founder

GoPillar Co-Founder Alessandro Rossi on Making Architectural Design Meritocratic

Introduction

A lot of professions are adapting to remote work. It’s easier for some roles than others, though. Budding architectural designers, for example, may struggle to utilize the digital tools necessary for their trade or to seek clients online. 

GoPillar solves those problems by offering online classes and letting designers appeal to clients based on their skills. In GoPillar’s online marketplace, clients can request a project, hold a contest, and choose one of multiple designs from professionals across the globe. We reached out to co-founder and CEO Alessandro Rossi to learn about challenges affecting the industry and the bond between GoPillar’s co-founders.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Francis Vu

In your own words, how would you describe your company?

Alessandro Rossi

GoPillar is the first and world’s largest marketplace for crowdsourced architectural design. Anyone who needs architecture or interior design projects can launch a design contest on GoPillar. After one launches their contest, they will receive dozens of projects to choose the perfect solution in accordance with their taste and needs from our community of professionals, with more than 70,000 architects registered from all over the world. 

Over the years, we have built several services for designers with the aim of increasing revenues while improving the quality of the projects offered on our marketplace. Among them, the most successful is GoPillar Academy, our e-learning website, which offers hundreds of online professional courses to thousands of student designers.

Francis Vu

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Alessandro Rossi

The idea came to my partner and co-founder, Filippo. Filippo graduated with a degree in architecture in Italy, and immediately after graduating, he spent two years doing various internships for well-known architectural firms in Rome and London. Thanks to this experience, he realized how far from meritocratic and dynamic the job market is for architects, who often, like him, are forced to spend years in large design studios with very low salaries and without the opportunity to create their own customer portfolios. 

Furthermore, many of the clients of the studios he worked for were dissatisfied with the service and complained about the excessive abuse of information asymmetry by professionals. This is why he decided to create GoPillar, an environment where the best young architects could emerge while clients can obtain the perfect project without being captured by offline professionals.

Francis Vu

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Alessandro Rossi

We are three co-founders but also brothers and childhood friends. I have known my co-founders, brothers Filippo and Federico Schiano di Pepe, since we were children. Since childhood, we have shared businesses and other adventures, so when they asked me to help them realize their dream of digitizing the way of architecture and making it meritocratic, it didn’t take me long to make it mine right away.

Francis Vu

What do you think is your next most important hire?

Alessandro Rossi

Thanks to the funds we are raising in our crowdfunding campaign on Republic, we will be able to expand our information technology development team. One of our short-term goals, in fact, is to merge all our sites into a single web portal where architects from all over the world can find the job opportunities and the tools and skills necessary to perform the job at their best.

Francis Vu

How is GoPillar transforming the architectural design industry?

Alessandro Rossi

Our mission is to revolutionize the architectural design market. Our goal is to transform the market from an elitist, local, and non-meritocratic market into an international, plural, dynamic, and convenient market. Young architects should have the chance to establish themselves as professionals on the basis of their skills and competence. Thanks to GoPillar, they will be able to find new clients, compare themselves with colleagues from all over the world, and grow professionally in a dynamic and meritocratic environment. At the same time, we want to give customers the opportunity to get ideas and technical solutions from architects from all over the world, overcoming the geographical barriers that have historically characterized the architectural design market.

Francis Vu

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate yourselves?

Alessandro Rossi

Our competitors are mainly offline freelance architects and architectural design firms. We have only one direct competitor online: Arcbazar. Then there are many with similar models, but they focus on interior design and not on architecture, such as Decorilla, Havenly, and Decorist. They provide customers with more of a mock-up on the furniture than a real architectural project. 

We provide clients with dozens of professional projects in an international context instead of just one project from a local designer. We have hosted more than 2,000 competitions, and we have the largest community of design professionals online, more than 70,000 from 90 different countries. On GoPillar, you spend less and get more than any other architectural design service offline and online.

Francis Vu

How is the current economic environment affecting your business and what are you doing to surmount that?

Alessandro Rossi

The design market has been facing a structural crisis for decades, and the situation has worsened even more in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Europe. In particular, the European market is suffering from a deep crisis with very high unemployment rates among architects (with peaks of 40% in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain, or Greece) and a low propensity to pay for the service by end consumers, particularly private homeowners. 

GoPillar is helping designers by allowing them to continue working from home with clients around the world, creating a bridge between countries with high demand for architectural design and those with a lot of professional design services and high unemployment rates. At the same time, we are trying to help reaffirm the value of the service, letting our customers choose the perfect solution for many projects in order to help increase the perception that design services are useful among private customers.

Francis Vu

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Alessandro Rossi

GoPillar is already a profitable startup, but with the crowdfunding campaign, we want to raise the liquidity necessary to speed up our growth. In particular, we want to create more than 100 new asynchronous courses in English, Spanish, and Italian to become the e-learning website with the widest training range for architects and engineers. At the same time, we want to renew our digital infrastructure, merging all the group websites into a single portal to emphasize the synergies (not only economic) between our services and simplify the user experience for designers and clients.

Francis Vu

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Alessandro Rossi

We know we are not a canonical startup, as we have been on the market for 10 years, and we have already done more than one investment round. But we believe that those who intend to invest in GoPillar should do so precisely for these characteristics. We know our market well and have already made many of the mistakes that it was possible to make. In addition, despite having discontinuous traction, we have managed to make the company profitable and survive 10 years with just seed funding, validating a revolutionary model for the architectural design market. We are confident that we are the right team to carry out our mission to revolutionize architecture. We know how to do it, and we are looking for investors who enhance our resilience, our experience, and our vision for the future of architectural design. 

Francis Vu

As you think about the business five to 10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Alessandro Rossi

In 10 years, we see GoPillar as the main architectural hub of the world, where individuals and businesses can get all the design services they need and where professionals can find new customers and buy all the tools and skills necessary to deliver a work of quality.

Starting in the next few years, our goal will be to scale GoPillar Academy to make it the world’s leading online training site for architects and civil engineers.

We look forward to seeing where Alessandro and his team take the company. GoPillar is currently raising on Republic.

3
About: Francis Vu

An investment professional with a background in private equity and venture capital having spent time conducting investments at VU Venture Partners and Pacific Oak LLC with a finance and management degree from Tulane University.

View Francis Vu's founders