Patrick McCabe


Michael Sharber

Starting a company with a friend can be a scary thing. After all, a good friendship doesn’t necessarily translate into a strong business partnership. Thankfully, Michael Sharber and Patrick McCabe had a solid foundation on which to build when starting GreenLancer, a Web-based engineering company that facilitates the design of green energy systems via the cloud.

The pair met while attending elementary school in Metro Detroit and grew up playing sports together. In college, they developed entirely different skill sets, manifest in their current roles: Sharber as CEO, McCabe as chief technology officer.

GreenLancer connects freelance renewable energy engineers with companies and contractors looking for green expertise. GreenLancer’s founders are breaking down the industry’s project-development process by turning each step into a standardized, technical document capable of being ordered online. When a customer orders one of these documents, the company’s cloud-based platform mobilizes green-energy experts, drastically reducing the soft costs associated with developing sustainable projects.

“Our website operates like a virtual assembly line, making engineering both quick and affordable,” Sharber says.

One of the company’s biggest initial challenges was a little unusual for a startup: GreenLancer was simply too innovative. Disrupting the status quo can be a difficult process, especially in an industry as old as engineering. Needless to say, not everyone embraced the company, especially in the early stages. But things have shifted. Clients now recognize the value of the service GreenLancer offers, especially those who don’t live in centers of solar energy development.

“The pushback was understandable because what we’re offering is a total overhaul, and that can be difficult to adapt to,” McCabe says. “What also makes us unique is our emphasis on customer service. Even if we’re working ‘in the cloud,’ we’re still very much about customer service. We’ve actually double-downed on it. In traditional engineering, customer support is pretty low on the totem pole in terms of what’s important. We’re flipping the paradigm.”

GreenLancer is currently in the midst of launching what may be another game-changer: GreenLancer U. After completing a series of online programs, participants can be certified through GreenLancer, which enables them to take on their own GreenLancer projects, expanding their business and reach.

“We qualify our freelancers on accreditation, education, and work experience,” Sharber says. “From there, we group them into talents pools based skillsets. These talent pools are like digital unions. We offer training for the different talent pools, which helps participants expand their skills and develop best practices. Through training and education, we’re helping people move up the solar industry and no one benefits more than the clients.”