Jack Al-Kahwati and Gerardo Barroeta are members of FounderDating who successfully matched and founded Velo Labs in San Francisco.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELVES.
Jack: I’m originally from Canada. I worked in the Aerospace industry for ten years designing composite aircraft and military helicopters. I eventually decided it was time for me to start my own company, so I quit my job and moved to San Francisco. I found FounderDating after a year and met Gerardo a week after joining the site. We are both hardware engineers and connected because of that.
Gerardo: I’m originally from Mexico, I moved to Boston first for grad school at MIT. After graduating I worked for a semiconductor company, then at Streetline, a parking sensor startup for about four years and then doing sensor R&D at Jawbone. I like working on products that I find exciting and I would personally use. After working for several companies I felt like it was the right time to take the leap and launch my own. One of the many pieces of advice I got from other entrepreneurs was that going solo is a bad idea and finding a cofounder was essential.
WHAT WAS YOUR “DATING PROCESS” LIKE?
Jack: They say don’t try to sell your idea on the first date, but that’s exactly what I did. At the time I was working on a cool ebike concept that was going to revolutionize the transportation industry, but I quickly found myself overwhelmed. I met Gerardo for coffee, and then invited him to a round table. After about 1-2 months working with each other, and a large pivot to our current product, we became co-founders.
Gerardo: At first, I wasn’t interested in Jack’s idea. I was actually hunting for people, but Jack seemed passionate about getting an idea going. Eventually, we agreed on a common path that leveraged both of our skills and passions and I decided to take the plunge.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO APPLY FOR FOUNDERDATING?
Jack: I really wanted to find someone dependable. There was so much work to be done, so I’m glad I have a cofounder to help me get through it. I tried AngelList and other sites, but nothing was as hard-hitting as FD. Coming from outside the valley, I would say it’s hard to find quality cofounders if you aren’t part of the deep-seeded community. I think the kickoff really helped as well.
Gerardo: It’s difficult to find someone who has similar interests and the financial standing to start a company. It takes guts to say, “screw my job, I’m launching into the unknown.” It took me four months to take the leap. Finding someone that not only compliments your skillsets, but also shares common interests and is easy to get along with is very difficult.
TELL US ABOUT VELO LABS.
We are working on a connected hardware device for bicycles. But that’s all we can say right now!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO GO IT ALONE?
Jack: Speaking from a hardware entrepreneur perspective, I would say that there is too much work for one person to go at it alone.
Gerardo: It’s madness! You need capital, know-how of manufacturing and retail, moral support, and so much more. There’s a huge difference between hardware and software startups. In software, they say if you’re not ashamed of your first product, you waited too long. With hardware, you don’t have that luxury.
Jack: Even if you’re doing software development, you would still need to balance all the business requirements that really define the product. There’s just too much. You need to find a cofounder to help manage the work.
ANY OTHER WORDS OF ADVICE?
Jack: I joined an incubator, Stanford StartX. It really helped get us going on the idea. I had some great mentors and I learned a lot from them.
Gerardo: There’s so much that you need to know to get a company off the ground. We’re not there yet, but we’re leaps and bounds from where we were.