Philippine-based software company TimeFree Innovations believes in maximising time. Its main product TimeFree, an SMS-based virtual queueing solution was born in 2009, when the founders were still college students.
The solution also generates virtual reports and analytics, which are used to improve service delivery and keep track of statistics. Essentially, an SMS will be sent to customers when their turn to be served is near.
It all started when Philip Adrian Atilano, the CEO of the company, and his friends were annoyed with having to wait indefinitely when paying for their tuition fees in school. One of them then came up with the idea of creating a system that will notify those in line when their turn is near.
Atilano tells e27, “That way we can do other things like study in the library or do some homework instead of waiting in a queue. Students during that time would go to school as early as 6 AM to queue up and most have had to spend the entire day waiting for their turn. The number of students in the virtual queue could go up to 700 students with only a handful of counters to serve them.”
Together with Ken Marvin Wee, Sharief Kayer Alsree and Joselle Macrohon, Atilano and his co-founders wore multiple hats and worked on different parts of the project. He also adds that they have recently hired a software engineer, and are looking to recruit a few more employees in the coming months.
In the beginning, all of the co-founders had regular day jobs. This meant that they could only spend nights and weekends toiling away on TimeFree. However, earlier this year, the team was able to secure seed funding of US$12,500.
Later, they participated in the IdeaSpace National Competition and won. Part of the prize, which came along with winning the competition was an investment of US$12,500. He says, “So in less than two months, since we put up our company, we got US$25,000 in funding.”
Atilano recounts that back in those days, when the company was still bootstrapped, the team would spend weeks working more than 18 hours a day. Now all of them have been converted into full-time staff.
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Financially, everything looks optimistic. In less than two months of being incubated in IdeaSpace, Atilano claims, they have generated more than US$100,000 in revenue. He also notes that the team is looking to secure another deal, which could potentially triple their initial revenue.
With a presence in the Philippines, TimeFree Innovations has scheduled system deployments in Hong Kong early next year. By targeting enterprises with high traffic of daily face-to-face transactions, Atilano believes that the SMS-based queue system will improve customer experience.
He says, “However, we don’t want (to) settle for just a pilot run. We want to deploy our product in at least 50 sites in Hong Kong and Singapore next year, and another 50 sites in the Philippines.”
Of course, with ambition comes daunting challenges. He shares that at the moment, the startup is facing two primary challenges. Firstly, there is a lack of a sales team and tech support staff. That can be resolved by increasing efforts to recruit and hire.
However, the second challenge might seem like a tougher issue. In order to push for a regional entry, TimeFree Innovations will be requiring some investments from venture capitalists.
Atilano says, “Unfortunately, getting a sizeable funding in the Philippines is rare. This is a very big challenge for us as the amount we are looking to raise in our angel round is considered a big amount for startups in the country. But we firmly believe that we can pull this off.”
He also adds that the team must generate more revenues and prove that TimeFree Innovations is indeed a business worth investing into. While TimeFree Innovations might be saving time for consumers, Atilano is saving money with Microsoft BizSpark*. The free Microsoft software, which came along with the BizSpark programme helped them minimise costs by thousands of dollars.
He says, “When you are a startup, getting free Microsoft software is a very big advantage since you can use your funds for other important things.”
He is also not one to shy away from talking about competitors. “Some have been in the business way longer than we are,” says Atilano. “The difference lies in how well the backend of the application is designed and implemented. We are confident with ours and ultimately, we believe this is what gives us a competitive advantage.”