Propertyshe podcast: Joy Nazarri Founder of dn&co and Showhere

Posted on 09 September 2021

We have this new expression that we’re using a lot in the strategy team at dn&co which is if everybody is a tree, how do you stand out in a forest because now everyone is talking about sustainability credentials.  So, the interesting one I think for people to be looking at is the ‘S’, it’s social and money is going to follow, investment is going to follow where the ESG credentials are strong because that’s the way the world is heading. 

Susan Freeman

Hi, I’m Susan Freeman, welcome back to our PropertyShe podcast series brought to you by Mishcon de Reya, in association with the London Real Estate Forum, where I get to interview the key influencers in the wonderful world of real estate and the built environment.  Today I am really delighted to welcome Joy Nazzari.  Joy advises Governments and major companies on how to design places that meet human, not just developer, needs via her branding and design agency dn&co.  She is also the Founder of proptech company, Showhere, a presentation platform that helps companies sell and lease buildings.  Her current clients comprise some of the biggest names in the real estate industry including British Land, Argent Related and Stanhope. 

Joy was born in Brazil and was educated in the US where she started her career in Silicon Valley.  There she helped bring a large number of dotcom companies to the stock market and work with future leaders such as Amazon before relocating to London.  She is a strong advocate of improving gender and ethnic diversity in the property and tech sectors.  So now we are going to hear from Joy Nazzari about her unique take on creating places with purpose. 

Joy, good afternoon.  Where are you speaking to us from?

Joy Nazzari

So, still in the working from home format for this week and the last week of August, I am working from home in rural Kent. 

Susan Freeman

I was wondering, looking at your CV how you ever brought yourself to leave California and looking out at the grey summer weather, it does make me wonder.  So, you have an impressive tech background and you initially started out in Silicon Valley.  Can you tell us just a bit about yourself and your background and how you came to London?

Joy Nazzari

Yes, of course, of course.  It feels like a long time ago now, twenty years, in fact I very recently had the opportunity to go back to San Francisco for a project working out of London but travelling quite a bit to San Francisco and I was reverse shocked at the weather there, sort of thinking ooh it’s incredible California, this incredible weather and I think probably I took it for granted growing up in California but it was remarkable to go back and see it.  So, yes I did start my career in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley.  My first job was actually in finance, working for a tech boutique investment bank called Robertson Stephens and it was the dotcom boom, it was the late nineties and we were busy taking lots and lots of tech companies public and what was really interesting and strange about San Francisco at that time is that everyone had something to do with this incredible boom so, you are part of this phenomenal thing that is going on and we all sort of knew we were part of something that was new and changing the world forever but everybody was doing that so there wasn’t anybody involved in San Francisco, it seemed anyway, that wasn’t involved in the tech industry in some form or another so, what really happened for me was I went from investment banking and then jumped into Silicon Valley, working for a couple of different tech startups, really big ones, one of them heavily funded by Kleiner Perkins who were the sort of you know Midas touch VC firm back in those days, I worked for a subsidiary of Amazon.com and eventually one of those startups sent me to London to start the London office of this dotcom and that was September of 2000 and by February 2001, the bubble had burst and I found myself in London, you know, in my early twenties, thinking actually this is a really cool city, I want to stay.  So, that was really my transition moment from California and the tech scene into what started to be a bit of a tech scene in the UK and before transitioning actually into the architectural sector. 

Susan Freeman

Yes, the dotcom bubble burst in a big way and how did you end up in real estate?  How… what took you from tech to real estate in London?

Joy Nazzari

So, I was very lucky.  I landed, I was in London, obviously decided to not go back to California with this now shrinking, well-funded but shrinking company and so although I was called back to California, I stayed and I had a few months of time to sort of find something and I was put together with this fantastic individual called Alan Davidson who if you knew or don’t know him, was really the guru behind architectural visualisation and that was his massive skill, he was a phenomenal artist and illustrator but he is the one how really brought computers and computing power to the architectural world in terms of visualisations and he was this phenomenal artist and technologist together but he was also this sort of miracle worker doing all, so he was interested in business and so he couldn’t let an idea go so he had all these little rabbits he would send out running and he’d start a little thing here and a little thing there and he started two separate businesses to his core business which was Hayes Davidson, he started up a branding consultancy called One Space Design at the time and then he hired me to start a business for him which was a technology company, it was basically an online concierge business so, offering to big, mostly business parks and huge commercial buildings, offering a sort of centralised portal for concierge systems.  A kind of interesting platform to connect at the time building managers and people and actually it was probably a little bit ahead of its time to be honest and it was interesting, you know I set that up and it was successful and we did well and then being young and perhaps exuberant and maybe a bit of a brat, I said to him ‘oh I’m a bit bored of this thing now, I want to do something else’ and he said ‘okay well why don’t you run that and help this brand consultancy’, also fledgling, ‘why don’t you help it get off its feet as well’.  So, I was then also paired up with Ben Dale who was the creative director of that business and that’s really where things started to get very interesting for me so, Ben and I then ended up working together for the better part of I think seventeen or eighteen years, we obviously left then that business to start up our own branding consultancy and you know the sort of formative experience with Hayes Davidson and starting those two small businesses has been totally fundamental to what came after. 

