How I Accidentally Started a Web Design Company


I never intended to start, much less, run a business. I spent my young adult life in Edmonton pursuing the things that I loved which all centered around music. I put on all-ages shows, I wrote zines, designed album covers and t-shirts, I recorded music and most importantly, I played in bands which toured across Canada and the US. I never considered these pursuits to be sustainable or that they would become a career but the experience was formative to who I am and how I think. Kobot started by accident. I started doing a bit of web design to pay bills. I registered the name Kobot Industries when I did a contract which had to be awarded to a business. When I got paid, I had to get a Kobot bank account and eventually, register to collect and pay GST. Being an entrepreneur snuck up on me.

When you move through life, you tend to process new experiences through the lens of your past experiences. Playing in a band and touring the country will affect how you look at the world and it certainly created the foundation for how I chose to run a business and deal with clients. In a small band with little or no money, you learn to be creative. For small clients, this translated to looking for resourceful means to achieve their goals. In my experience in punk rock, I pursued the idea of understanding and considering other people’s perspectives. When it came to clients, I have always tried to put myself in their shoes, but it also consider the perspective of their clients or audience. It was not until years later that the entire web industry started to consider the users of websites as the most important piece of the puzzle.

When I decided to bring other people into the Kobot, my experiences in music fueled who I chose to work with. I have always felt that choosing band members is as much about what a person can contribute to the dynamic of the group as it is about musical skill. The best bandmate will compliment the other members and fill gaps that are missing in the band. They should contribute to a band’s dynamic to make it something entirely unique. Before I even considered working with Stefan and Bryan, I knew them for years through Edmonton’s punk rock scene. I had the privilege to share the stage with their bands, be in bands with them, and even work on recordings with them.

Choosing a bandmate is about complementing what exists or filling gaps a band may have. I had a deep respect for Stefan and the careful and considered way he has always approached life. Over the years that I have worked with him, these qualities have helped balance my grand concepts and sometimes ambitious approach. This has led to projects having a quality that reaches for something special but not at the expense of usability or stability.

In the time I have known Bryan Birtles, he has impressed me with his steadfast initiative in taking ideas and executing them. That enthusiasm has since led Kobot in good directions and pushed us in ways that we may not have gone without him.

In both cases, I wanted to work with them because they were people I respected and admired; approached things in different but complementary ways; and finally, they had skill-sets that they loved which helped build Kobot. And, like a band touring across the country in a van, the most important thing we have, is we get along and support each other in the good and bad times. I love coming to work and it’s because of these two people I make websites with.

Some people are really lucky to know what they want to do with their lives. They choose a career that they hope to love, or just stand doing. I feel lucky that somehow, the things that I love to do and the values and beliefs that I have turned into what I do for a living. Being in bands taught me how to be thoughtful and aware of other people and the world around me. That has affected how I deal with clients and the projects we choose to work on. I’m grateful that the people I work with came from a similar place but still have something to contribute that is entirely their own. Finally, I am grateful that our background and how we’ve chosen to work is something that our clients have found valuable and has led to meaningful projects and results. I never intended to run a business and there are days that it’s still overwhelming but somehow, Kobot has worked out pretty well.