Venture Corner: Qweek
What is your business?
Qweek is a SaaS (software-as-a-service) workforce scheduling platform. The product helps service businesses like hospitals, fast food restaurants, banks, hotels etc. manage their workforce to both improve customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and reduce costs. Our business does that by providing a tool for employees to state their work preferences, and managers to input workforce demand and business and legal constraints. Our system automatically creates a roster and helps managers track employees in real time.
Are there competing products out there? How are you different?
There are competing products in the market, with the main competitor “Kronos” – a $500 million workforce software giant.
Our product is of a low end disruption to the market of workforce software. We provide a low cost, scalable solution that is based on SaaS, which makes it affordable to smaller businesses previously unable to afford complex solutions that Kronos and SAP provide.
How did you get the idea?
We got the idea when Alexander’s girlfriend complained about her shift scheduling being inflexible and unfair in a retail banking call-center she was working during undergrad. We looked at the market and saw that there are no good solutions out there, and decided to build it ourselves.
How did you all meet?
Roman met Daniel (our developer) during military service, Alexander during college and Anita in HBS.
What were your backgrounds prior to HBS?
Prior to HBS Roman spent three years in an elite communications unit in IDF, worked in marketing and business development for an eCommerce startup and spent two years as a consultant in Mckinsey&Company in their Tel Aviv office.
Prior to HBS Anita spent two years as a consultant in Mckinsey&Company in their Mumbai office and two years as Private Equity Associate at Audax Private Equity in Boston.
What significant milestones have you hit?
On the product side, we have a beta version of our product fully functional and currently being tested with first client
On the Business development side, we have secured two pilots in hospitals in Israel that are currently using our system to schedule residents. We’ve also raised $50k of angel funding and were runners-up in the HBS business plan competition
On the marketing side, our website www.qweek.com is currently ranked #3 in Google for “shift management”, one of the main search keywords for our industry.
What is your next step in the venture process?
Our key next step is to secure a few leading US firms to pilot our product and hopefully convert them to happy customers. We’re currently pursuing that in the fast-food (e.g. Startbucks, Panera Bread etc.) and healthcare segments. We’re also working on converting our current pilot customers in Israel to paying customers.
Additionally, we are thinking through plans to scale up our business and looking for potential sources of financing it.
What has been the best part of starting your own venture?
The best part of starting this was the feeling of owning something that we’ve built. Seeing our software used successfully by the first pilot customers is the ultimate sense of indulgence.
What have been the biggest challenges, and what lessons have you learned so far in the process?
Our biggest challenge was to understand what customers really want. We started this off with a generic view of how software like this could be used, but once we started to work with customers, we realized that without really understanding our client’s day-to-day activity, it is really hard to build a good product for them.
Additionally, we learned how hard it is to actually sell a product. We initially thought that showing a good strong ROI on the investment in our product is all that is needed. The fact is, restaurant owners don’t really know what ROI is. You have to understand the motivations of your customers to be able to sell to them, and that has been our biggest learning to date
When you have a question about entrepreneurship, where do you turn?
We are privileged because we are now in HBS. We’ve been using many of the HBS resources to get up to speed on issues of entrepreneurship and general questions about our venture. We’re in touch with two HBS alumni who are CEOs of SaaS companies, one of them in the HR space. We’ve also been in touch with faculty, EiRs and our fellow classmates with experience in the areas we’re looking at.
How do you balance life at HBS with starting your own venture?
To be frank, it’s hard. Ventures take on a life of their own and need support all the time. We constantly deal with customer issues, reach out to investors, and work on product development. Many times we had to prioritize working on the venture over going to speakers or socializing. Luckily, we haven’t missed class because of it yet.
How can HBS encourage more entrepreneurship?
HBS does a great job to encourage entrepreneurship. This is done by the great EiRs, the clubs, the conferences, and the TEM course in the RC year.
The main barrier is people getting tempted by more traditional HBS industries (Banking, Consulting) and forgoing the risky life of an entrepreneur for a more “safe” life in the corporate world. HBS can bring in more successful entrepreneurs to show that that path is viable, interesting, and not as risky as many think.
Also, HBS should encourage students to pursue various forms of entrepreneurship. Currently, the MVP fund drives the focus of student entrepreneurs to focus on projects that can be developed for up to $5k – pushing them to consumer web. We believe HBS should diversify, and push students to look at other verticals by creating mixing opportunities with scientists and engineers.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
The business plan competition is an amazing vehicle to test if entrepreneurship is right for you and to start developing the network that will support you in this voyage. We would highly recommend enrolling and testing it out for yourself.