Susan Freeman

And you are absolutely right about being ahead of its time and I was thinking you’re talking about, you know, brand consultancies in the early 2000s and I came out of business school 2001 where you know I’d been studying brands and I looked round the real estate sector, couldn’t see that there had been much take up, actually went to talk about to people running big property companies and talking to them about brands and for the most part they looked at me very blankly so, I’m really interested to know how you were greeted when you set up your brand consultancy in 2005. 

Joy Nazzari

Well, I think that, I think that perspective that you’ve just mentioned is really interesting because if I look back at how we used to call it a brand consultancy, really I’m not sure it was ever much more than a marketing consultancy, right?  So, in those days with properties as you I think are highlighting, we used to basically take an architecture and then badge it, right, so it was more marketing, it was more I have a product to sell, let’s badge it, let’s put some attributes into a brochure and let’s flog that piece of architecture, whether it be for residential or for offices and I think, I mean certainly in my career over the last twenty years in real estate, the idea of brand has actually really started to develop, I think there used to be a real notion where we would say to clients, look a logo is not a brand, like that’s not what it means, we are trying to create a you know a perspective and an opinion and a feeling for people to believe in this, that they’re somehow connected to this place, it has to be this place and now we’re getting clients saying that to us so I think that real estate has really changed in those twenty years from the sort of badging, logo stamping marketing to actually we can create something that people, it’s almost a movement, people believe in it, they want to be a part of it, it’s, you don’t just rent space or buy space, you are actually belonging to this space, you feel part of it or maybe you’ve even helped co-create it so, I think we’ve come on this incredible journey where brand has entirely reinvented what it means and the purpose that it has within the context of real estate which has been really exciting to be a part of. 

Susan Freeman

And just, I mean, thinking back, just looking at residential development world, when the Candys arrived, you know with their lifestyle branding and everything, it was like you know this completely new concept. 

Joy Nazzari

Yeah, it’s true although I would say even since the Candys, I think now the luxury, the word luxury is actually hugely passe now too because it’s actually that is also meaningless so, it’s interesting what the sort of Gen Z and Millennials who are now grownups, I mean we keep referring to Millennials like they are these young people but actually they have kids and mortgages now and you know these are people who as a generation or two generations, deeply value meaning and connection and they want you to have really thought through your product and what impact it makes on humans, what impact it makes on the world and they want to see that you’ve done that rigorous thinking so, I think even the Candys if they came out today, it wouldn’t fly anymore.

Susan Freeman

Well things move on so quickly.

Joy Nazzari

So quickly. 

Susan Freeman

Just, I mean, just drilling down a little bit into you know the idea of you know place and culture branding which you specialise in, you’ve been behind the reinvention of some of the UK’s largest neighbourhood developments and, I mean let’s just start you know from the question, why does a place need branding?  You know, can you not just create a great place that you know people will find and they will come to, does it need branding?

Joy Nazzari

I think that’s an excellent question.  So firstly, I would say really openly, not every place needs branding, definitely, and sometimes actually we find ourselves on projects, usually smaller ones, that we sort of say this is actually a marketing job, you know it requires some really strong tactical thinking but it doesn’t require that sort of deep and meaningful brand concept but the reason we I think are in demand for the projects that we work on, is because ultimately places are in competition, you are going to attract people, they are actually going to either go to place A or place B or place C and those places are in competition, whether they are cities, whether they are neighbourhoods, largescale developments, they want to attract either occupiers or buyers and ultimately tenants as well, they have to sort of think about their clients, the people that they’re trying to attract into those office buildings so, there’s a big job that actually has a trickle down effect into smaller and smaller communities which is quite interesting.  So, ultimately places are in competition and what we used to do as an industry is, we used to provide a list of attributes and you know really hot market a list of attributes is really all you need, right, I’ve got great connections, you’ve got your access to talent pool, you know beautiful architecture, you know three metre floor to ceiling height, whatever it might be, those attributes might be fine in a hot market but actually in a market where there’s a lot of fierce competition, I think what you find is, you need a competitive edge and that’s really where we like to live is, if you can have the attributes and then you add a layer of something that just makes people think you know this one might be a little bit more expensive or this one might just be a little bit more geographically off piste than I might have normally gone for but there is something about it that feels in line with what I am looking for, in line with what I believe in or it’s a community that I want to belong and be a part of and help grow then I think we’re helping our clients be competitive and that’s really what I’m interested in.  So, it pulls together, I’m very strategically led, I love trying to help, you know connect places and people and there’s a narrative in there and if you get a story right, people say you know what, I really like the sound of this place, I want to be a part of it.

Susan Freeman

And I really enjoyed reading your book, Know Your Place, and what you said there about a lot of places, you know developments are designed by committee, you’ve got the developer, you’ve got the investors and everybody sits round and comes up with their past experiences and you know may come up with something sort of pretty good but often they don’t actually talk to the community, they don’t talk to, you know, the potential tenants so, do you think it could be done differently?  Do you think developers are now thinking actually we need our end user, customer, in here as well, we can’t just dictate what we think they’re going to want?

