2015 eChallenge winner Shifts into overdrive
Can you tell us about your concept ‘SHIFT’?
Michael: Most workplaces are still using the traditional approach of a paper roster and 90% of companies are still using Microsoft Excel to create and manage their rosters. These approaches are tedious and time-consuming which is also a major cause of miscommunication in a business. Our ‘SHIFT’ concept is here to change the industry and leave a lasting change for the better.
‘SHIFT’ is a mobile app and cloud-based roster system that aims to streamline the traditional work roster process in order to help a company save time, money and increase workplace efficiency. Our concept enables users to have a smarter and easier way to create and manage a roster system while improving communication flow.
Users will get a code that is attached to their own organisation and is linked to the business owner to log into the system. A manager can then use the app to create the roster which will be automatically updated on their employee’s phones. Employees can then customise their work roster, swap their shifts, block out periods when they are not available, and submit leave requests; as well as communicate via private chats and shift swaps. Our users can also import their rosters from Microsoft Excel into our service. We understand that companies want a secured platform when it comes to roster communication, and therefore our app also allows staff to communicate via a private chat function. Observing how our competitors’ user interface was confusing, we were determined to offer the friendliest user experience to our customers.
What does the future hold for SHIFT?
Michael: Our concept has the opportunity to get rid of the traditional paper roster systems that most industries still use. Our initial target market is going to be the retail and hospitality sector. In the future there will be huge potential to expand into other markets having people doing shift work such as mining companies, government organisations and hospital services. Ideally, we want to launch our concept in February or March 2016. Currently, we are spending a lot of time and effort working with developers to get our MVP ready. We have 15 businesses lined-up and ready to work with our concept once our MVP is launched. We have had a great year in 2015 and 2016 looks to be even more busy and exciting for us.
How did your team spot this opportunity?
Michael: I work in retail and my work roster is on paper. So when it changed, I didn’t know and so I ended up rocking up to the wrong shift. This sometimes even led to me missing my working shift. I thought it would be awesome to be updated easily of any changes to the roster. Rye faced similar experiences to mine while he was working at David Jones over 10 years ago. This made me realise that this need for our concept existed a long time ago.
“Market in America focuses more on to go out there and do it while Australian market focus more on the theory part and writing business plan. This resulted in less people going out there taking action and you ended up with lot of wantrepreneurs.”
Did your team perform a lot of market research to validate the need for this concept?
Rye: One of the biggest issues with a lot of start-ups is that the product being built is that the product isn’t wanted or doesn’t do what the industry expects it to perform. To avoid this, and coupled with our industry experience, we have also surveyed over 120 businesses across a range of industries – specifically within retail and hospitality. Most of the feedback pointed to businesses wanting a better and easier way to setup and manage their rosters.
Michael: We identified that the cost of current roster systems are out of reach for most businesses, often being very expensive and offering very little reward to the business – which has resulted in businesses still using manual systems.
Therefore, we are looking at the possibility of having a monthly subscription system that charges businesses based on the number of employees. At the core we want to help business simplify their roster system to save money and time; and we don’t feel like charging small and medium business a fortune to get access to our service. It is through this crucial market feedback that we can create the most suitable business model that can help maximise our concept’s potential.
Are there any competitors existing in this market?
Michael: Roster Plus, Roster EL exit in the Australian market while in the UK there is ‘Find My Shift’. This UK company ended up over complicating the process and turned the roster management system into an HR system. Some of our competitors’ user interface is a nightmare and yet, still raised a great amount of funding. We believe that if such an average product can achieve this much momentum then our great concept can have an even better potential to exploit this massive opportunity. Uber was not the first app of its kind and it won’t be the last but it got to where it is now because they do things better than what others couldn’t.
“When it comes to building your MVP, ask yourselves whether this function is a core must-have function that will define your product and solve the biggest problem your customers face.”
What are the biggest challenges that your venture faces?
Rye: After winning eChallenge, our biggest challenge of funding has been sorted in the interim and we look forward to building upon our MVP into a more rounded product. One of the biggest challenges is making sure that the features we include in the product are going to improve the end user experience – which is why our research has been so extensive to date.
Michael representing team SHIFT at 2015 eChallenge Venture Showcase
What advices would you give to a young entrepreneur starting out?
Michael: It is vital to find the co-founder that shares the same vision and working in the same direction. When I formed the team with Rye, we both had different perspectives on how things are but we all worked on the same direction.
Rye: Not having the right co-founder is something that many start-ups fail to recognise. A great team is made up of people with complementary skillsets that share the same vision, all working towards a common goal.
“Australian society is very risk-averse while in America people applaud you for going out there taking risks and doing things. Even if you fail, they believe that you have gained the experience of failing and so you can be more successful in the future.”
Michael: I didn’t know how to code but I learnt online the basic knowledge because having this foundation will help me run the business a lot smoother. To increase the chances of your business being successful, you have to be willing to learn the things your business needs.
Rye: Running a successful start-up all comes down to execution and building something that solves a problem and ultimately, what people want. Don’t build unnecessary features that nobody wants. We have plans to integrate other functionality into our product but people tend to fall into the trap of integrating too many features initially. When it comes to building your MVP, ask yourself whether the function that’s being built is a core “must-have” that will define your product and solve the biggest problem your customers face.
Was there any doubt in your mind when you started out?
Michael: Our achievement at eChallenge showed to people that we can get this off the ground. This achievements and resources gave us a strong assurance to move forward.
Rye: The eChallenge really validated the direction in which we’re going and backs up the belief that we have in the product. We wouldn’t have embarked on this journey if there was any doubt in our mind.
“A great team is made up of people with complementary skillsets that share the same vision. No one can have it all but try to strive towards these goals.”
Smashing it at the eChallenge award night with our mentor Ian Callahan.
I was exposed to a wide variety of entrepreneurial activities such as presenting at a venture showcase, doing a 60 second pitch, presenting a 15 minutes pitch and completing a concept proposal and business plan. These activities gave us a chance to learn new skills while enabling us to think of our concept more in depth. I would only recommend committed people to enter this eChallenge since there is a lot of work involved with the competition.
What do you believe contributed toward your team winning the Echallenge?
Michael: There were a lot of great competitors out there, but I believe that there were three main factors that put us ahead of other teams. Professor Noel Lindsay, director of Adelaide University’s Entrepreneurship Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC) stated that our concept was one of the rare few that will have direct transferable benefit that will help a wide range of businesses and industries save money and improve processes.
“It is through this crucial market feedback that we can create the most suitable business model that can maximise our concept’s potential.”
Our concept is simple and can be executed well without requiring million dollars of funding. The money we win is sufficient to build the product and this would excite people the most because soon eChallenge people can show that their winner would have something to launch soon.
The final factor was that we were able to demonstrate that we actually cared and believed in our concept enough by doing all the market research in order to validate the market needs while showing our understanding of the market.
What is your view towards the Australian market when it comes to entrepreneurship?
Michael: Market in America focuses more on going out there and doing it while Australian market focus more on the theory part and writing business plan. This results in less people go out there taking action and you ended up with lot of wantrepreneurs. Plus our Australian society is very risk-averse while in America people applaud you for going out there taking risk and doing things. Even if you fail, they believe that you have gained the experience of failing and so you can be more successful in the future.
Check out SHIFT’s facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Shift-755857087824816/?fref=ts
Tell us what you think about SHIFT’s future potential?