, we've reduced their inquiries. I mean, no one wants to be on the phone all day talking to someone with the same questions and confusion and frustration. Once they got to play with the system, they saw it in a completely different light, but initially, it was taken as a bit threatening. But I'm glad that's changing now, and they're starting to embrace it for what it is, which is a tool.


Speaker 1:

Let's just take a short break and hear a quick word from our sponsors. Do you run a Proptech business or are you the founder of a Proptech? Make sure you join the Proptech Association of Australia. It's Australia's new, not-for-profit association, made up of tech people who are passionate about the property industry and committed to improving experiences in how we buy, sell, rent, manage, build, and finance property. Joining will give you access to events and networks across Australia and globally to help you promote and grow your business. Go to proptechassociation.com.au and follow the prompts to join.


Kylie Davis:

Now, you guys, uDrew were the winners of the Proptech of the year award, both in your category and generally. Congratulations.


Tom Young:

Thank you so much.


Kylie Davis:

Has that had any impact on the business?


Tom Young:

Oh, it's definitely improved morale. We were all over the absolute moon and it was a really fun night. Shame the internet connection in Perth wasn't that great, so we were getting splatters of what was happening, but it was just such a cool experience and we're all still pinching ourselves. It's really helped raise awareness of what we're doing. And we're getting a lot more inquiries from the East Coast now, which is really good. Definitely an area we want to be at. We've got our first Brisbane staff member who's setting up at the moment, so we are hoping to get over there pretty soon. So yeah, it's really helped with the awareness and inquiries and validation too. So it's a national award, which is really prestigious and we're just a small company from the other side of the country. And so it really means a lot to us. And just to have that validation is just huge.


Kylie Davis:

Fantastic. And so one last question, what do you think are the future trends, Tom, that are going to be driving the growth and impact in the property and building industry over the next five years? I mean, you guys are at the cusp of this stuff, I think, but what else do you see coming down the pipe?


Tom Young:

There's so much potential, and I've touched on it before. With the focus on digitization at the moment, data's only going to get better. And more data comes more innovation and there's just so many areas that I feel had so much potential to benefit from that. It just takes the dreamers out there to give it a go. And there's so many different niche areas within the industry. It'd be naive of me to say where it would benefit the best, but this is so much potential there to make it easier, quicker, more cost-effective for everybody and I'm optimistic. The government, they're always a little bit slower, but they're starting to wake up and embrace the digitization side of things. And once that happens, it's going to really move quickly. So I'm excited about that. Yeah.


Kylie Davis:

Yeah, no. Awesome. So for my sins, I've had about 14 years in local media before I got into real estate and I used to run a local newspaper group. So I have sat in my very fair share of council meetings, listening to people. It's one of the biggest destroyers of neighbourhoods and communities, is upset over renovations or fear of what that renovation is going to do to the lifestyle of the person living next door, down the street, around the corner, whatever. So if there's ways that that becomes… And the people who are trying to do the renovations are always in a state of high anxiety because they're usually not living in their ideal home and paying a price for that, either through their lifestyle or through renting, while they wait for their approvals to come through.


Kylie Davis:

And so if you can remove that stress, if you can make it easier and more transparent for people to see what's happening, there's some fantastic community benefits around that and a removal of some extraordinary pain that would come out of the industry as well of all those other benefits. So well done. Congratulations on uDrew.


Tom Young:

Thank you.


Kylie Davis:

And thanks so much for being on the Proptech Podcast.


Tom Young:

Well, thank you so much for having me. It's great association you've got as well. I'm really enjoying the community that you guys have all set up. So thank you.


Kylie Davis:

So that was Tom Young from uDrew, the winner of the most innovative scale-up Proptech for design and development in the Proptech of the year awards this year. It's technology that while still in beta phase has extraordinary potential to improve residential planning processes and to remove so much of the inefficiency that exists in our current processes of designing plans, matching them against the guidelines, waiting for approval, redrafting till they do meet the guidelines, and then hoping for sign-off. Back in my twenties, I owned a newspaper company called The Village Voice, and it was based out of Bomen.


Kylie Davis:

It was part of what was then [LACA 00:43:31] Council, which was the council featured in the infamous documentary Rats in the Ranks. And I personally sat through countless hours of council meetings and watched some of the most extraordinary upset and drama play out all over the building and planning approvals. And we're talking physical and verbal assaults, vandalism, property damages, neighbours going from friendly to hostile, all because of the universal desire to renovate a home. And they all stemmed from one key thing, all of this stress. It came from a lack of clarity around what building regulations allowed. There was always the assumption that anything that was proposed, which represented a change in the local built environment was going to be bad.


Kylie Davis:

And the average time it took back in the late nineties to have a building approval dealt with by LACA Council then was nine months. That was the average. I think was the minimum, it's 1.2. And LACA wasn't alone. When we built a house on the South Coast, we were told by locals, "Our council never approves anything first go." And this was all because the traditional process involves the human brain of architects and planners, reading all, memorising all, and interpreting the guidelines for every council area they work in and for their designs to be checked by a human against those guidelines and then discussed by humans about whether that was okay or not.


Kylie Davis:

Now that makes sense if you're building something stupendous or out-of-the-box that's going to change the entire shape and feeling of a suburb. But where is the advantage of out-of-the-box updates like fences, carports, and garages going through something so very painstaking? Flipping these processes from human interpretation to AI-driven checklists, revolutionises the whole approach. It removes the uncertainty for the run of the millwork, and it frees up time for the better assessment of truly creative projects that require a human review. So congratulations uDrew. I look forward to your expansion to New South Wales and into other states. Now, since doing this interview too, I've become aware of another Proptech in this space called Can I Build, so I'll get them on the show shortly and we'll hear about their tech as well.


Kylie Davis:

Now, if you've enjoyed this episode of the Proptech Podcast, I would love you to tell your friends. You can check out all our episodes now on the proptechpodcast.com and drop me a line either via email, LinkedIn or Facebook. You can follow this podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor, and Apple.iTunes, or anywhere good podcasts are heard. I'd like to thank my podcast producer, Charlie Hollands, and the fabulous Julius Gaduro and our sponsors, Direct Connect, making moving easy, Dynamic Methods, the name behind Forms Live, REI Forms Live and Real Works and the Proptech Association of Australia, Australia's industry body supporting the flourishing Proptech community. Now, if you're an Australian or New Zealand Proptech who would like to be on the show, drop me a line via LinkedIn or kylie@proptechassociation.com.au. Thanks everyone. Until next time, keep on Propteching.