Joy Nazzari

Yeah, absolutely.  So, I think as an industry, one thing that we can do a lot better is speak to the end customer and I think what happens is, in the built environment, what you start with is an appraisal, right, you look at a piece of land or you look at a building and you do an appraisal and you say right, if I build a twenty storey building here and I’m able to lease or sell the property at that then suddenly that appraisal is almost creating your architecture for you and then you hand that appraisal to an architect and say well make it so and then suddenly you have an architecture and then afterwards you say well now I need to find a market that’s going to buy that and somehow along that line, maybe we’ve done product research and surely now with environmental issues and sustainability we have lots of product research but perhaps we never really sort of stopped to think who’s going to like this and what are they going to like it for and what do they need and what are their hopes and dreams and desires that we can help them with?  You know, what are businesses suffering from and now with the reinvention with work from home, you know, I think suddenly we’re seeing architecture as much more led by those consumer needs because suddenly, you know, you need a small space that can fold away where you can work so we see these things creeping in but I’m not sure we’re brilliant actually at commissioning market research, R&D as other industries would do from a consumer perspective so, speaking to people, putting people in a room, sitting behind the you know one-way mirror and really starting to think about how can we create a place that people are going to love and actually I would say the real reinvention now, and this is slightly new since we wrote Know Your Place, we’re starting to tell developers and we’re actually doing it with developers, do that even before you’ve commissioned the architecture so, start to think about a place in its notional sense, what’s it for, who is it for, what is it going to do, how can it behave, actually before you’ve actually created an architecture so, we’ve had two really terrific projects that we’ve been successful at doing that on, one was Here East which is the reinvention of the broadcast and press centres of the Olympic Games so we were able to work together as a team with Delancey before the architects were on board and there was a fantastic collaborative team with lots of businesses who got together to envisage what this place could mean as a sort of tech cluster, to really say this is what this place is going to be and then to give that brief to an architect which in that case was Hawkins Brown and that the outcome was so much stronger because there was an idea that was based on a known industry before the architecture was created and very similarly Landsec who I think are doing a great job at this now, they’re commissioning businesses like dn&co to come up with a narrative for a place again before, you know long before, the architecture starts.  So, on one project that we’re working on in the Southbank with them, we’ve helped them devise that sort of narrative and that vision, the architects then got on board and got very excited and now we’ve come back in a year later when the architecture has been designed, to then help them with the next phase, which is branding and marketing as it were but to have that idea before so that everyone can be riffing off in everything they create, whether it’s landscape or place making, art commissioning, to have that sort of concept and conception of what this place is going to be all about and who is it for, I think is really neat, really neat. 

Susan Freeman

I think one of the issues can be that sort of managing the expectations of the community because you sort of hear about, you know, the consultations where people come in and they want, you know they want a doctors’ surgery, they want a swimming pool, they want, you know, they want all these things on their shopping list but from the developer’s point of view there is, you know it’s a business, it’s got to make sense so I don’t know how one manages that.

Joy Nazzari

So, I’m on a mission and actually dn&co is on a mission generally, our strategy team is on a mission to kind of rebadge and re-envisage the public consultation and actually almost to not call it that because I think what’s happened is, the public consultation is this, it’s sort of like this bad word in development right, as you say it’s this everyone dreads public consultation, what on earth are they going to say to us and actually I think if we could all put that public consultation almost phrase aside and say, do you know what, I’m just going to sit down and have a conversation with the public about this place and co-create actually, can we develop something that is appropriate for this piece of city that is also commercially relevant?  And actually, what would happen if we could see that as an exciting conversation, that’s interesting as opposed to something that should be dreaded and I think that’s, we’re on a real mission to sort of re-envisage what the public consultation is because I think terrific things actually do come out of consultation with the local community, very important things, certainly from our perspective some of our best projects have come out of things that we’ve heard on the ground.  So, one example of that would be in the Royal Docks, my colleague Simon and I sat in many local consultations around this creation of the Royal Docks.  So, the Royal Docks is actually the big body of water where you see City Airport sits in the middle of but what we did was create a brand for, this was about I don’t know thirteen communities around that body of water to connect them in what’s now called the Royal Docks and that was a project for the two mayors, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and the Mayor Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz and that project, you know, stitching together these communities, very tricky job, we really needed to listen to people on the ground and a couple of interesting things that came out of that were, one was one chap who had been there for you know all his life and said ‘you know if you don’t keep hold of some of this incredible maritime history then you will really, really be throwing out what is so special about this area’, you know he tells stories ‘my grandparents kissed on that pier over there’ and these lovely things that you just have a real responsibility to stitch in.  And another guy gave a terrific piece of feedback which was ‘oh you know, Joy, Simon, you guys are just the 78th you know team that have come in here, there have been 78 failed master plans’ and of course this was fiction, it wasn’t even real but the perception was real and so for us to go in and say there’s a vision, hey like we’ve had 77 other visions you know so don’t give us a vision so that gave us a really clear steer and the GLA a really clear steer that they needed to go in and actually say this is what we’ve actually going to do and it actually it’s flown, it’s done really phenomenally well, it’s connecting people and it’s a two-way conversation type of brand, it’s not, you know this is one-way, this is what’s happening to you, this is an open conversation.  So, listening to the people actually, if we can do it in a really engaged and genuine way, there’s a lot to be gained from it. 

