We interviewed Josh Elijah of Engimake to find out about the startup that is creating a robotics kit for makers, educators and hobbyists, with adaptable, Arduino-based programming.
University of Manchester
Both Josh and co-founder Jack Scott-Reeve met doing an electronics degree in Manchester University. The course was very focused on the technical side so both are very good engineers, and Josh believes it instilled in him a very good work ethic. Recently the university gave them £1.5k towards their startup, and if they like the finished product, they want to buy 30 of them.
The university will also give Engimake the platform to carry out workshops with their robotics kit, which Josh is very excited about as he sees it as a key channel, connecting them with their target market.
They are going to talk at the university soon about their journey from university graduates to startup guys. The university likes their story because not many people study a degree in electronics and then set up their own business. Engimake will give the university a case study of two students who became entrepreneurs, followed their dream and created a successful company, making robotics accessible to a wide group of children, students and makers all over the world.
Josh told us where the idea came from. He said that they were frustrated with the lack of robots in education. He and his co-founder did a lot of tech clubs with kids; everyone did the simple stuff but no one was doing robotics because everyone was afraid of it. They set out to build a kit that would make it really simple; something that could be programed with block programming, and that users could go into and look at the electronics, and even look at the source code. It would be an educational robot.
Although they wanted to create a simple robot, Josh tells us it has been the least simple thing he’s ever done; it’s one thing building a robot for fun but it’s another building a manufacturable product. They wanted to make it affordable with a price point around £100/£150 so that more people will buy them. The main target market is education, and they also want to bring it to developing countries. The kit will include the product plus educational materials built around it.
They went to FabLab after graduating. There Josh learned about 3D printing and worked full-time as a freelancer. It was the founders of FabLab that advised them to make their robot into a product.
They moved out in May 2016 because they needed more space and to focus on their product, and because after a year they had the feeling it was time to move on. The FabLab is very business orientated, and the experience turned them from graduates to entrepreneurs.
They began in Makerversity in the last couple of weeks. It is like a big makerspace but with loads of startups; everyone is paying to be there and they are dedicated. In FabLab, they felt like big fish in a small pond and now the it’s the other way round. There are startups there that have raised over £100k on Kickstarter. They feel it’s a great place for them to be as there are others a way ahead of them, and it means they are challenged; they can ask questions, and go and talk to them to others who have done it before. And it’s based in Somerset House, which is an added benefit.
They are putting a huge amount of work to launching on Kickstarter and it will probably be there by late October. A lot of people have said they are interested in their product but Kickstarter will help them verify that. If it goes well there, they will take it further but if it doesn’t make its goal, they feel they may need to review their plans.
Josh told us that outreach and networking is something he has learned a lot about and come to really appreciate the value of. They have links with Ultimaker who have lent them a 3D printer, with ColorFabb from whom they get free filament, and with RS Components, from whom they get free components. Building up relationships with many companies, means that if they have questions, they know who they can trust from the ecosystem they have created around them.
Maker to Manufacturing
Josh cites his biggest challenges in terms of moving from maker to mass production as lack of knowledge around getting things made in bulk and manufacture of the plastic. Right now they are 3D printing them but can’t 3D print more than 100. They also need to find out more about injection moulding. They are slowly figuring out the manufacturing process and Siobhán from Mint Tek has helped quite a lot.
As an example, it can be very hard to know if a quote is good or if they are being ripped off. And it takes a huge amount of time to contact people all the relevant people with emails going back and forth.
The next 10 boards, which they have ordered from Mint Tek, are the ones they take out to schools to try with kids, so they are nearly there. Josh says that it feels like you climb one mountain and then there’s another one over there you’ve got a climb, but he is really enjoying how its going and keen to get Kickstarter up and running.
Find out more about Engimake at engimake.com or follow them on Twitter @EngiMake