Engineer Entrepreneurs

Engineers Are The New Technology Entrepreneurs

Written by Elena Doncheva | Engineer Entrepreneurs | Thursday 7th August 2014 12:26:00 GMT

Philip Wattis, software engineer and start-up mentor, explains how to combine creativity and business – an emerging trend among engineering graduates.

Philip Wattis is the man behind successful start-ups such as Flinca and Power Internet Ltd

Philip Wattis is the man behind successful start-ups such as Flinca and Power Internet Ltd

The fierce competition and the constant drive for new technologies have made the tech sector one of the fastest growing in the UK. The young engineers of the world are the innovators who are exploring the limitless possibilities of technology.

EngineeringBecause met Philip Wattis, a start-up mentor with a computer science background, who reveals the secrets behind a successful engineers’ business. 

“After co-founding an Internet-based start-up in 1995 and adopting a purely technical role, I quickly discovered the need for business knowledge, which ultimately saw me rising to CEO,” Philip says, explaining how his story began.

“Any practical technology and engineering skills were left behind, as most of my time was focused on developing and growing the business, and its teams. This change of discipline gave me a rare mix of skills – combining a technology and engineering foundation with practical commercial awareness, and experience.”

He transferred this knowledge to another business. Flinca, a technology-based marketing company, enabled Philip to go back to practical software development.

“I have a passion for business but also enjoy a hands-on approach to creating products that can deliver value for others,” he says. “I'm fortunate that for small early-stage start-ups, the demand for such a combination of skills is at an all-time high.”

But he thinks that ideas are worthless. “Once you submerge yourself in the culture of start-up business, you quickly realise that there is a plethora of good ideas out there, but a lack of people who can turn them into successful businesses. Consequently, ideas are virtually worthless; all the value is in the execution,” Philip stresses.

Researching the market and knowing your target customers is essential. "We can also delude ourselves into thinking our idea is fabulous; when the reality is that few might think the same,” he says. “If you have a great idea and you want to pursue it, then talk to as many people as possible about it to see what they think.”

From there you can adjust – pivot – and develop the idea. “If you find people who say they would pay for what you propose, then go and build a prototype, let them try it, and listen carefully to what they say,” Philip says.

Gradually you can start investing both time and money, and build a business which has proved successful though your market research.

Philip outlines the main advantages that engineers have: “As an engineer, you have skills for which there is a worldwide shortage. Before pursuing your own idea, consider becoming involved in someone else’s dream. You’ll make many contacts, learn many things, and possibly even meet your future co-founders.”

But it will not be easy. “You are going to make lots of mistakes along the way, most of which cost time and money. Anything you can do now to minimise the chances of this happening will pay dividends in the future,” he says.

“Starting up your own business will mean you work longer hours, for less money, and higher levels of stress than if you simply worked for someone else. Do it right, and for the right reasons, and you'll have a chance of success.”

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