Susan Freeman

So, do you think it’s possible to do this and to sort of bring in what the communities want and can you do that and increase the financial viability of the scheme because at the end of the day, that’s what a developer is going to be looking at?

Joy Nazzari

For sure.  So, I would say now more than ever before, we not only need to do that but we should, we have a commercial reason to do that and a moral obligation to do that so, the commercial side for me is it’s totally relevant because the new generations that are coming through and making decisions, they care a lot more about these things, right?  So, there is a real value to, and this is why ESG has taken you know such an important role and it’s funny, I think from my perspective in real estate, we talk a lot about sustainability when we are talking about ESG but we forget that there is the ‘S’ as well which is the social side and certainly from a value perspective, I think the decision making generations are going to demand that but also finance is demanding it now too so, investors are looking through this ESG prism at everything they do, is the governance there, you know, are the environmental credentials there but are the social credentials there as well and this is something I think we are going to be seeing increasingly in the real estate industry but for social things, it was all a bit ooh I think that’s a little bit too scary, you know, in the way I think twenty years ago the environmental thing felt a bit scary, now it’s a must, you have to be, in fact we have this new expression that we’re using a lot in the strategy team and dn&co which is if everybody is a tree, how do you stand out in a forest because now everyone is talking about sustainability credentials.  So, the interesting one I think for people to be looking at is the ‘S’, it’s social and money is going to follow, investment is going to follow where the ESG credentials are strong because that’s the way the world is heading. 

Susan Freeman

And, I mean it’s interesting to see that there are now real estate developers coming through as B Corps and you know they really are looking at the social side as well so I think…

Joy Nazzari

I love a B Corp.  Yes, I think they are just terrific.  I’m upset that we’re not a B Corp already.  We’ve gone EOT so we’re 100% employee owned company but maybe B Corp is next for us. 

Susan Freeman

Yeah.  Well, Mishcon de Reya have recently got B Corp accreditation.  We are only the second firm of UK lawyers to do it so we’re very excited about it and one of the things that you talk about in the book, I mean you call it place purpose, you know and I think that’s a good way of putting it because you look at what’s the point of you know why is the place there and I think you talk about the need to be more sort of humancentric. 

Joy Nazzari

Yes, absolutely.

Susan Freeman

The trend that we are also seeing, you know we are seeing in our offices and residential so, and I know you don’t like the word place making so I was actually sort of looking at that and thinking okay, what definition would you use instead?

Joy Nazzari

Sure, great, so for me, place purpose is the reason a place exists based on human-centred needs and what I normally say to clients is who cares, like why should anyone care about your project?  You know, what’s the story besides the list of attributes?  So, I suppose place purpose is the elegant description and the reason a place exists around human-centred needs as the elegant definition but really for me it’s answering this question, who cares?  Why should I care?  Why should I sit up and listen to what you’re trying to say here?  Besides selling because you know people don’t want to be sold to, they want themselves to discover and to buy into something great and the reason I’m a little bit fussy about placemaking is inherently about the word ‘making’ so I think there a couple of problems to unpack with making.  One is, you’re jumping straight into the making and you’re forgetting perhaps to do a little bit of the thinking, right?  And I like the idea that we can set aside some time to ask why, really well, at the start of a project.  Why, for who, you know what’s the long-term narrative here for this place that should be here for a very, very long time and making jumps sort of straight to the creation?  I also think place making has a little bit become this expression for activation, right?  So it’s, it’s how we create some of the cooler stuff, the experiential stuff in a place, right?  Oh we’ll, you know, we’ll stick in you know some theatre and some little bits of stuff that will go on in the public realm and it sort of becomes a bit of an afterthought patchwork quilt of things that we can do to a place that’s already been designed so, I think what I like… place making in itself, there’s a lot of place for it, right?  There’s, it’s a huge industry in itself but I’m trying to create a little bit of thinking that happens actually long before an architecture is created, which is this place purpose that everything should be leaping and jumping off of so, architecture can jump off of place purpose, place making can jump off of place purpose and it’s really that lens that we should be channelling all our decisions through to create a really great place. 

Susan Freeman

So, it would be really interesting I think if you were to talk through you know maybe a couple of particular schemes that you’ve been involved with where you’ve all looked at the place purpose and actually come up with a new narrative if you like. 

