INCITE Awards Finalist uDrew poised to sign world first international building tech agreement
If you have not heard uDrew, then you’re in for a treat.
Collaboration, kindness, and doing everything with some humour and a lot of empathy were the key takeaways when we caught up with Tom Young from uDrew during this challenging time we are all facing in light of COVID-19.
If you have not heard uDrew, then you’re in for a treat.
uDrew is the world’s first building technology platform that makes designing, planning and building your own projects faster and more affordable. And it’s all locally developed, designed and implemented here in WA.
We had the opportunity to chat to Tom (via Zoom) while he and his family are self isolating in a sheep farm (for immune health reasons), and talk about #techforgood, tech during COVID-19, the INCITE Awards and some Startup words of advice.
So let’s jump in.
INCITE Awards: Thanks Tom for taking the time to chat to us today. Many would have heard about uDrew by now. For those new to it, can you tell us more about this world first tech you and your team have built?
Tom: Well the first idea for uDrew was back in 2008. I had just finished building my house and wanted to submit plans to the local Council for a front fence. But it took 7.5 months to be approved and then another 2.5 months due to a spelling mistake in my street name.
So that got me thinking, “there must be a better way.” My field of work is in geotechnical engineering – if you are familiar with it, it’s the least sexy side of geology & engineering, combined! But it gave me the opportunity to collect over 4000 soil core sample data from around WA which became the basis for uDrew in 2016.
Essentially uDrew is building technology that makes it easier, accessible and more affordable for people to get approval for small structures at their homes or building sites. uDrew allows you to sketch live your structural plans, while automatically calculating structural engineering, estimating costs and making sure your plans are compliant with government and industry regulations.
It’s essentially a building and planning approval directly done through an online application.
As an avid problem solver, uDrew is really all about removing pain points for everyone involved – the residents and builders who want small structures done and approved quickly, and the local Councils who probably would prefer to really specialise in their line of work and remove the administrative headaches of approvals.
INCITE Awards: where is the uDrew technology at now?
Tom: Well since we launched uDrew in 2017, we have been working to build and test, test and even more. To date we have:
- Completed three pilot prototypes for the City of Wanneroo and successfully completed phase 1 of works for the City of Auckland;
- Just finished our second round of beta user testing.
Testing and prototyping not only allows us to improve uDrew’s features and offerings but of course, to get validation that we have something unique that the market really needs.
Our results, which we at uDrew are all so proud of, shows that we can support our communities, governments and the building industry with this technology. Some highlights of our results include:
- At the end of our first pilot with City of Wanneroo, 96% of staff approved of uDrew because it gave people the power to really do urban planning rather than focus on approvals.
- Using uDrew provides an average of 36% of material savings, which reduces costs and contributes to less environmental impact & waste.
- Reduction in costs and fees by an average of 70%.
- Our second round of beta user tests showed that people in the building industry will 100% recommend uDrew to a friend and those not in the industry gave 91% satisfaction rating.
- Research finding (through AI and machine learning) which showed errors in current building codes and can save 20 – 30% of concrete builds costs.
We are also about to launch our open beta testing in about a month’s time.
INCITE: What exciting is coming to uDrew next?
Tom: Before COVID-19, we were poised to sign off the world’s first international collaboration in the building industry – between Western Australia and New Zealand. This collaboration symbolised more than just technology and government meeting together. It has also been about swapping and sharing good ideas and coming together for co-initiative arrangements.
This has of course been delayed but we are positive we will sign this when we come to the other side.
In addition to that, we are currently thinking ahead for what uDrew can do to help the building industry in the recovery phase. So we have been talking to Governments in WA and NZ about that, and now creatively coming up with ways to reduce approval times and make our smaller structures approval systems adapt for stand alone systems such as for a whole house build or apartment approvals.
In times such as these, we want to make sure we adapt, don’t stop and think about how we can use technology to help when we get to the other side, which we will. So we will be ready to help the industry recover and get back on its feet faster.
INCITE: Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and uDrew’s entries for the INCITE Awards. Can you let us know why you entered the Awards?
Tom: We entered uDrew in both the 2018 and 2019 Awards, and were the runner up for the Startup category last year, giving us an opportunity to go to the iAwards where we won a Merit. As mentioned before, one of the main reasons we entered was because we wanted validation from the industry that what we have with uDrew is something special.
Being part of the Awards gave us confidence and that validation.
It also opened more doors for us. Prior to having data of the benefits of uDrew and the prestige badge of being an INCITE Awards finalist, I would probably be laughed out of the room 9 out of 10 times. I mean now we sometimes still get “no’s” but less so – maybe 2 out 10 times now because we have the supporting data and the INCITE badge.
INCITE: What’s your advice for anyone who would like to enter the Awards and is part of the Awards this year?
Tom: Be prepared. Get your media packs ready. Get your elevated pitch mastered so that when people want to start working with you after the Awards – and they will – and when the influx of emails come, you are prepared.
Also, don’t be afraid to show off your involvement with the Awards – we put that proudly on our email badge and it is a prestigious Award so don’t be afraid to get it out there!
Lastly, remember to thank and acknowledge your team, your family and your friends. At uDrew we are big on collaboration because without others we won’t be where we are today.
INCITE: It’s a tough time at the moment with COVID-19 for businesses and start ups. What advice have you got for anyone in this situation?
Tom: Have plan A, B, C, D through to Z if you need to. We are in unprecedented times and use this time strategically to plan for all scenarios.
Look after your staff and team, now more than ever they need your support, leadership, reassurance & confidence.
Communicate regularly and well. Without clear communication, paranoia happens. Say things truthfully and reassure your staff, your investors, partners, that we are thinking about this, we are working on it and open two way communications for questions, concerns to be aired.
Don’t panic – it won’t achieve anything. Instead focus on what you can do. At uDrew we are focussing on how we can help the industry recover fast when we come out of this.
Lastly, help each other out. Is there anything we can be doing to help right now, right here? Our team has weekly meetings to come up with ideas on how we can alleviate some of the issues of COVID-19 in whatever small way. For example, we thought of a cheering app to help watch the footy before the season got cancelled just to help with some joy.
Don’t forget your sense of humour – we will need it to get through this together.
INCITE: Thanks Tom. One last question for you. How can we help you and uDrew at this time?
Tom: As mentioned, we are conducting our open beta next month. So we would love to get everyone – no matter what your experience is with the building industry and technology, we want to get your feedback.
At the end of the day, we want to build a product that everyone can use & benefit from.
Thanks Tom for your time and insights during this challenging time. We appreciate your advice and positivity.
Sign up for uDrew’s beta testing on their website: https://www.udrew.com.au/