For budding entrepreneurs there’s a fundamental decision that needs to be made: what is the problem you’re going to solve? For Daarshinie Nadarajan and Kassar Taleb of Shiftsimple, this is what launching their startup was all about.
I met Daarshinie and Kassar at their new office, a startup hub in the Docklands in Melbourne that they’ve now occupied for a couple of weeks. It’s multi-level, open plan building, with plenty of office space and what looks like a film studio set up in the middle. The space buzzes with creativity, and the energy of all those problem solvers. It makes sense that this is where Daarshinie and Kassar have chosen to base themselves while they take the next step, but first, we have to find out how they got here.
“We met at The Wade Institute when we were both doing the Master of Entrepreneurship,” says Daarshinie. “We both had other projects we were working on, but when Kass started telling me about her background, things took off from there.”
Before coming to Wade, Kassar had worked in early education for 18 years, a period that had given her plenty of time to zero in on the issues the industry was facing.
“Staffing was always a problem. In early childhood education there’s a strict staff-child ratio you have to adhere too. You need a staff member for every three children under three, and every 11 children over three. So if someone was absent, I’d need to find a replacement immediately. A lot of the time the only option was to call a casual or a recruitment agency – I would usually end up paying more than twice the normal wages, and get someone who wasn’t delivering the quality educational care our children deserve.”
It was from this need that the idea for Shiftsimple was born, a platform that connects education and care services with casual educators who are able to fill in for last-minute shifts. For Shiftsimple, the mission has become about the quality of the educators they provide, as well as the speed. As such, a great deal of their time and resources so far have gone into developing a strict screening, onboarding, and training program for their educators.
“Our promise is that we send them the best early childhood professionals out there. We’re not just sending them a warm body, we’re sending them someone that knows what they’re doing, so training and development is a big element to the service we provide,” says Daarshinie. “We have an extensive, five-step onboarding process: an application, online testing, a video interview and a group induction. Once that’s completed, they’re on the platform, at which point we expect them to continue upskilling through monthly training.”
It’s a well-designed and highly engineered process, but as is this case with all startups, it’s a process that is evolving with time. At the moment Kassar is largely responsible for group training, however, this is something they are refining – including online training programs and shorter feedback loops in the pipeline.
“We’re telling you how the process is right now. Two weeks ago it was a little bit different, we’ve been tweaking constantly, but always moving in the right direction. Things have been moving quickly, especially with staffing. We’ll find a problem, test it, fix it, and keep going, so it’s been a bit intense” says Kassar.
Now, Shiftsimple is eager to take the next step and grow. They are two weeks into the Startmate accelerator program, a program that selected just 13 candidates from an application pool of 276. “It’s an incredible opportunity, we have access to all of these additional resources, and industry mentors who have helped us along. We do this for twelve weeks, and at the end, there’s a demo day where we get on stage and show what we have done in the last 12 weeks. There are investors there, so it’s a great opportunity to raise interest and capital, and then we travel to San Francisco for two weeks to do it all again. At this stage, we’re eager and ready to grow. We need to start hiring, in fact, right now we’re looking for people in business development and a senior developer. Once that is done we’re expanding into the USA next year where the market is 50 times bigger than here in Australia.”
There is no doubt Melbourne's entrepreneurial community will be watching on, eager to see what comes next.