Joy Nazzari

So, I would say probably the formative experience that we had was with the Crown Estate in St James’s so I’ve been very lucky, I spent many, many years working the  Crown Estate actually firstly in their Regent Street portfolio and they had this massive ownership in St James’s all along and eventually I think when they finished doing all this fantastic fifteen year plan, twenty year plan with David Shaw in Regent Street, they then sort of turned and said okay let’s look at St James’s as a portfolio now and see how we can push that up.  And at the time you know St James’s was ultra-prime from an office perspective, very highly regarded, you know, lots of very high end, high rent offices but really the portfolio had huge room to be able to grow and the linchpin to that from a commercial perspective was improving the sort of ground floor plain through better retailing and better leasing on that sort of retail level.  So, we had a sort of clear job to do to help the Crown Estate take what was historically the most phenomenal piece of London, I mean it’s got a, you know, four hundred year history and to create it as a place that people would know and recognise internationally and the real linchpin difference there was about making the sort of the retail famous and therefore turning it into a B2C brand, not just a B2B brand and that was actually the B2C side of that project was really what was going to help increase the value for the B2B site.  So what we did there was help the Crown figure out how could they tell that story for what this place was all about from a restaurant, gallery, you know culture and shopping experience and really what we came up with was the idea that this was the ultimate antidote to sort of the clone high street, right, this was all about one-offs, it was all about bespoke, it was tailored, it was really excellent quality and that they would, their leasing strategy would be channelled through this idea of non-high street so actually they ended up making decisions around you know if you were in a five mile radius we weren’t going to accept you into St James’s which was really fascinating.  So, from our perspective, you had to then behave like a B2C brand so, we launched a B2C website, we launched a B2C newspaper, we convinced them to do away with the sort of twee annual tea party and actually do a proper London Fashion Week men’s runway show down Jermyn Street so that you had the Crown Estate sitting next to famous fashion designers, famous models so that they would actually really embody and embed themselves into the world that they were trying to be part of and that was very successful for them and really great fun so, the idea there was the purpose of St James’s was about this one-off, everything was a one-off and bespoke and made and high quality and so they had to be that and behave that and actually become a beacon for that so, I think that for us, that was really the first fantastic experience and it really was, I think we spent seven or eight years working on that project and loved every minute of it.  A fantastic opportunity. 

And shortly after, slightly different, to give you a second idea, we helped British Land reposition and re-envisage what Broadgate was all about.  Now Broadgate, you know, Stuart Lipton, genius, built that place in the 1980s at a really different time, right, Shoreditch was not cool, the City, you know there were dangers, there had been bombs so, it was built like a protective fortress looking inwards, you had your beautiful gardens and lawns that you can walk on and it was meticulous but it was, you know, it was of its time and it was now time to reinvent it so, they’re doing that through some serious architectural interventions, including creating permeability from, you know, between the edges from Bishopsgate into the centre but from a brand perspective, from a story perspective, we helped them, they needed to basically open this place up and away from just being a financial centre, into being more so connecting it more with the tech world to the north of them.  So what was that narrative?  So, this was about creating a place where innovation and finance came to play, whether they played actually physically by going to the new bars and restaurants that are being built or whether they could do business together because you had finance actually investing in these tech startups but really this was about creating a place where those two things were welcome and actually not just that but they were, that was the sort of cluster that we were trying to create, tech and finance having fun together and those things should then lead to the kind of operational items that they’re doing there.  So, that’s another example of a narrative that we would have helped with.  Huge repositioning of their business away from just pushing individual towers of real estate into really focussing on a place that people would be interested in what was going on there so, a big shift there. 

Susan Freeman

Interesting about Broadgate, what you say about, you know, Broadgate and then the, you know, the tech hubs in Shoreditch because I mean I don’t know if it all be the same post-Covid but in the past, you literally you would walk, you know, from Broadgate where everybody is in suits and ties and very smart and then, you know, gradually you cross over, no suits, everybody’s in sort of t-shirts and jeans and things so it was sort of quite nice actually not to see that, you know, boundary if you like and happily mix more. 

Joy Nazzari

Absolutely and do you know actually a really interesting insight into that project, Susan, was that we did quite a bit of market research on that project and British Land I think, kudos to them for spending the money to actually speak to people at all sorts of different levels, they did different types of research, they commissioned lots of different varied types of research which was really useful to us but most importantly really I think was the research they did at the sort of C-suite and managerial level asking questions and they took some of our brand work in and those guys were like, we’re desperate not to be seen as bankers, we’re trying to recruit people who want, they think they’re cool, they just happen to work in finance and this is one of another myriad examples of where research has really led to the solution and people being braver because of the research that they could rely on and say actually people want this, which is useful. 

Susan Freeman

And do you ever come across situations where you can’t really see any particular purpose for a place, it just somehow was misconceived, it just, you know doesn’t work very well and no amount of narrative is going to change that?

Joy Nazzari

I mean certainly I would say there are difficult narratives and we have had some difficult challenges.  I think the key things that keep you out of trouble are authenticity.  So, I think as soon as you start to stray into something that doesn’t feel deliverable or real, you just get into a whole bundle of trouble.  We’re working on a really interesting project right now and at Rugeley which is, you know, they’ve brought down the cooling towers of this power station and they’re going to build a really big community there on the edge of this very beautiful lake so, I have to say, there are some projects that look at the beginning like they’ll be really challenging but for us, those are the most exciting ones because that’s really where the good work is done.  I think that’s where it’s really exciting.  I would say, Susan, too there’s always room to do some good, you know.  As you’ll know, one of the chapters of Know Your Place is Do Good, and I think it’s almost like you just have to stop everything and say how are we going to sprinkle some good into this world through this project and it might seem deeply uncommercial but actually I would say it is commercial people are interested in that, people buy into okay you are doing some good for this local community or for the wider world, how can we inject some of that good so I would say every project, no matter how much it might feel like a lost cause, there’s always room to do some good. 

