This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.
Many businesses ask their staff to carry out complex chains of tasks. Zaptic is a Manchester-based startup that helps them streamline their workflows, make sure everyone is on-task, and even help staff learn new ways of working.
It’s all about ‘intelligent workflows.’ Whether you’re doing a safety check at a nuclear power station or servicing a boiler, there’s a process you have to follow. Zaptic provides step-by-step logic flows to make sure the work is carried out correctly.
As the startup’s CEO Richard Milnes says, this not only creates an audit trail to make sure work has been done, but can help train new staff. “We target anywhere with a desk-less workforce that does repetitive tasks, like factory maintenance and sales.”
Zaptic started life a couple of years ago under the name Juliand Digital, but that sounded too much like an agency. They tried calling their product Hive, but British Gas had tied up the brand awareness there. At the time it targeted retail and supply chains, but “it was a product nobody asked for and nobody wanted,” says Milnes.
A quick pivot later and the product had its current focus. After a couple of small early raises, the company decided to do a larger round, and raised a “seven-figure” sum from investors Nicholas Berggruen (AKA ‘the homeless billionaire’), Hank Vigil, and Charlie Songhurst.
Milnes says the company has secured some well-known users including McVities, Red Bull, and Danone. Now a team of 15, Zaptic is building out its product further and securing additional clients. When it comes to generating new business, 80 percent of the company’s time is focused on the retail sector. However, Milnes says that it can take 18 months to close a deal in that slow-moving industry. So, the company spend the other 20 percent of its time developing a client base in sectors with faster sales cycles.
Milnes says that while there are sector-specific rivals to Zaptic, nothing on the market has the flexibility and adaptability of its product. He sees it as “Microsoft Excel for the frontline.” Just as Excel is the world’s standard spreadsheet app, he wants Zaptic to become “the de facto app for frontline staff process management.”
“It helps with the ‘liquid workforce’ trend, too. It’s easy to get people to do tasks that aren’t in their normal job description, as it’s all laid out for them.”
Having seen Manchester’s startup scene evolve in recent years, Milnes is positive about where it is right now. “It’s better than it was before. Recruiting enough talent is still the big problem. And I’m still going to London six or seven times a month (to see clients), but Manchester is cheaper.”
While he’s a big advocate for the city, Milnes says entrepreneurs tend to lack the level of ambition he’s seen in some other cities. Still, he believes in the Mancunian work ethic. “Manchester people execute their ideas more than in Silicon Valley. There’s more talk there,” he says.
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