Bootstrapping can be really hard for some early stage startups, but Israeli startup Enigmai, makes it seem easy. Started in 2009, Enigmai built and deployed a simplified workforce management SasS tool that enables SMBs and large companies to better manage their human resources.
The problem is widespread: creating a roster of shifts that takes into account people’s availability, hourly rates, holidays etc, can take hours from the shift manager in the business, unless the company has very expensive client software in place. Enigmai’s flagship product, Enigmai Business Suite (EBS) is a web based application generically designed for for dynamic working environments that need to manage many employees such as hospitals, restaurants, hotels, schools and manufacturing companies. Great idea, but not a simple task if you take into account the variety of factors that need to be taken into account when organizing a schedule.
VC Cafe interviewed Engimai’s founder and CEO Adir Iakya to learn more about what it takes to bootstrap a SaaS business and how Enigmai is planning to go to market.
VC Cafe: Hi Adir, can you tell us a little about your experience before Enigmai?
Adir: I have been in the high tech industry for about ten years. Sys admin management. Unix system administrator, etc. I also opened the Israeli branch for Adbrite (a US based ad agency) and managed the technical team, Comverse for a few years.
VC Cafe: How was Enigmai born?
Adir: I read a few articles about the shift management software. A friend made who wrote software for a nursing home and thought it would be a good idea to create shift management software, but knew it was very complicated. It took us a year to nail the idea. We got Ofir [Ofir Herzas, VP R&D], a technical guy and started implementing. After a few months we had something and it seemed really good. We gave it to a small retail store to use it. It was fine but not great. We continued to develop, and after a year it became a beta product.
VC Cafe: What was you goal with the company when you started?
Adir: The goal was to change shift management completely. We have a huge roadmap and we are very different than all the others. We can save our customers time and money.
VC Cafe: I’m sure it wasn’t easy to start from scratch with no funding or clients. What were the main obstacles in the beginning?
Adir: A huge problem was to find people that would do it with me. It took me half a year to find Ophir and Haim [Haim Pekel, sales and marketing]. Because you ask people to quit their jobs and leave the security of a salary. It then took us a year and a half to get to a live product. We’ve been running two and a half years and it’s time to get to the international market.
VC Cafe: have you raised funding or looking to raise?
Adir: We are still a bootstrapped company. Our beta process was in Israel and we’ve approached VCs only in Israel.
VC Cafe: What’s your ideal customer/target market and who are you working with today?
Adir: We designed our system to be generic. Almost every type of customer can use it: hotels, hospitals, retail stores or chains. In the beginning, we only thought about retsaurants and customer support companies, but we noticed that only medium and large restaurants/call centers need this (from 50 employees and up). We also noticed that there’s additional complexity: some people can work in certain days, some shifts require a minimum nuber of resources and many other constraints.
Today, we are live with customer support companies, several retail stores and restaurants and even one hospital.
VC Cafe: What feedback did you get from the customers that are live so far?
Adir: Many said the system looks great and the user experience is really good. It’s very fast to get the system adopted in the organization.
They are also very happy with the speed. We [Enigmai] can make a roster in 5 seconds for 100 employees. You can change the setups very easily. We save lots of time. Some places went from taking several hours on a manager to make prepare the weekly schedule to just a few minutes.
VC Cafe: Let’s talk about revenue. How much do you charge?
Adir: We are currently not charging, to introduce ourselves. From $99 probably.
VC Cafe: How to you manage new customer acquisition/sales?
Adir: Currently, we acquire customers through face to face meetings and organically through the site. As you can imagine, Israeli customers pretty demanding, which makes face to face customers a hard channel, but one we can learn a lot from. Our second acquisition channel is the Internet where we have seen significant traction from south America – about 70%. We are starting to think about business partnerships and affiliates. We are thinking about making our platform free to small businesses and support it with advertising (we can get it targeted).
VC Cafe: Do you a plan for growth or is it mainly opportunistic?
Adir: The shift management market is a new and developing market. There are different players like schools, hotels, restaurants, customer support – we will make more targeted effort for hotels and restaurants. To manage a hospital is much more complicated for example, and requires more customer service.
VC Cafe: What about competition, how are you different or better?
Adir: The competition is very young. We started with medium sized companies. Competitors charge something approximately $2000-$3000 for what we deliver for free at the moment. We are different by offering more flexibility on our platform. For example, the business can define how much money it wants to spend monthly and weekly and what % of rate management you want. Rather than letting people go to make cuts, you can save money and jobs! Also. our rule system is the best: important employees, weekly and monthly rules (Danny can’t work on Tuesdays afternoon, etc)
VC Cafe: Many Israeli startups find themselves starting in Israel and later relocating. Are you planning a move to the US?
Adir: Yes I think so. We need to relocate to the US. Financial reasons (israel has really expensive taxes). If you want to sell to US companies you need to be in the US. You need to control.
VC Cafe: What are the trends that you see in SaaS?
Adir: There’s a lot of buzz about cloud computing. Today, you don’t need to buy a server, you have the connectivity. It gives the ability to anyone to do whatever they want, with very good conditions. It’s getting cheaper and cheaper. Also, big companies used to want to keep their data in-house. After Salesforce came in, even big companies took their most valuable data outside.
VC Cafe: Finally, what lessons learned can you share with fellow entrepreneurs?
Adir: Any startup company should get to test its product as fast as possible. We were busy thinking we want to be the best. If you have something working try to sell it – get it to the market.
Also, define your market. Your customers face to face would ask you for everything. Try to get impression for different markets to understand where you fit best.
It is great seeing how far a company can get without traditional VC funding by sticking to the core: building the team, launching the beta and speaking to customers. With several clients on board and positive customer feedback, Enigmai is on its way.