Susan Freeman

And I suppose if it’s something that really isn’t very attractive then it’s a low bar, you know, there are things that you can do to suit…

Joy Nazzari

Ah no, some of the ugliest projects are the best ones because you can afford to be really brave, right.  So, you can paint the walls, you can, you know, give some of the really cheap dud space over for free to artists to be able to you know have an artists’ sort of collective and I think there’s, you know, where there’s ugly bits of space that might seem you are unable to do anything with it then gosh, like give that over to artists, what a fantastic opportunity.  So, actually I think there are plenty of examples of what might seem miles away from Grade A space can actually be tremendously successful and we’ve seen lots of examples, you know, you get gosh a parking garage in Peckham being sort of the most hot place to hang out and I think there is, where there’s creativity and optimism, you can solve almost any conundrum. 

Susan Freeman

Now, one of the projects that I think you’ve been involved in which I’m really interested in because it really is a blank canvas, is Brent Cross Town which is something that has been in the planning for so many years and it’s a huge site, northwest London and I think you’ve been involved in actually planning the narrative for that, I mean is there anything that you can tell us about that?

Joy Nazzari

Yeah, well again, just we’re in the middle of that still but very rewarding project.  Argent, as we all know, developers of King’s Cross, do you get to work with a more forward thinking group of people?  I don’t think you do.  Their partners are the developers behind Hudson Yards related so this is the Argent related side of the business and so for us to be able to work with both of those teams, we do work with both London and New York for that project, has been just a joyous, joyous journey and it is exactly what we produce, I mean we’ve done a lot of production work for them and graphic design etcetera, branding in the sort of creative visual sense of the word but really I would say the value that we brought to that project was helping them define the narrative and that really was a case of sitting down with their key directors and saying what are the things you are going to tell people that you are actually committed to doing here and what’s going to make it different?  So, I love I’ve got a slight crusade against Live Work Play, I think Live Work Play is a really jolly way of saying mixed use but of course mixed use doesn’t tell us anything so, I’m interested in more, I want to know more about what the sort of size, shape, feeling, smell of a place is going to be like and where we landed with Brent Cross Town which is really exciting is around the concept of play and the importance of play and how play actually enthuses every area of our lives, we learn through play as children, you know we bond through play at work, you know whether it’s going out to a bar or whether having away days, elderly people can be brought into the community by watching and observing play or they might play chess, you know play is something every age group can be part of and be involved in so, we knew we had something really exciting that we could work with and the idea of play really sparked around the thought of what designing there is around 50 acres of playing fields and fantastic the way they’ve master planned that side is really brilliant because it’s a town built around playing fields so this notion of playing how it’s important in our lives led to some very key messaging ideas and one of them is about having, you know, how you thrive so, being able to actually measure and having a thriving index, it has become a really big part of that project so, fifteen minute town is the first town that will be fifteen minute town which is exciting and actually we did convince them to call it a town in the first place, it was called Brent Cross South initially and we said oh gosh, it’s not south of anything, it is the thing, it’s the main attraction so let’s make it the main attraction so, we’ve had a lot of fun with them, terrific rapport and great results and that’s ongoing which is really fantastic. 

Susan Freeman

No, that is great because I say, it has been a long time in the making and I mean it’s a huge site isn’t it, I don’t know how…

Joy Nazzari

It’s really big.  I think it’s three times the size of King’s Cross, if I’m not mistaken.  180 acres I want to say so, yeah, big site, very dynamic, lots of different component parts and it’s got a station and as I say, these playing fields so, it will be a really great, new piece of city. 

Susan Freeman

So, you’ve clearly, you’ve been involved and are involved with so many great projects, one sort of wonders if there is, you know, anything else left to do but are there any particular projects that you haven’t been involved with that you would really like to get your hands on?

Joy Nazzari

So, my dream project is to do a city, so that’s an area that we’re hoping to move into, is city branding and we have started to, we’re tinkering on the fringes of them because we’re doing some very sizeable neighbourhood brands but I would like to go into city branding and country branding so, watch this space and we’re certainly knocking on a lot of doors for that but I would say that’s for me, that’s really fascinating.  It starts to take into consideration a lot of things that I’m interested in, I studied economics and I think that’s, when you are talking about city branding and country branding, it’s really, you’re getting into inward investment and the economics of a city and so I’m very interested in looking into that area. 

Susan Freeman

Well, I think it’s a really good time to be talking about London branding and you’ve mentioned everything is competitive and I actually was reading an article just before about Paris because we hear all the positives about Paris and the greening, fifteen minute city.  This particular article was just completely negative about it so I thought that was interesting so, yes, I think city branding is a really, really good idea. 

Joy Nazzari

So, you know, the city branding for London is something we talk about and quite a lot at dn&co generally because it doesn’t really have one, you know, we’ve got Mind the Gap and the sort of London Underground symbol, we’ve sort of adopted that as our visual city brand.  I would say from someone who’s lived in lots of big cities – Rio, San Francisco, London and some other smaller pit stops in between – this city, you know, it’s all about it’s diversity, right, and that’s what makes it so phenomenal and it’s access to other cities, we are the ultimate melting pot bringing different cultures together.  It’s history and how we’ve done that over the years, is so fascinating so, I think that sort of London is open and diversity and we do business here, a lot of business, it’s for me it’s the most exciting city in the world, for sure. 

