As a teen, Jordan Boesch made some extra cash in the same way high school students have for generations—by getting a job behind the counter at a fast-food joint. Working as a sandwich maker at a Regina Quiznos franchise owned by his father, Boesch saw how frustrating and time-consuming the simple task of scheduling employees could be. So the then 17-year-old began to spend his spare time learning to code, in the hopes of building a new scheduling system for the restaurant. “I loved building things and solving problems,” he recalls.
The rudimentary system Boesch built for his dad proved to be great prep for the now 29-year-old’s growing startup, 7shifts. The Saskatoon-based company provides employee-scheduling software for restaurants. More than 2,000 have signed up so far. In May, 7shifts raised $1.2 million in seed financing, led by top-tier Toronto VC Relay Ventures. Boesch is looking to add new features and functions to the platform, like point-of-sale integration and activity-based forecasting, which would automatically build schedules based on sales data.
The startup is now in expansion mode, with revenue up by 300% year-over-year. Last summer, Boesch moved 7shifts from Regina to Saskatoon, where he finds it easier to hire coding talent, thanks to the University of Saskatchewan’s computer science program. To accommodate the 14 employees in Saskatoon—three more work from Toronto—the company has moved offices four times in the past year. “We’re getting smarter about how big our office needs to be,” Boesch says.
For years, 7shifts was a side project for its founder: Boesch tinkered on it while earning a multimedia development diploma from Ottawa’s Algonquin College and then working for a web development company in Saskatchewan. By 2013, the product had enough paying customers, so Boesch quit his job. A stint at California tech accelerator Boost VC helped Boesch refine his focus. He dropped two-thirds of his existing client base to serve the restaurant industry exclusively.
Investors often wonder where Saskatoon is, and Boesch admits there are challenges to working outside a startup hub like Silicon Valley or Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. “We don’t have the entrepreneurs who have done this 10 times over [like] they have in bigger cities,” Boesch says. However, being an outlier does have its advantages. While catered Friday lunches and a fridge stocked with snacks and booze may be basic perks for startups in established technology hubs, they’re rare in Saskatoon. “It works out really well in terms of hiring,” says Boesch.
Boesch believes the region’s startup ecosystem will come in time. “I think Saskatchewan and the Prairies are ripe for some great technology companies,” he says. When they do arrive, they’ll have an inspiring success story to look up to in 7shifts and its young founder.