Get to know a Toronto startup: Shifthub

Anyone who has worked for a small business knows the pain of creating and distributing part-time schedules. Schedules get taped to walls, excel sheets get e-mailed out, or strips of paper get handed to employees. Keeping things organized is impossible, and the pain-point of swapping shifts is all too known amongst managers and employees.

There has to be a better approach, and there is: Located at Queen and Bathurst, Toronto-based Shifthub is making staff scheduling a breeze.

With a mobile-friendly approach, Shifthub allows schedules to be created and distributed instantly, anywhere, and onto any device. Its interface is intuitive and flexible, can automate schedules, and helps manage your payroll. Further, it allows employees to check-in via their mobile app, and even allows them to swap shifts with other employees on the fly. No more Excel sheets and no more paper.

I recently had a chance to sit down with James Woods, Shifthub's co-founder and CTO. An industry veteran with 15 years of experience in mobile and web, he described the impetus behind launching Shifthub, and gave some advice to fledgling entrepreneurs.

Tell me about Shifthub. What is it? And where did the idea come from?

Shifthub is a cloud-based staff scheduling application that's both mobile and social. Staff scheduling has been around for a long-time from excel spreadsheets to paper, but I think that mobile and social has really changed what can be done with it.

The idea came from our CEO, Jeremy. He had run a few retail stores, had looked at some solutions that existed, and he asked me if there was a better way. I said, "Yes, there is. You should build it, and you should call it Shifthub."

What is your target market, and who is your typical subscriber?

Our target market is restaurants and retail stores. It can be extended to others, but being focused on those segments really allows us to build a great product. It's a huge market--there are 40 million small and medium-sized businesses in the world, and many of them do not even know that these solutions exist yet. We are slightly ahead of the demand curve, and it's just about to reach the tipping point.

How many businesses have signed up so far?

Right now we have just under 600 small businesses all over the world. From Soho House and Dark Horse Espresso in Toronto, to a health care facility in West Virginia.

Who is your competition?

Our biggest competitors are called When I Work and ShiftPlanning. What is different about us is focus: our competitors are really broad and almost like SalesForce in their attempt to add tons of features. We have spent so much time with our customers that we can burn that away. We are about saving time, saving money, and streamlining business operations.

Further, we are deepening the mobile offering and really making it employee first. Our app downloads are in the tens of thousands and we acknowledge the needs of both employers and employees. We balance that more than any other competitor might.

We have had parents e-mail us for their kid's schedules. They are tired of driving their kids so they can pick up their physical schedule and they think what we do is magic.

What about pricing?

It is basically $1/employee a month, and we have a 60-day free trial. Even if it is you, your brother, and your wife, it will be just $3 a month.

You came out of the Extreme Startups accelerator. How did that experience help you? Have you raised funding?

Our experience with Extreme Startups was invaluable. It gave us access to such high quality people in the startup community in such short period of time. It allowed us to continually test our pitch, and validate our ideas and models.

We are raising a seed round and are about 75% committed.

Writing by Vasant Kumar

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