Susan Freeman

I agree with you.  I agree with you.  You talk in your book about the importance of collaboration and the importance of having a leader to bring the team of collaborators together and I just wondered who are, you know, who are the best leaders that you have encountered because not everybody, you know, can do that job of bringing together various disparate ideas and creating something.

Joy Nazzari

Yeah, that’s a great question.  So, the leader conundrum is an interesting one, we’re talking now increasingly more about how places they need a face, someone that you can, someone you can almost call and someone you picture, it’s almost like our cities have mayors, we have big places, who is the face, who is the representative that’s putting their sort of their name up in front against that?  And for me there are lots of good examples of people who would sort of embody a place but perhaps none better, from my perspective, than Gavin Poole who is the CEO of Here East.  So Here East, I mentioned briefly earlier, is this fantastic tech campus on the Olympic Park.  Gavin’s been on that project, I mean, well over a decade now and, you know, he’s got this incredible background, non-property but also not the technology side so, engineer, I think he was you know, did a lot of different things and then by hook or by crook came into the property scene as a… carries a mug that says “I’m not a property guy” and he has embodied that place and that spirit of bringing people together, bringing specialists, getting them to collaborate entirely and completely and one of the best things that he does at Here East as that sort of figurehead, is he will pull, you know, someone from a startup inside Plexal which is their sort of startup space, and perhaps BT Sport or you know one of the other big four, one of the other big companies that they have there and say you both are working on these interesting technologies, you should get together because you’ve got a lot of similarities and you’ll create something great and actually, what’s happening there is, they’ve created this operational layer at Here East which is where the magic lies so, I think what’s exciting about that leader role is it goes way beyond asset management, right, you’re not just making sure the doorknobs are polished and that the loos flush and that the security system’s on, you are actually helping the businesses that are there or the residents that are there to be more successful with what they’re doing and I think that really is true leadership, right, it’s, he’s embodying what this place is trying to achieve and living it which is really great.  He’s also a terrific guy and I think, you know, he’s able to influence and affect highly effective teams just by being, you know, so into the purpose of that place, which is really exciting.  So, yeah, I would pick Gavin for that. 

Susan Freeman

Okay, well that’s great and you’ve obviously been sort of really busy with all these projects and I somehow you managed to Co-found a new proptech business mid-pandemic.  So, tell us a little bit about Showhere and what it does and what the challenges were of starting this in the middle of lockdown. 

Joy Nazzari

Ah for sure.  So, well look Showhere is really, I’m just so excited about it.  It, as a company and as a product, Showhere is the, is kind of the ultimate culmination of lots of things that have happened in my career but also a piece of software that’s been successful within dn&co so, at dn&co our job is to help the real estate industry and the place industry, cultural institutions have this connection between people and the place that they’re selling and then we go on and help them do the selling and a lot of that has turned into very big high end, highly digitalised presentations for our clients and we’ve created a, you know this phenomenal presentation platform which then we decided actually this is so great with just a really concentrated management team so, Showhere is a presentation platform and it helps real estate companies, developers and their agents tell the stories of their properties and we have some incredible clients so, our biggest one by far is British Land, the whole of British Land’s office, as in retail portfolio, runs off the Showhere platform and what this means is, a couple of things so, very key one is these presentations are non-linear.  Now for anyone who has ever delivered a real estate, some sort of sales presentation for a piece of real estate, whether it’s offices or residential or retail, the conversations vary hugely, they can be ten minutes long to a CEO, they can be three hours long to a, you know, mechanical and engineering expert who wants to know how the pipework is working and to be able to alter your presentations on the fly, is impossible with a PDF.  Ooh, I’ll just get to that in 40 slide’s time is not something anyone ever wants to have to say so, Showhere really first and foremost is a very dynamic presentation, it’s what I would say is 3-dimensional.  You can you know go across the top along sort of topics and give a sort of very high narrative and then you can gesture down to get the sort of deeper dive.  Slides are interactive, there’s films, there’s you know all sorts of really dynamic content, virtual reality so, it’s really fantastic how flexible it can be but perhaps the most interesting piece and it almost seems incredible that an agency would want to do this but we’re giving our clients a lot of power to edit those so there’s a whole platform that allows our clients to go in and update the presentations themselves so, swap images, change copy, you know say that an apartment has been let and that then pushes out to all their sales team so everyone has a single source of truth.  Now perhaps one of the worst thing that happens in real estate is that people are running around with different versions of the PDF and that’s, we’ve done away with that basically because everyone has this single app or single, you know depending on how they want to present it, it can be done through the web as well, single source of truth so, I’d say that’s the second piece.  So, flexibility, single source of truth and then the third and probably the most important piece of why this has been so successful during the pandemic, is that it’s, you’re no longer relying on a marketing suite, you are now able to give remote presentations that are really compelling, that aren’t a website.  So, I think, for us, we’re really keen to make sales people look great, not everyone’s a natural born presenter, we want to make everyone a great presenter, to be in control, to be able to access… you know any data and any information so they can continue conversations in a really confident and natural way and not in a sort of like oh you’ve asked me a question, I’m going to get to that in 30 slides so, that’s, those are some of the key things.  We were able to very quickly adapt during the pandemic and make people look great giving remote presentations and let’s be honest, remote is not going away, it’s here to stay.  Ultimately, whether it’s because someone doesn’t want to get on a plane or because of the pandemic or because of environmental reasons, we will be delivering remote presentations forever from now.  It was already happening and now the industry has permanently changed.  We will have to be able to do both.  You can do one-on -one conversations in a café, you can do a really slick presentation in a marketing suite and you can do remote presentations as well so, digitisation of the sales process has been, I think has really shot up through the pandemic and the ability to follow up very quickly digitally as well, to have statistical analysis afterwards, all of these things now will be here to stay. 

