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Tim Lichti: Remote staff never out of employer’s eye

Tim Lichti has international ambitions for his app. ‘We’d love to be a global company that fixes all things mobile.’

J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail

Tim Lichti stumbled upon the concept of managing mobile workers at an early age.

While studying history at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ont., Mr. Lichti started a lawn-cutting company and felt a need to get a better handle on tracking his workers as they moved from job site to job site. So he went looking for ideas, and in the process developed what would eventually become

"Nothing like that existed on the market at the time, so I thought what it would ideally look like, something that's very powerful and affordable at the same time," the 27-year-old said. "From there, it was just a matter of thinking how you would like this user experience to be and building up from there."

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Guided by the principle that staff are usually the biggest cost for almost any company, Mr. Lichti realized the importance of having an understanding of how those resources are being deployed. developed an app that works with almost any mobile device and provides employers with an almost instant update on where their staff are at any given moment during the workday, and how long they are spending on particular tasks.

"The solution that I came up with was circles of various sizes, so the bigger the circle on the map, the longer the amount of time in the centre of that circle, the smaller the circle the shorter the amount of time," he said. "So in that way you can very quickly see on a map exactly where that person's time was spent."

The app isn't just for lawn maintenance businesses – it can be used by any company that has remote employees. Workers have to clock in and out on the app, so it also allows managers to easily record hours worked for payroll purposes, and the app also allows time- and date-stamped pictures to be uploaded, which aids in time-specific jobs. is also developing software that permits mobile workers to process invoices, estimates and payments on the road.

The Waterloo native points to the rise in mobile use as a precursor to his company's growth – by the end of 2014 mobile traffic will make up 30 per cent of all Internet usage worldwide.

He acknowledges the market is fragmented – he says the top five competitors make up less than 50 per cent of the market – but is looking overseas to expand horizons. Although Mr. Lichti doesn't want to deviate from the company's main focus, which is firmly rooted in North America, the app is being developed into Spanish and Mandarin language versions.

"The mobile work force management market is expected to grow 550 per cent in North America alone in the next five years," he said, having just returned from a four-month spell in Washington, where his company received some venture capital investment from an accelerator centre. "This figure is likely much higher in emerging markets, where there is currently a low smartphone penetration."

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With this in mind, Mr. Lichti will soon jet off to South America, where he is taking part in Start-Up Chile.

"Long term we definitely have international ambitions," he said. "We'd love to be a global company that fixes all things mobile."

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the amount that the mobile work force management market is expected to grow in the next five years.

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