Capital infusion has St. Paul's ThisClicks aiming for growth

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 2, 2014 - 11:46 AM

St. Paul scheduling software company raised $4M in venture capital to develop products and boost sales.

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From left, Daniel Olfelt, chief technology officer, Garret Voight, vice president of design, and Chad Halvorson, CEO, of ThisClicks in St. Paul.

Photo: JOEL KOYAMA , Star Tribune

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ThisClicks, a mobile technology company in St. Paul, expects its employee scheduling software to clock in rapid growth this year after raising $4 million in venture capital announced in January.

CEO and founder Chad Halvorson said the company will use the fresh capital to expand product development and sales efforts for the scheduling software, called When I Work, which enables companies to schedule and communicate with hourly employees by mobile phones, text messages, e-mail and social media.

More than 3,000 businesses representing more than 250,000 employees now use When I Work, numbers that Halvorson said he expected to triple this year. Customers include the UPS Store, 1-800-GOT-JUNK as well as restaurants, health care providers, retail stores, theme parks and law enforcement agencies. Customers pay about a dollar a month for each employee using the software.

Near-term goals include developing tablet computer versions of When I Work and WageBase, the company’s software for tracking time, attendance and payroll for hourly workers. Only web-based and iPhone and Android versions of both are now available. Developing a sales strategy is another major aim.

“Up until we raised this funding, we really didn’t have any sales team,” Halvorson said. “The sales were all organic and very automated; there was no salesperson.’’

ThisClicks has 12 employees and is adding three over the next few weeks. It took in $1.2 million in revenue last year and is seeing double-digit growth monthly, according to Halvorson.

Investors in ThisClicks’ recent round are Fargo-based Arthur Ventures; Greycroft, with offices in New York and Los Angeles; and e.ventures), with its U.S. location in San Francisco.

Alan Patricof, Greycroft’s founder and managing director, said he learned of ThisClicks from e.ventures, which Halvorson said uses a software tool to identify rapidly growing companies through traffic on websites, search engines and app stores.

‘Bigger opportunity’

Patricof, who spoke to ThisClicks customers, said they “almost consistently [said] there was nothing else competitive in the field, which immediately gets one interested. The feeling is the opportunity is even bigger than we thought it was when we started.”

Halvorson said he had decided to raise capital only after the company, founded in 2010, was profitable and was generating revenue at an annual rate of more than $1 million.

ThisClicks’ employee scheduling software fulfills a vision that Halvorson, 31, first had as a tech-savvy high schooler frustrated at keeping track of his grocery store work schedule.

He registered the When I Work Internet domain name in 1998 and began building a version. He shelved the idea in 2001, concluding that the market wasn’t ready.

After getting his communications degree, Halvorson launched a development and digital marketing consulting firm that in 2005 joined forces with interactive agency Meditech Communications.

Halvorson dusted off his When I Work concept in 2008, a year after the iPhone’s introduction signaled that the way to go to market was through mobile technology. “There was nobody, big companies or smaller companies, in the workforce management market with a mobile strategy,” Halvorson said.

He set out to fill that void with software that lives up to his obsessive focus on user experience. “When they try our product, they quickly figure out how to use it and how to roll it out to their employees,’’ Halvorson said.

When I Work customer Patrick Cattoor, a manager of three Minneapolis-area MyBurger stores, said he now spends less than an hour a week writing and posting schedules. “The mobile aspect of it is absolutely fantastic,” Cattoor said. “Employees love that they don’t have to call in to find out when they’re working.”

The expert says: John Stavig, director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, said Halvorson was one of several Minnesota Cup division winners who had offers for more funding than they needed.

“Chad has done a great job of developing a strong customer base and profitable business model before seeking to raise significant capital to scale his business,” Stavig said. “This is the essence of the lean start-up approach that validates its solution while avoiding unproductive time spent raising capital and excessive dilution.’’

 

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.

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