Chad Halvorson was bagging groceries at SuperValu when he first noticed the problem.
“My manager always put together a work schedule, and my coworkers and I had to go in the store to check the schedule to see when we’d work,” he said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be so much easier if he could post this on a web page?”
A simple concept, really, but one that had never been done, Halvorson realized. He registered WhenIWork.com in 1998, expecting it would catch on.
But, it didn’t. Not at first.
“The market wasn’t ready for what I was proposing,” Halvorson said. “The whole idea of using the Internet wasn’t on the tips of everybody’s tongues.”
So, in 2001, When I Work was put on hold. Halvorson went on to earn a visual and marketing communications major at Brown University and taught himself software development. He and his friends started an agency called MediTech. It took nearly 10 years before he picked When I Work up off the shelf again in 2008, dusting off an idea and a domain name created in his bag boy years.
“I looked at the market and the things that were missing had been fixed,” he said. “The idea of using the Internet for business was more commonplace. Mobile was starting to get its first wave of traction.”
It was time.
When I Work …Works
Halvorson began building the software, aiming to make it extremely simple and leading with mobile. There was competition, he said, but “it was all really complicated.”
By 2010, Halvorson and his team had created a simple, scheduling platform for the hourly workforce. They provided an online time clock, with free scheduling apps and time clock apps.
This time, the market received it readily.
When I Work now caters to over 12,000 customers, with over half a million users/employees using their apps, Halvorson said.
“Our team has been growing at 300% every year, for the past 3 years,” Halvorson said. “It’s been fantastic.”
Their customers vary from restaurants and theme parks to police departments and dog-walking businesses, Halvorson said. They come from 40,000 different locations, within 50 different countries.
“But what they all have in common is they all have hourly employees, and they’re all between 5 and 500 employees,” Halvorson said. “We focus pretty narrowly on the small business market and the mid-size business market. For instance, McDonalds isn’t a customer, and we will never pursue them as a customer.”
Over the past 5 years, When I Work has raised $9 million in venture capital through three venture capital firms: Arthur Ventures in Fargo, Great Cross Partners in New York City, and Eventures in San Francisco.
“We’ve received funding from across the country,” Halvorson said, adding that they are not funding right now and have a strong plan for the upcoming year.
What It Takes
As a native of Thief River Falls, Halvorson feels particularly tied to the Midwest and proud to be growing a company in St. Paul. More than that, he sees a competitive advantage to being an entrepreneur in this region as opposed to Silicon Valley.
“The west coast is saturated with startups and the talent is being sucked up,” he said. “There’s a lot more competition to attract and keep talent for the long term. We in the Midwest have an edge on being able to attract and retain talent long term.”
As an entrepreneur, Halvorson calls on two key characteristics that have contributed to his success.
“Patience and effort,” he said. “It takes an obnoxious amount of effort and an obnoxious amount of patience to move the ball forward.”
That said, whatever is driving that patience and effort must be sustainable, he said.
“If what’s driving you is something that is fleeting, it’s not going to last. You have to find something that will last to keep you going.”
Now, what keeps When I Work dutifully moving forward with Halvorson at the helm, is a simple mantra. It’s called “Get one more customer.”
“Doesn’t matter if your favorite role model likes it, or your mom likes what your doing,” he said. “The only thing that matters is that your customer recognizes that your product is valuable. Just focus on getting one more customer.”
Come see Chad Halvorson share the When I Work story this Wednesday, October 7, 2015, at 1 Million Cups! Join us at 9:15 AM at the Stage at Island Park.
Photos courtesy of When I Work.