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When Subscribe-HR founders Mathew French and Alex Agafonov first got their Sydney-based company off the ground back in 2007, they used to meet at cafe chain Gloria Jeans, resulting in the development effort — appropriately enough — being code-named “Coffee Bean”.
Today, Subscribe-HR has six staff, its own offices, a growing customer base and has recently closed a $500,000 angel funding round. But the “Coffee Bean” tradition persists. The company’s staff still refer to any new development project as “Coffee Bean Development”, which French says internally signifies the importance of the effort, and also as a reminder of the company’s roots.
Subscribe-HR’s service — broadly, human resources systems based on a software as a service (SAAS) model — or, as French describes it, “workforce management solutions without the headache” — came out of the combination of his frustration with the complexity, expense and lack of flexibility that he believed existed in the Australian market for HR and payroll solutions, and Agafonov’s technical ability.
French wanted to follow what global vendor Salesforce.com was doing in the customer relationship management space and build a SAAS solution in the HR and recruitment space. It would need to be flexible enough to provide external HR service proivders with a system that they could also use to service their customers and their customers’ employees.
The pair had met through a mutual business contact years go. “After broaching the idea with him, it was evident that Alex was hooked, and so began the development of the system,” remembers French.
French had previously held sales and marketing positions with a number of other software firms — Microsoft, Irish CRM provider eWare, and Snowdrop Systems, another HR and payroll specialist. It was the purchase of Snowdrop by Sage that gave French the impetus to kickstart Subscribe-HR. Agafonov, by comparison, had previously held development and systems architect roles with companies like SWS and MyHome.com.au.
Core to the company’s services is the idea that many managers who are in charge of the administration side of having staff are often not just dedicated HR staff. “They are general managers, CEOs, operations managers, even business owners,” says French.
But no matter what the role, all such staff need cost-effective solutions that have a minimal impact on their business, while still being powerful enough to handle their requirements. “Providing busy people managers with more time to do the things they need to do, and enjoy, was key to the model,” says French. Subscribe-HR also wanted to be flexible enough to allow its future users to be able to help drive the development of its product.
Subscribe-HR has a subscription-based revenue model, meaning customers pay a monthly, pay as you go, subscription fee. Customers can take 6, 12 and 24 month contracts, or even try the system free for 30 days. It plans to grow rapidly and organically.
But we do wonder if its founders still go out for Gloria Jeans.