Pae Natwilai, former Chelsea guardian, is not your ordinary anything. Pae moved to the UK to pursue a Master of Science at Imperial College, leaving behind a stable career, her network and her home in Thailand. Her ultimate goal was to innovate the inspection maintenance industry through robotics, which she did with the founding of her company Trik in 2016. Trik uses drone-based technology to survey buildings and compile detailed 3D models that are user friendly and incredibly versatile in their application and has been internationally lauded in the construction and property industry.
Just two years after founding Trik Pae made the Forbes 30 under 30 in Industry, and then in 2019 she made the Financial Times’ 100 Bame leaders influencing the tech sector and was a Forbes Under 30 Honoree. It’s safe to say that after an enormous amount of hard work, Pae is making waves. Through this recognition of her achievements Pae makes one thing clear: the value in this publicity lies not in the fame, but rather the opportunity for mentorship, to show other young people what is possible if you think creatively and don’t ever give up.
I sat down to talk to Pae about her journey and the role that guardianship had to play. Pae was one of the first people to move into LOWE’s oldest property, Chelsea Police Station back when the company was Lowe Cost Living and our founder, Tim, was experiencing for himself the wild ride of starting your own business. In 2016 Pae found herself with a Masters from Imperial, a visa that was running out, the beginnings of a business and no home.
Whilst desperately trawling SpareRoom, Pae stumbled across an ad for this police station that was undergoing refurbishment for communal living. It was within walking distance from her laboratory at Imperial and had a flexible monthly rolling contract – could it be that good? At the viewing, Pae met LOWE founder Tim. She had a frank conversation with him about her position as an entrepreneur who just needed a foothold in London until she could everything off the ground. Needless to say, it worked, and she moved in within weeks.
“This particular guardianship genuinely became a crucial part of my journey, back then if I didn’t find a place to stay, I would not have had enough money to stay to begin with”
Pae was initially concerned that living with 42 people would be a grim return to dormitory living. Instead what she found was a building of like-minded people forming adult relationships built on mutual respect. “Some days I would come home [to Chelsea Police Station] and I would be so down. Having a start-up you have ups and downs. But you have someone to share it with and because people have such a variety of backgrounds that whatever you encounter, whatever favour or support you want, there would be someone in that building who knows someone.”
The network was an unexpected bonus of living at the property. When you put 42 driven, creative and interesting individuals in a building in the heart of London, the network is going to be rich and far reaching. Founding a start-up means you are constantly faced with new challenges that you have no experience in. The guardianship mega network means you have ready access to someone who has. Pae said that early on she was struggling with negotiation and, sure enough, someone in the building used to work in a consultancy firm and had experience with software customer support. She was put in touch with the right people and received the support she needed.
London can be a brutal place for young entrepreneurs as the high rent and fast paced private sector present a seemingly insurmountable barrier. But if you can address the housing issue it gives people a chance to get on with the important stuff. Chelsea Police Station offered the initial stability and foothold Pae needed to get Trik off the ground. Pae took full advantage of the opportunity Tim was able to provide, shortly after being awarded the exceptional talent visa which solidified the future of Trik. The flexibility and affordability of guardianship gives our innovators a chance to save and easy access to a professional and social network in London. Pae was not the only start-up founder to grace the halls of Chelsea Police Station, and all of our properties are full of interesting and entrepreneurial people. We are constantly amazed by the powerful journeys our guardians are on, and proud of the humble role we have to play in them.
“What I tell people is that when I started here I had nothing. No friends, no connections, no money, no visa, no house – absolutely nothing. So if I can do that then anybody else can do it to. I want to share that story, that if you don’t give up you’ll find a way. And I found a way to be able to sort all of these out eventually.”
Millie Watson – Community & Social Manager