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Startup Showcase: RotaGeek

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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RotaGeek CEO and co-founder Chris McCullough talks about RotaGeek’s smart rota software and what government can do to help startups

Each week we profile a tech startup, find out more about their business and what its plans are for the future. This week, we spoke to Chris McCullough, co-founder of RotaGeek

What is your company and what do you do?

RotaGeek enables employers and employees to create better staff rotas. In our most simple form, we allow large businesses to move away from organising staff shifts on paper and spreadsheets and schedule on a digital platform. Once on our platform, we can start making schedules better for both business and staff. For example, we can take data feeds of demand, staff preferences about when they would prefer to work, then automatically create an optimal rota.

This allows businesses to ensure that they have the right staff in the right place at the right time, but also allows staff to have more control over their work life balance – which is really important with the demands on families today

Tell us a bit about your career to date

Chris McCullough RotaGeekI trained as a doctor and worked for 16 years in the NHS, in a career spanning cancer research, pathology, kidney medicine and most recently emergency medicine in a Major Trauma Centre in London.

I had a history of trying to change the NHS, which is never a great position to be in. I think the NHS is great, and at a high level very efficient, but day-to-day there is plenty that we can improve upon. From this desire to improve working in the NHS for staff and to the benefit of patients, we developed RotaGeek with the aim of providing better staffing more flexibly for A&E departments.

What services or products do you offer and how will businesses and/or consumers benefit?

We offer cloud-hosted staff scheduling software that allows business owners and managers to more effectively schedule staff and allows staff to better manage their work-life balance.

For example, staff can express a preference about when they want to work, the business owner sets predicted customer demand, and we match the two. Ultimately this benefits customers, who are served by the correct number of staff, who are more engaged and motivated because they have great input into and ownership of their schedule.

We also have a very smart shift swaps algorithm that allows staff to swap shifts with colleagues. Managers no longer need to waste time trying to fill gaps at short notice when they can notify staff of available shifts in one click.

Say one thing your company does that no one else can do

We solve very specific and complex scheduling for very large organisations fast. We are delivering enterprise workforce management software and support at self-service speeds.

We can have a new enterprise client up and running in 48 hours. And we are looking to make this even faster. We leverage the latest technology that allows us to out manoeuvre the established competition.

Where is the company based and why?

We have offices in London and Melbourne. It allows us to ‘follow the sun’ and have 24-7 technical and customer support cover. This in turn allows us to provide hyper-resilient support to large clients.

How big is your company and what are your technology demands?

RotaGeek 2It depends what you mean by how big. We have a team of 14 and are likely to be 20 by Q3 and 25-30 by Q4. However, in terms of customer size, we punch well above our weight. We schedule for the O2 retail stores and are currently rolling out with clients 5-10 times the size and in early talks with clients that are up to 100-fold bigger.

Where do you see your company in five years?

We are targeting a very specific niche, high-performance, data-driven optimised scheduling for international enterprise businesses. In five years I’d expect us to dominate this space, and probably be an acquisition target before then.

How can the UK government help startups in the UK and will Brexit have any impact?

There are several things I’d like to see UK government do to support start-ups.

Firstly, government should mandate public sector services to engage with startups and SMEs. We have seen a huge rise in corporates engaging with and leveraging start-ups to confer huge business benefits and competitive advantages. For example, RotaGeek saved O2 £2 million in year one delivering a 20-fold ROI. Not bad for a company which then consisted of five staff. Image the saving we could deliver for the NHS or public sector organisations. The challenge is navigating the bureaucracy and overcoming the perception of risk.

On a very personal level, the government need to look at how entrepreneurs can access mortgages. I am 42 with a wife and young family. We have just sold our flat in London and moved south. But I cannot now get a mortgage.

All of my team, who are on the RotaGeek payroll, are able to apply for a mortgage.  Because I am a shareholder and director, I am deemed to be self-employed despite receiving a salary from the company. Because we are scaling fast, we have raised investment. We are revenue generating but not yet, profit making. So not only am I refused a mortgage, but I am deemed to be dependent on my wife (in the eyes of the bank) despite taking home a pay check. This needs to be addressed if we want to support the growth in innovation and technology that we have seen in the UK.

RotaGeek 3The EIS scheme for investors is a great way to encourage inward investment to fund growing early-stage businesses. The rules around it are fairly strict. One practical change I’d like to see it the including of convertible loans notes on the EIS scheme. this would allow start-ups to quickly access capital as they scale fast, without necessitating a formal equity round.

With regards to Brexit, in the longer-term, I think it will have little impact. Like most of my entrepreneur colleagues, I see migration as a good thing for the UK. I want to build the best team, and will recruit from anywhere to make this happen. The risk in the short term is that investors and workers will likely avoid the UK until there is some certainly about the Brexit process and the financial stability of the UK. My expectation is that this uncertainly will pass, or at least decrease, into 2017.

Which tech company do you admire and why?

It’s hard not to be astounded by the breath-taking rise of Uber. They have completely disrupted the taxi market globally and have steamrollered any competition. They have made the mundane (booking a taxi) cool and engaging. The recent move into food deliver (UberEats) suggests that they have no intention of slowing their incredible growth.

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