Start-up of the week: Initiafy

4 May 2015

Pictured: Initiafy co-founders Juilie Currid and Sean Fennell

Our start-up of the week is Initiafy, a young company that creates online training apps to ensure contractors or part-time workers are skilled up quickly in order to be productive from the get-go.

“Initiafy helps companies to manage the initial steps contractors, temp staff and seasonal workers need to take to become productive, safe members of their workforce,” explained Initiafy CEO and co-founder Sean Fennell.

“In a nutshell, new workers arrive ready to hit the ground running.”

The company, which Fennell co-founded with chief operations officer Julie Currid, in recent months raised US$1.5m in seed funding from investors including Delta Partners, ACT Venture Capital and private investor Leslie Buckley.

The market

“We focus on mid-large size companies who use lots of contractors and temp staff. This ranges from retail to construction but includes any company that knows the challenge of inducting large numbers,” Fennell said.

“Geographically we’re operating across the globe now. Our biggest market is the US followed by the UK, Middle East and Africa.”

The founders

Fennell started Initiafy with his business partner Julie Currid in April 2012.

“I have a background in the construction industry and Julie worked in marketing within the manufacturing and retail verticals. Before starting Initiafy we knew we worked well as a team, which has been massively important to the success of the company.

“We both possess an entrepreneurial spirit as well as sales drive. My primary focus is business strategy and management using a lean methodology to scale the business. Julie manages the company technology and marketing using a highly process-driven approach.”

The technology

Before a new starter begins working for a new company they are required to be registered and then initiated on the HR, safety and corporate policies of the company.

They may also be required to submit training records or other documents. Initiafy is an online tool which allows companies to automate this task online.

The platform is white label and customers can create online forms, share documents, build custom training, testing and interactive material. The new-starter ‘self-initiates’ in their own time using any device and arrives for work with the confidence and knowledge to get started straight away.

“Our customers save time, resources and significantly increase corporate compliance,” Fennell explained.

“We operate in a very niche space, which we believe is quite valuable. Our aim is to be the ‘go-to’ provider for onboarding contractors and temporary employees.

“Speed is important to us so we’re focusing strongly on driving revenue. We’re also big on mobile adoption and have seen a significant increase in mobile users over the past 12 months… watch this app space!”

Scaling up fast

Fennell said that Initiafy is growing fast. This year the company will see growth of 400pc to 500pc and it is adding two to three employees every month.

“The US is definitely a big market for us, we opened an office in New York in November 2014 and Q1 saw the US generate more than 50pc of our revenue.

“Like all young companies, getting product market fit is always the biggest hurdle. Now that we have achieved a sweet spot in our positioning, scaling the business is the main goal. That presents different challenges such as hiring the right people and logistics of operating in different territories.”

No start-up is an island

Fennell pointed out that as an island nation Irish entrepreneurs are open-minded and travel a lot, which lends itself to building export-driven businesses.

“Enterprise Ireland play a part in almost all software companies in Ireland. The support levels for early-stage tech companies are fantastic and go way beyond funding. EI have supported us with introductions to key contacts, ongoing learning opportunities and research resources.

“Ireland is not perfect though. There is an opportunity to gain a competitive edge by focusing more on promoting sales as a career as well as greater gender diversity in software start-ups.”

Partnership for progress

Fennell also pointed out that a start-up stands a better chance of success if led by partners rather than individuals.

“Get a partner – teams are much more likely to succeed than individual founders.

“Building software has become so fast and inexpensive that most investors now want to see user traction. Nothing is more important than getting those early stage customers, ideally revenue generating. You need to get over the fear of releasing too early and get your product out there with ‘real life’ users.

“Only a tiny fraction of companies get lucky enough to generate revenue without picking up the phone or knocking on doors. Get out of the building – if you’re an entrepreneur, selling your product is what business is all about.

“Build a relationship with Enterprise Ireland as early as possible, the support they offer is amazing,” Fennell recommends.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years