Gary Robinson and Phillip Wattis did not match up on CoFoundersLab through mere coincidence. The 40,000+ member platform is far too populated for the two entrepreneurs to have stumbled upon each other; both founders took a proactive approach to find the right partner. In the three months since they joined forces, Robinson and Wattis have launched EngLancer, an engineer freelancing portal, and have already launched a crowdfunding campaign. We caught up with them to hear about their experience on CoFoundersLab, and their advice for those still on the hunt for their business partner.
How did you find your co-founders through CoFoundersLab?
Gary Robinson: Initially I just filled in my profile, stated what I was looking for and waited for the 100s of developers to contact me…not surprisingly a number of days of inactivity followed. It occurred to me that developers/coders are very much the sought after co-founder. So I started to actively search for coders, emailing potential co-founders within a 1-2 hour traveling time.
Phil’s profiled ticked a lot of boxes. He had a proven track record of developing successful prototypes for start-up businesses. He was actively involved in the tech scene, mentoring at a number of accelerator programmes. He also looked like an entrepreneur that could code. That is, he understood how to launch, grow and market a business, as well as how to build the website. A great co-founder.
What I didn’t want to be was someone that approaches a tech guy with an idea and the statement “I just need someone to build it for me”. I was in a position of having a working (of-sorts) beta site that I had funded myself through sub-contracted labour. I also had a concise business plan, a brand and a few people trialling the site. Essentially, I could demonstrate that I was serious about the business and had given it some thought/ carried out some market research and could offer Phil more than just the idea. After a number of emails, LinkedIn/ DueDil and Facebook searches, I travelled from Manchester to Birmingham (around 1:30 train ride) to meet him. It’s definitely the only way to find out what someone is like. We didn’t just discuss our business ideas but also other people we had spoken to, current ideas, trends etc. Phil then did the return trip the following week. Each time we could log on to the internet in the cafes and look each others work, our ideas and thoughts.
We then used the next few weeks to trial each other out, and we still are. I get to see Phil’s coding magic on a day to day basis and he finds out whether I can make good on promises in regards to industry knowledge, contacts and practice.
Phillip Wattis: I listed on CoFoundersLab with quite an open view, I was interested in finding someone who might want to join an existing project I was working on, but I was equally interested in becoming part of another team and helping them turn their ideas into a viable business. I’m primarily a business person, with one successful exit to date, but do have a technical foundation, and I think it was my technical skills that set my profile on fire. I was being approached several times a week with people with ideas, the caliber of people approaching me varied considerably from students through to a former FTSE100 company chairperson! Unfortunately I quickly encountered two problems:
- No-one contacted me with a view of wishing to get involved in my existing project - every approach was from individuals wanting help with their ideas.
- Maybe 90% or more of the approaches I received were from enthusiastic individuals who had little more than an idea.
While there is nothing wrong in those approaches per se, the volume of approaches gave me the luxury to pick and choose where I wanted to invest my time, and those who could show me they had already invested time, effort and money in their vision were infinitely more interesting and convincing than those who hadn’t.
Gary and EngLancer ticked most of the boxes. It was an interesting project, with an MVP that had been used to test the concept, and despite being an engineer himself, Gary had sufficiently different skillsets from mine to convince me we had the potential to be a good team. His relaxed approach, combined with a laser focus and tenacity in what he wanted to achieve would compliment my skillset and help focus my efforts.
After a few face-to-face meetings in Birmingham and Manchester I adopted the ‘Richard Branson approach’ of “screw it let’s do it” and work began in November 2014, hammering out the details as we progress.
Without CoFoundersLab I suspect I would never have met Gary. We are currently seeking seed funding and are both sure EngLancer will grow into something significant in engineering outsourcing.
What is EngLancer?
The ODesk for engineering design and project delivery. Procuring the right engineers, skills and tools to deliver high value engineering design currently presents a real barrier to entry within this large and growing market.
EngLancer is an online platform that allows firms to outsource engineering design, drawing or modelling projects. The platform is therefore aiming to niche the proven success of this way of working and delivering projects (in the web and software industries) to a strong and growing design engineering market.
Check us out at
Any advice for founders on CoFoundersLab about finding the right cofounder?
GR: Don’t show up with just an idea. Do the leg work. Draw up a business plan or even an elevator pitch. Be able to demonstrate you’ve done some market research, or pull together a wireframe to show you have given some thought to the screens and processes involved. Bottom line I would say- be able to show you are serious about being a co-founder.
PW: There is a global shortage of competent software developers, and a glut of ideas needing development. To attract a technical cofounder you have to convince them that the equity on offer is likely to be worth something in the future. Show that cofounder all the skills you possess and the work you’re undertaking to make that business a success, because ultimately that success will be down to the business skills delivered by the team as opposed to the level of competency of the person building the product. If you believe you’re not able to do anything until you have a product built then you are unlikely to attract the sort of high calibre individuals your business requires. Do the leg work, research the market and get potential customers interested and that technical cofounder will be sure to follow.