We talked to Tim Bos of ShareRing Ltd about digital identity control, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tim Bos: It’s been a bit of a struggle being cooped up during the lockdowns. Although the team and I are used to working remotely, it’s very draining and stressful for everyone. I enjoy speaking with, working with, and meeting our partners and employees in person. A lot more gets done that way, collaborating at a distance just isn’t as efficient or enjoyable. This also happens to be during a crucial period for ShareRing as we gear up for our product launches, so it adds a level of difficulty I can’t say I’m fond of, but we’re getting through it. My family would probably tell you I’m working a bit too much, but they’re otherwise safe and healthy, thank you for asking.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ShareRing.
Tim Bos: My background back into the nineties has always been focused around technology. I worked for a video game company that was bought out by Atari, called Melbourne House in 1994. I moved into consulting as a consultant to Evernote, which is a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture.
I wrote one of Microsoft’s operations manuals, which is a global offering they had. I worked for an investment bank doing strategy for a while. My first company that I started was actually 1996; I moonlighted while I was working full-time doing network installs and IT services for a bunch of small businesses, I gave that away a couple of years later.
I quit my work in 2004 to start my own company with a partner who invested in it, which was focused on GPS tracking. We started a telematics business, and I sold that in 2008, then we licensed the technology to an Australian company which I sold in 2010. I was also introduced to Bitcoin in about 2010 and mined a bit on my home computer…
I was really interested in technology and how it all worked but wasn’t really interested in the ‘digital money’ side of things. It was when the Ethereum whitepaper came out that I really got interested in blockchain and the possibilities so I guess it was around 2016 that I started thinking about how to build a business around blockchain.
In 2012 we got into the car-sharing business. Initially, when we started that company, we wanted to develop a platform for the sharing and rental of anything, like Amazon for sharing economy. One of the things that we realized very quickly was to try to build a platform that can allow companies to come on and rent anything was Insurmountable.
We focused very quickly on car-sharing, and we’d built a world-leading platform for car-sharing, called Keaz. I sold that at the start of this year. I moved away from working full time on that the year before we started ShareRing.
How does ShareRing innovate?
Tim Bos: Innovation is at the core of our company values.
While we are often ahead of the curve with many of our solutions, there was a significant spike in demand for our most recent innovations.
When COVID reared its ugly head, it did force us to innovate on the spot.
We were on the edge of launching our long-anticipated travel application just as news of the virus spreading to other countries started. We made the tough, but in hindsight correct decision to delay the launch and reprioritize.
We saw the challenges businesses, governments, and people were facing with restricted mobility and the need for solutions that protected the safety and privacy of everyone and enabled economies to safely operate and re-open. We adapted the digital ID, document storage, payment, and logistics modules we’ve developed to create what we feel are the most efficient, ideal solutions to these challenges. We’re hoping we can help people return to a more normal lifestyle, and restore the suffering economies and regions that have been affected.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Tim Bos: If you would look at the rate we’re hiring people and opening new offices, you wouldn’t suspect we were affected. While the pandemic is certainly an awful thing for many startups, we met the challenge head-on and accelerated our development schedule for our decentralized commerce platform (ShareRing Shop) and our COVID health document application (Open World Passport).
The shop allows for homebound users under mobility restrictions to order same-day delivery from local businesses, helping them remain open and keeping shoppers safe.
Open World Passport is built around our existing ShareRing ID and ShareRing App, which allows for e-visa, insurance, and other document storage and proof, so a majority of the framework and tech was already built, it just needed to be adapted to this specific application.
The development and testing of both have gone well, and the demand is very high for these types of solutions in the face of COVID, so we have a very positive outlook for our launches this year.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Tim Bos: We’ve mostly been going through some organizational growing pains. The team is working very hard, we’re spending a lot of time in interviews, meetings, on top of trying to perform the duties of our roles. We have more interest than we can accommodate, but we’re scaling up as quickly as we can. We’ve run very lean with the majority of our staff in development, as it was nearly three years ago when we originally fundraised. But now we are adding new staff to sales, management, or marketing almost monthly.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Tim Bos: We use Monday for a lot of project and customer relationship management, and Hubspot as well. We have had a lot more virtual meetings lately, unfortunately, but we were no stranger to them before COVID. We’ve hired staff specifically for handling certain types of customers and partners as we continue to gain new ones and expand product marketing/sales roles, but other than that we’ve not changed our approach in any drastic way yet. We’ve been building the foundations and framework in preparation for a (continued!) quick scale-up.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Tim Bos: We’re hoping to! Haha, to be honest, no, we were fortunate enough in the way we managed our business and finances that we did not need to apply for or receive any money to keep us afloat from the government. But, government-level organizations are one of our primary targets for some of our products, such as Open World Passport.
They must adopt solutions to keep their citizens safe and restore mobility, so there is some chance we will benefit from government legislation, but not from the COVID relief funds for small businesses.
Your final thoughts?
Tim Bos: We owe much of our success in putting ourselves in the shoes of the end-users, as well as the businesses who we design our products for. I think as long as companies are truly focused on adapting to the needs of the customers and new changes in the markets, they will continue to do well no matter what comes.
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