Susan Freeman

And Joy, tell me, you’ve been, you know running your own businesses in the UK since the early 2000s.  As a woman in real estate, have you found that that is, you know, that’s an advantage or a disadvantage, you know, how has the journey been?

Joy Nazzari

Well, I would consider myself extremely fortunate, I’ve had some incredible mentors who’ve been men, throughout my whole career, all of them would have considered themselves feminists which is great, they were always keen to see women succeed which I would say, you know, very lucky.  The industry, from my perspective in twenty years, has really changed a lot and I’m super pleased to see we’re working with so many more women in director positions and that’s been fantastic to watch develop over time and certainly, I wouldn’t say I’ve seen any major hurdles along the way and they’ve just been getting better and certainly I would say it’s been improving steadily.  The area, Susan, I think we all need to you know really be looking at is racial diversity and mostly because we’re building places for, you know, if in London or if any major city in the UK, we’re building cities for very diverse demographics and so to be a predominantly white industry doesn’t make sense to me so I think that’s the area I would say we need to be looking at.  We certainly at dn&co are looking at it long and hard, we certainly haven’t cracked it although I would say we are definitely improving. 

Susan Freeman

So, you mentioned mentors and I just wondered, you know, is, what’s the best piece of advice you were given by one of your mentors as you were working your way through your, the beginning of your career?

Joy Nazzari

Ah, that’s a great question.  I have lots of little titbits that I carry along with me all the time.  I would say one piece is the sort of good old Clint Eastwood, “A man’s gotta know his limitations” and I think it’s really important to know where you are limited because that’s where you grow, that’s the, you know, I think sometimes we can, you know, as women or men have this sort of view that our limitations are something we should hide away and be worried about but actually I think that’s something we need to be really cognisant of and almost admiring of sort of looking at, ooh that’s an area that I can develop and if I can’t develop it and if it’s impossible to, then that’s an area I can partner so, I think knowing one’s limitations is very important, that’s where growth is and that’s for good partnering, partnering is absolutely brilliant.  Another great piece of advice I was given really early on with dn&co was to be a startup as long as possible and to keep the sort of startup mentality as long as possible.  It’s the time when people are most keen to help you out so I would say to anyone who’s starting up any kind of business, just you know go as far and wide as you can as a startup with the startup mentality because people are so kind in those first sort of two years so, I think that’s two little bits of advice and my own bit of advice that I give everybody is, and I think I’ve mentioned it once already on this call is, optimism and creativity, they get you out of every pickle and I think that’s really important.  There’s so many Eeyore, you know, doom and gloom merchants out there and actually the people who succeed are the ones who are able to sort of keep that bit of optimism and keep that bit of creativity to problem solve and to get out of a situation and that’s ultimately who people want to do business with.  You know, I think we can get somewhere good here, I’m going to do business with that person.  So, yeah, so optimism and creativity would be definitely my touchstones for sure. 

Susan Freeman

That’s great so, one should aim to be an optimistic and creative startup for as long as possible, that’s really good.  Joy, I think we have to stop, we’re out of time now but that was really interesting and so thank you so much for your time and I look forward to getting together. 

Joy Nazzari

Well now, hopefully now that the world is opening up again, I hope we’ll be able to, it would be great. 

Susan Freeman

Exactly.  So, thanks a lot. 

Joy Nazzari

Very good.  Thanks so much, Susan.

Susan Freeman

Thank you, Joy for some fascinating thoughts on the connection between people, places and culture and how we can do better at creating places that are humancentric and that people want to spend time in.

So, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation.  Please join us for the next PropertyShe podcast interview coming very soon. 

The Propertyshe podcast is brought to you by Mishcon de Reya in association with the London Real Estate Forum and can be found at Mishcon.com/PropertyShe along with all our interviews and programme notes.  The podcasts are also available to subscribe to on your Apple podcast app, and on Spotify and whatever podcast app you use.  Do continue to subscribe and let us have your feedback and most importantly suggestions for future guests and of course you can continue to follow me on Twitter @Propertyshe and on LinkedIn for a very regular commentary on all things real estate, Prop Tech and the built environment.

Joy Nazzari advises governments and multi-billion-pound companies on how to design places that meet human – not just developer – needs via her branding and design agency dn&co. She is also the founder of proptech company Showhere, a presentation platform that helps property companies sell and lease buildings. Her current clients including some of the biggest names in the industry, including British Land, Argent Related and Stanhope. 

Joy was born in Brazil and educated in the US where she started her career in Silicon Valley. There, she helped to bring a large number of dot.com companies to the stock market and worked with future leaders such as Amazon, before relocating to London. She is a strong advocate of improving gender and ethnic diversity in the property and tech sectors.

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