In this series of 'The Aprao Story', CEO Daniel Norman tells the story of how Aprao was born. For the first instalment in the series, click here.
Welcome to the second part of The Aprao Story: Finding a co-founder (a.k.a all good things start with a coffee) ☕️
Now it's Autumn 2017 and I’d left my job as a banker in property development finance to make Aprao a full-time business. This was a massive gamble given that I didn't have a technical co-founder – someone with experience in software engineering who could bring Aprao to reality.
I’d actually been searching for a technical co-founder for nearly one year. I clearly recall walking out of my city office from my banking job on my lunch break and finding my way to Shoreditch, where all the exciting startups of London called home. I’d stare up into the windows of these buildings – surely there was a software engineer in London looking to embark on a new venture?
The search begins
I started to regularly look at tech meetings on websites such as meetup.com and went along to a few. However, I very quickly realised that the people who had the time to attend these events mid-week were generally not the level of expertise I was looking for. These rooms were mainly filled with people new to engineering or those trying to sell something!
Frustrated, sat at a coffee shop in Shoreditch, I received an email from Meetup.com with details of the attendees to a recent event I had gone to. When I clicked onto the email, there was also a section on the event page with the people who had registered but not attended. As I flicked through some of those profiles I realised that those people were much more aligned with what I was looking for. In hindsight, these people were generally more experienced so it was most likely that they couldn’t attend because they were busy working.
I figured it was a long shot but I shortlisted a few profiles and then set out to message them. One person that I messaged was due to attend another meet-up the next day, but I couldn't make it because it was during my working hours.
Here’s a copy of the original email:
From all of the messages that I sent, this email was the only one that got a response.
Harry and I met for coffee as planned. He was an experienced engineer and had recently moved to the UK from Australia – the reason he was looking to make new connections in London.
A story that I later learned when meeting up with Harry in Sydney several years later, is that software engineers get lots of people sharing ideas for apps with them, to the point where it gets quite annoying, so Harry set me a task (which I didn't realise at the time but was a bit of a test!) to see if I was serious about this.
Harry asked me to produce some wireframes of what I was looking to build and then proposed we meet again for coffee when they were ready.
I guess most people would have put this on the too-hard-pile and walked away, but not me. I was keen to get Aprao moving and I set about creating some wireframes of what I had in mind for my proptech business.
Whilst they aren't the most refined from a UI (user interface) perspective, I had worked hard to really think the software through based on the outcomes that I wanted to achieve.
Here is one of the early wireframes from 2016.
Wireframes in hand, I met back up with Harry a couple of weeks later. He was impressed that I had actually gone to the effort that I had, and we started to think about how we could work together.
However, at the same time, Harry was also working on his own start-up based back in Australia, which was just beginning to take off. He had also landed a new job in London. Based on this, we agreed that he wouldn't have the time to dedicate enough energy to Aprao but we also agreed that he would have a think about anyone else he knew in his network who might be interested.
It's a match!
Time passed. I went for many coffees with many different people, none of whom were appearing to work out. Eventually, after a good few months, I met with Harry for a beer to share my frustrations with him.
It was at this pub that Harry said he knew someone who may be interested.
This person was Jonathan, the now Co-Founder and CTO of Aprao.
Harry mentioned this project and I to Jonathan, and he was keen to meet.
We met for a coffee in Exmouth Market in summer 2017. I could immediately see that Jonathan was the right person to embark on this journey with me. He was exceptionally smart, very experienced with software engineering and had a particularly strong background in building cloud-based B2B SaaS tools – exactly what we planned to build with Aprao.
After several more coffees to discuss our plans for Aprao, Jonathan began working on building an MVP (minimum viable product) in his evenings and weekends.
Before long, it became clear that he needed to dedicate more time to building the MVP, so Jonathan actually reduced his working days at his main job down to four days per week to fully focus 20% of his working time on Aprao.
Skipping forward a few months, we had an MVP that was coming together and a strong working relationship. After meeting for a beer in Farringdon in December 2017, Jonathan expressed his interest in jumping into Aprao full-time as a co-founder to which I agreed.
Therefore, we had decided that when we came back from our Christmas breaks we would both be on Aprao full-time as co-founders.