The founder of proptech platform Showhere - set up during the pandemic - has worked on some of London’s biggest regeneration projects
Why did you choose real estate as a career?
The real estate sector found me. I had experience in technology and was hired into the industry 20 years ago to help launch an early proptech company, before we called it proptech. But it was my personal passion for places that hooked me, and how much people in our industry can help shape the human experience in our cities.
I’m fascinated by the connection between people, places and culture, and in 2018 did a TEDx talk introducing a concept called “place purpose” about creating places that meet human - not just developer - needs.
There are many inspiring and enlightened developers, but others seem to rush into “placemaking” without thinking too deeply about who they are making it for, what they care about, and why they are making what they are making. I believe place purpose increases the competitive advantage and financial viability of projects, and have built my career around that.
What are you most proud of in your career to date?
I have been incredibly fortunate to have advised government and some of the UK’s biggest landlords and developers – including British Land, Stanhope and Argent Related – on creating narratives for places, firstly as a founder of branding and design agency dn&co and now with Showhere, a proptech platform I co-founded during the pandemic.
Both have meant I have worked on some of London’s biggest regeneration projects, including St James’s, the Royal Docks, Broadgate and more recently Brent Cross Town.
Perhaps a less visible achievement was turning the group company I founded to a 100% employee-owned business. I no longer directly own any shares, and I still want to work here every day with my fantastic colleagues - I’m very proud of that.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?
There were plenty of challenges, which have all ultimately added to my overall career experience - I’m obsessive about nurturing challenges and mistakes into learnings.
Perhaps my biggest challenge was channelling passion and ambition for great work and results in the right way - passion has an ugly alter ego, and it’s important to bring people along with you, both clients and team, not beat them over the head with what you think is best.
Another issue I faced in the early days was gender. Sometimes I would ask clients questions and they would turn and direct their answers to my (male) colleague. This drove him more crazy than me, but eventually that stopped.
Any other barriers were mostly my own perceived limitations - when I let go of those success was easier.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
More work needs to be done to promote gender and racial diversity and tackle pay gaps. We need to understand why bias happens and educate ourselves against it.
What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?
People are quick to extol the importance of collaboration, but I find often when they actually get around a table they are not prepared to listen to everyone, such as graduates or junior employees.
My first boss was a well-known figure in the tech investment banking world during the dotcom boom and went on to run the multibillion-dollar Stanford endowment fund. I was a graduate 20 years his junior, but he afforded people at every level the same respect and listening. He remained a friend and mentor until his untimely death during the pandemic.
I learnt from him not to judge anyone by their title, but by their potential, contribution, personal experiences and values. I believe it’s true what they say about being careful how you treat people on your way up, because you are bound to see them on your way down.
What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?
Real estate is a very small industry. I would tell someone starting out in real estate that every person you meet, you are likely to see again, if not tomorrow then at some point.
A junior graduate I once met early in my career is now running a major department at a FTSE100 company. Imagine everyone you meet has potential to transform your career one day - at the very least add them to your Linkedin, but better is to make an effort to keep in touch with people and be helpful to them. Your network is solid gold.
Who do you most admire in the construction industry?
I was blown away that Stanhope and Mitsubishi Estate managed to put together an all-women project team on their redevelopment of the old Goldman Sachs building at Paternoster Square. From construction director to mechanical and engineering to architect to project lead – that’s a pretty powerful message.
I am currently enjoying working with the incredible folks at Argent Related and have collaborated closely with Nick Searl on their mega project Brent Cross Town. Nick is an inspirational leader who gets the most out of teams in a way that manages to be challenging but in a fun and enjoyable way. He is a fantastic collaborator and the ideal client who knows that together you get further.
What is your favourite building in the world?
Buildings that celebrate culture are my favourite. I grew up in Rio de Janeiro and adored Oscar Neimeyer’s Niterói Contemporary Art Museum growing up, and later fell in love with the Guggenheim and Lincoln Center in NYC. What greater building than one that houses culture?
Which famous building do you most dislike?
What is it like being you (and doing your job)?
I am lucky to have a very creative job that allows me to work with a lot of talented people both within the company and in our clients. My day covers a lot of ground and topics, but my two main roles are creating ambition and unblocking problems.
I like to work with teams to maximise potential in projects and push them further than expected - and to help clear any roadblocks along the way.
Mid-pandemic I founded a new proptech business, called Showhere, and I also run place branding consultancy, dn&co - so it has been a very busy but rewarding time managing the two.
Showhere is a presentation platform that enables real estate businesses to manage and deliver compelling sales presentations in order to help them sell and lease space. Our current clients include Stanhope, British Land, Great Portland Estates and Argent Related.
Excitingly, we launched our remote version in lockdown, which helped our clients to keep delivering engaging presentations that brought buildings to life through the pandemic when people were unable to visit
Much of my time is spent with clients, keeping them at the forefront of innovation of sales and leasing through digital transformation.
What do you think your best quality is?
Sheer optimism and creativity - together these two things can get you out of most challenges and bring others along with you. Creativity helps you to problem solve, and optimism pushes you to get it done.
Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have
I speak four languages, five if you include pig Latin.
What is your most prized possession?
Early bird or night owl?
Definitely an early bird.
What is your favourite food?
What would your superpower be?