Local tech in­no­va­tor lands $4.5M from U.S. in­vestor

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - ALEX MacPHER­SON amacpher­son@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/macpher­sona

Jor­dan Boesch sits in a glassed-in of­fice on the sec­ond floor of his com­pany’s down­town Saska­toon head­quar­ters, talk­ing hap­pily about a big de­posit in the firm’s bank ac­count.

7Shifts Inc. is cel­e­brat­ing the ar­rival of $4.5 mil­lion Boesch be­lieves are the first to flow to a local tech­nol­ogy firm from an in­sti­tu­tional in­vestor based in Sil­i­con Val­ley. The in­vest­ment from the Bay Area seed fund Tan­dem Cap­i­tal and other firms is ex­pected to help 7Shifts — which makes an em­ployee sched­ul­ing app used by around 4,000 restau­rants world­wide — hire yet more peo­ple to work in Saska­toon.

“As you take on money, the goal is to grow a little more ag­gres­sively,” 7Shifts’ founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive said.

“The fact is, be­tween 80 and 90 per cent of restau­rants still use paper, are without tech­nol­ogy and es­pe­cially if you’re a rapidly-grow­ing quick ser­vice restau­rant you’re go­ing to be look­ing for so­lu­tions.”

The com­pany does not dis­close its fi­nances, but Boesch said rev­enues have tripled over the last year, and that its app is used to sched­ule around two mil­lion restau­rant worker shifts each month — up 100 per cent from six months ago.

With $4.5 mil­lion in its ac­count, he said 7Shifts can con­tinue hir­ing around six peo­ple per month, so it’s poised to triple in size over the next year.

7Shifts is far from the only local tech­nol­ogy firm at­tract­ing cap­i­tal.

Saska­toon’s tech sec­tor has gen­er­ated a se­ries of re­cent in­vest­ments, among them the ac­qui­si­tions of SkipTheDishes Restau­rant Ser­vices Inc. ($200 mil­lion), In­ter­na­tional Road Dy­nam­ics Inc. ($63.5 mil­lion) and Noodle­cake Stu­dios Inc. ($6.3 mil­lion).

While those fig­ures are small com­pared to the money that changes hands in min­ing, oil and gas and agri­cul­ture, there’s no ques­tion the tech sec­tor’s growth has been “very dra­matic,” says Saskatchewan Polytech­nic se­nior re­search as­so­ciate Terry Peck­ham.

That led a new or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing more than 30 Saskatchewan-based tech­nol­ogy firms to be­gin lob­by­ing the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to ex­pand their com­puter sci­ence pro­grams, which it says are not ca­pa­ble of turning out as many em­ploy­ees as the bur­geon­ing sec­tor needs.

The firms that make up SaskTech em­ploy about 1,500 peo­ple and have spent the last sev­eral months try­ing to fill about 200 va­cant po­si­tions, said Aaron Gen­est, who works for the com­puter chip de­vel­oper Solido De­sign Au­to­ma­tion Inc. and speaks for the group.

“Ba­si­cally, ev­ery time we fill one, an­other opens up, so we could be grow­ing as an in­dus­try much, much faster if we had ac­cess to a larger pool of em­ploy­ees,” he said.

Gen­est ac­knowl­edged the prov­ince’s uni­ver­si­ties are strug­gling to do more with less, but said there is a strong eco­nomic ar­gu­ment for fund­ing pro­grams that guar­an­tee jobs in an in­dus­try un­cou­pled from the nat­u­ral re­source cy­cle.

“The more you in­vest in a suc­cess­ful pro­gram, if the re­turn is there, the higher your re­turn.”

Boesch said he’s op­ti­mistic that a trickle of tal­ented developers mov­ing to Saska­toon from other parts of the coun­try will turn into a flood — which would have been un­think­able just a few years ago.

“It’s al­ready hap­pen­ing (and) it means that we can do it here.”

LIAM RICHARDS

Jor­dan Boesch, CEO of 7Shifts, a com­pany that makes restau­rant sched­ul­ing soft­ware, says it has re­ceived $4.5 mil­lion from in­vestors.

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