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Web Startup Helps Business Owners Manage Employees

PayrollHero streamlines the business of tracking employee schedules, for both management and workers, all in the cloud.
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What It Is
PayrollHero streamlines the business of tracking employee time, attendance, schedules and location, for both management and workers, all in the cloud. To use it, employees download the PayrollHero app to their smartphones (iOS only; Android coming soon) or to a computer outfitted with a webcam. When they start or finish work, they open the app, which logs into their company's account, then take a photo of themselves to check in or out.

The platform is a step up from self-reporting on a time sheet, and its versatility extends to the management of remote contract workers who bill on an hourly basis. Further, employers can use it in lieu of a time clock at a shop or restaurant to thwart time-card fraud; PayrollHero's facial-recognition software prevents buddy punchers and ghost employees from clocking in. (This happens more often than you might think at SMBs that employ hourly workers.)

How It Started
Serial entrepreneurs Stephen Jagger and Michael Stephenson began collaborating in 2000 in Vancouver, British Columbia, where they launched real-estate software company Ubertor, but later set their sights on the Philippines. "We took a trip there, initially with the idea of finding a customer-service solution for Ubertor," Jagger says, "but upon arrival, we decided we could get into the outsourcing business, and that Ubertor would be our first client. We set up as a Philippine corporation and began leasing labor back into North America.

"At the office in the Philippines, Mike was trying to find a time/attendance and payroll solution for our 73 employees," he adds. "He could not find one that suited our needs. So Mike proposed building our own."

That became PayrollHero, which the partners demonstrated in late 2011 to a few members of the Philippine Entrepreneurs' Organization. The enthusiastic response led them to launch the product in beta last year in Southeast Asia. Today, PayrollHero has offices in Manila and Whistler, British Columbia.

Why It Took Off
The two friends learned quickly that customization was key to the app's success. "Our biggest headache has to do with automating the unique policies of each company and region," Stephenson says.

"Even if two customers are in the same business, they will do things differently," Jagger adds.

After coming out of free beta at the end of 2012, PayrollHero had two dozen paying companies onboard, all in Southeast Asia, with a few thousand employees tracked. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the Philippines, which operates 54 stores there, is one of the biggest customers. But PayrollHero is expanding aggressively: Jagger says the company has beta customers in Canada, the U.S., Indonesia, India, Singapore and Cambodia.

The Business Case
The company charges on a scalable basis that starts at $3.50 per month per worker for companies with fewer than 500 employees. The partners expect to be profitable by the end of this year.

What's Next
Going forward, Jagger points to continued expansion in the Philippines and a more concerted push in Indonesia. His team is also working on adding more tools and insights to the site's analytics, which will allow managers to better track employee performance.