Shiftboard Emerges From Eight-Year Stealth, Sees ‘Triple Digit’ Growth in Online Scheduling
Shiftboard has managed to stay under the radar for quite some time, despite a slew of big name clients, but that is starting to change.
The Seattle-based scheduling and dynamic workforce management software developer, founded in 2002, has started to come out of stealth mode, so I figured it was time to sit down with CEO Rob Eleveld to hear the story. Turns out that Shiftboard really got going with one prominent local customer back in 2005—the Seattle International Film Festival, which practically runs on volunteer efforts, was the first organization to use Shiftboard’s software-as-a-service platform to manage its complicated employee and volunteer scheduling. Five years later, the company now has more than 500 customers around the world, including nonprofits, to academic institutions, to government agencies, and small to large companies.
Through the Shiftboard system, organizations can easily manage their employee and/or volunteer databases—whether they range from 25 to 10,000 people—oversee shift availability and scheduling, initiate online recruitment campaigns, communicate with employee and volunteer groups online and through mobile devices, and view coverage and schedule reports in real time.
While online, mobile scheduling and workforce management may not sound like the most exciting software being developed out there, Eleveld says the market is booming, largely because of growth on the Internet. Online, self-service scheduling could only be useful to companies if at least 80 percent of its employees had adequate access to use this service, according to Eleveld, a mark that has only recently been met. And as broadband access and email have become more readily available to people across all socioeconomic climates, the market has evolved.
“Companies are scheduling in almost every time zone worldwide through Shiftboard,” Eleveld says.
Though the company has stayed outside of the spotlight, its clients certainly haven’t. Its customer pool boasts more than a few big names, including the American Red Cross, National Public Radio, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and Harvard University are just a few of the national names using Shiftboard services. Here in the Northwest, Shiftboard’s services are used at the City of Mercer Island, KEXP 90.3 FM, Centerplate at Safeco Field, the Puget Sound Blood Center, Bumbershoot, Teatro Zinzanni, and the Family 4th at Lake Union, to name a few. I have even used the Shiftboard system without realizing it (back in college I used to stack up summer volunteer hours with One Reel, the local nonprofit arts and events production organization behind Bumbershoot and other local events).
Shiftboard isn’t the only company in the Web-based scheduling space. Tustin, CA-based WhenToWork also offers online employee scheduling software, as does Austin, TX-based HotSchedules, though the latter focuses on the restaurant industry. Montreal-based Tungle offers a similar online calendar scheduling application, but for the consumer market, rather than for businesses. What sets Shiftboard apart, Eleveld says, is that the system is compatible with a number of mobile and online systems, is highly customizable to meet the needs of organizations and businesses across a variety of markets, and works from the workforce back to the organization, rather than the other way around.
“The vast majority [of competitors] are desktop systems directed at niche markets,” he says. And while most systems give the employee capability to assign schedules top-down online, Shiftboard is “direct to the workforce,” building from the employee or volunteer in. The employee or volunteer selects their schedule, and that information is sent back to the organization. The system is unique in that it “lets folks decide when they want to work and volunteer,” Eleveld says.
Company founder and chief product and technology officer Bryan Lhuillier says the company kept a low profile in its early days but is ready to be more transparent now that it is primed to expand internationally.
To date Shiftboard hasn’t raised much venture capital, Lhuillier says (according to regulatory filings, the company brought in $460,000 in equity in May 2009, and another $750,000 this last April). But they haven’t seemed to need it either.
At a time when many companies “were forced to streamline”—faced with cutting costs, or laying off employees—Lhuillier says Shiftboard is doing well. He couldn’t comment on the specifics of the companies financials, but did say that it has seen triple digit growth rates, both in customers and finances, over the last two years.
“Many times we think the economy has actually been good for us,” he says, noting, with a laugh, that “The jury’s still out…the investor community is much more gun shy than it was a few years back.”
Nevertheless, Eleveld says Shiftboard has more than enough work to keep the around 25-person staff (split between half full time and half contract/part time) busy. This fall the company plans to roll out a “big push” in its application programming interface (API) offering, including making a product available on the Google App exchange, and offering the Shiftboard software as a white label product so that customers can package it under their own brand. The company is also looking to expand its brand through partnerships, and is actively hiring in all areas to meet growth demands.
“One of the big focuses here is we don’t want to do everything ourselves,” he says. “We want to partner and build out a partner ecosystem of folks who are incented to sell Shiftboard.”