Local tech innovator lands $4.5M from U.S. investor
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.”
Jordan Boesch, CEO of 7Shifts, a company that makes restaurant scheduling software, says it has received $4.5 million from investors.