Let’s role play. You’re lonely and want to find a lover as quickly as possible – what do you do? A) Cold-call a list of attractive candidates with no knowledge of their marital status, priorities or preferences. B) Sign up to a dating app. 

We can all agree, probably, that the sensible answer is ‘B’.

So why is it that companies seeking partnerships almost always opt for the business equivalent of ‘A’? In other words, commercial-relationship hunters tend to wade in like fumbling buffoons, firing out random messages in the hope of luring a bite. The answer is simple: because until recently the commercial equivalent of a dating app did not exist. 

Happily, Greg Watts is here to save our blushes. He’s launched Findr – an online marketplace for commercial partnerships. Or a ‘dating app’ for businesses. 

The start-up makes sense because as anyone who’s tried it knows, finding and forging commercial alliances is both infuriating and inefficient. You rarely know the right person to speak to. Worse, you have no idea if your target is even open to the idea of flirting. 

Greg explains: “Findr was born from years of frustration. I was head of partnerships at Visa for nearly five years. While there, it took a year-and-a-half to build a partnership with Carrefour and two years to create a partnership with BP. You just think, this is ridiculous. Setting up partnerships is so laborious. There are so many steps and resources involved. And if it’s tough for Visa, what’s it like for start-ups? They don’t have the time or resources to wait for the right partnerships to slowly come to fruition.”

To streamline the process, Greg created Findr – a digital platform that automates the initial steps of partnership building. He incorporated the tech start-up on March 10, 2020 – five days before the first UK lockdown. 

Greg says: “The idea behind Findr is that you’re on the Tube with your phone, you see a business opportunity and you swipe right to request a call or swipe left to reject it. That’s the vision. We want to make forging business partnerships as easy as swiping right.”

Investors responded well to this compelling vision. Within a few weeks of incorporating the business – despite the pandemic – Findr had attracted £150,000 of pre-seed funding. “People bought into the idea – even over Zoom,” says Greg. “Unbelievably, we had first-mover advantage: no one has tried to innovate in this space before and there are no like-for-like competitors. Yes, there’s LinkedIn, where you can search for suitable businesses and find the names of people you need to talk to. But these people rarely reply because you don’t know what they are looking for. With Findr, we are creating a community of people who’ve told us precisely what they want. They are warm, qualified leads.”

Greg and the team spent last summer building Findr and launched it at the end of 2020. It now has approaching 250 businesses of all sizes on the platform including Mastercard, Visa and Uber.

So, how does it work? 

Before we get to the details, perhaps you’re wondering whom Findr thinks should be using its platform. Also, how do its creators define a business partnership? Greg explains: “Findr is for any business that wants to do business with another business. So, you could be looking for a new client, a strategic partner, or a business to help you achieve a specific goal. The goalposts are wide, and size is no object. We have big names on Findr but also companies still at the idea stage. Our goal is to become the global marketplace for business partnerships regardless of size or sector.”

To use Findr, businesses sign up for free and communicate what they are looking for. You can also sign up and search for opportunities free of charge. If you see an interesting opening with a potential partner, you can request a one-hour discovery call. The potential partner receives a notification and can then either accept or reject your approach. If they accept, you get a message and three possible time slots for a call. 

The current business model focuses on the discovery call – if your potential partner agrees to a call, you pay £99. Greg explains: “This is version 1.0, so our model will evolve. From Spring this year, we will launch new monthly subscription plans including a multi-license enterprise package for larger companies and an unlimited account for scale-ups. Also, this year, we will be applying machine learning to deliver hyper-targeted recommendations to our users using push notifications”

Indeed, evolution is important for Greg, who says accepting the need for change is one of his key learnings from the past year: “One thing you grasp as an entrepreneur is that your original idea evolves considerably. It’s important to stay focused on solving the original problem and be reactive to feedback. Do both and your idea gets stronger and stronger.”

When we ask, Greg offers two more learnings from his start-up experience. He says: “There’s no point investing significant sums in branding early on. It’s important to create a buzz but it’s no good if you invest heavily in beautiful branding before the core idea is adequately developed. That’s the wrong way round.

“Another simple thing I’ve learnt is to build and nurture your audience. My advice is to invite people to sign up for early access three to four months before going live. We created a basic landing page and about 300 people signed up. We kept that group engaged and interested, and now they make up 70% of our users.”

From that small beginning, Findr is growing quickly, fuelled by a pandemic that’s increasing the demand for digital meetings and relationships. Indeed, if the team continues to get it right, this start-up has vast potential because companies, both big and small, will always need to quickly and efficiently locate potential partners. Previously, businesses lacked the tools to do that, which made searching for partnerships like trying to get a date before the internet arrived – random and time-consuming. Findr wants to change that. And change it, they are. So, here’s to a future of easier business matchmaking and marriages made in heaven…