Microsoft Accelerator Alum Openhour Makes Work Time Personal

New York-based Openhour is banking on the notion that people who feel swamped with work want to find more efficient ways to spend their days at the office.

The startup will soon roll out data-capture software that lets folks assess for themselves where and how their time is eaten up—such as being caught in too many meetings, or getting distracted by videos of cats. It also offers managers an anonymous aggregate of the results. Microsoft and a select group of companies will be piloting the platform starting in September.

Openhour records data not only from an individual’s computer, but also mobile devices and wearable devices to get a more detailed view of what people are up to.

The problem Openhour wants to solve, says CEO and founder Mark Hirsch, is that most companies just do not know how well, or inefficiently, their business makes use of time. “We’re going to fundamentally change that for everybody,” he says.

Openhour’s automated software will show a person how much time they put into dealing with e-mails, how often they attend meetings, and how long they perform other tasks for work. Time tracking has been around for a while—as part of human resources software from the likes of Advance Systems and Heartland Payment Systems—and can be used by managers to assess employees’ progress and performance. There are also competing options on the market, including RescueTime, TimeDoctor, and MIT Media Lab spinout Humanyze, which offer features comparable to Openhour.

Hirsch says what sets his company apart is its focus on maintaining the privacy of workers while providing analytics to executives and managers without snooping deeply. “No one likes to be followed,” he says. “No one likes to be monitored. With our tool, they don’t have the ability to monitor at the individual level.”

The platform shows the individual their own detailed information, and presents the data to managers as part of a collective to maintain anonymity, Hirsch says.

“This is to empower the user and maximize their time,” he says. “Companies can see an aggregate. It’s blind data about the entire company.” So managers would know overall how much time was spent in company meetings, on the phone, or offsite—but never on an individual basis.

The team behind Openhour has been trying to find the most efficient use of their time as well. The company was previously known as CreativeWorx and developed TimeTracker, timesheet software for people in the creative world and professionals services, Hirsch says. About six months ago, the company was accepted into Microsoft Ventures’ startup accelerator and soon redefined its strategy. “We changed the name to reflect what we’re doing now,” Hirsch says.

In fact, this is not the first time his company changed gears. A few years ago, CreativeWorx was accepted into the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, bowed out of the program to pursue a business deal, and then joined the NYU-Poly (Polytechnic Institute of New York University) incubator on Varick Street—where the company pivoted from developing a workflow software platform.

Hirsch says Openhour’s current software can help spot indications of potential churn among employees, by identifying trends associated with someone on the cusp of quitting. The software can help address such matters with the individual, he says, rather than point out that employee to managers. The risk of informing the manager, he says, is that management might unintentionally drive an employee to leave faster if they see such data.

Founded in 2011, Openhour has raised about $2 million, Hirsch says, from backers that include Microsoft Ventures, Harvard Business School Alumni Angels New York, and others. Hirsch says his company is looking to raise a Series A funding round, expected to close after the summer.

If everything goes to plan, he wants to use the funding to further Openhour’s marketing and go-to-market efforts. There will also be hires on the technology side, Hirsch says, further expanding Openhour’s staff of 11. “I’d like to double in size by the end of the year,” he says.

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