Inventshift: the story of a young social enterprise
After completing Aaltoes’ Kiuas accelerator programme and winning the Crowd Favourite Award, the future is looking crowded for this startup duo.
Nestled within Aalto University’s red brick blocks is Startup Sauna, a co-working space which was one of the many factors that brought Finn Jarkko Oksanen and Sri Lankan Iranthi Gomes to Helsinki from Melbourne. That, and the buzzing startup scene.
“We’d been living in Melbourne for three years and were running a mobile coffee chain, Wheelys Melbourne, which was our first business together,” tells Gomes. “We’re bootstrapping it to kickstart Inventshift and its younger sibling, ServiceHired.”
The meeting room we’re in hosts a black table hanging on rope, creating the illusion it could take off mid-sway. Not unlike the duo’s future prospects, it seems. But, back to the backstory for a moment.
“We were travelling in the Australian countryside the summer before last when we came across some bare land that looked very desolate.” Gomes continues, “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do something more with this?’ Jarkko’s friend is an environmental ecologist, he could make magic happen here.’”
This sparked the idea of creating a framework that would help other people accomplish big things through social enterprise, “because we can’t do everything ourselves”.
“Booking.com” for local services
The roots of Inventshift and ServiceHired also lie in the hands-on experience of the duo as business owners. They found their mobile coffee chain was constantly being sent the same types of enquiries, with them pinging back the same routine responses.
“We wanted to streamline that so that businesses can sell pre-priced packages online without the repetitious back and forth,” Jarkko summarises.
Inventshift was the first website born out of this idea: it was both an online learning platform for social enterprises from all around the world, and a way to buy ‘packages’ from local services. But this melded both service-buying and social enterprise-promoting onto one site, which some customers found confusing.
Fast-forward to local services getting their own space called Servicehired: a search and booking engine for local services which will launch towards the end of the year.
“This’ll be our business arm,” Gomes explains. “You can search for services, filter your price, find your photographer, florist or any other service category of choice and buy a pre-priced package from them then and there.”
She then reveals the extent of their global ambitions.
“It’s kind of like Booking.com for hotels or Momondo for flights, only this would be for local services”.
Inventshift will then be left to perform the sole function of being a beacon for social enterprises, educating people about them, while representing the education charities ServiceHired will donate to.
Put your money where your mouth is
If you need proof that the raison d’être of ServiceHired is InventShift, here’s all you need: 10 per cent of Servicehired’s revenue will go to charities represented by the latter.
What’s noteworthy here is that charitable proceeds will be taken out of revenues, not profits. “Some investors are confused by this – but it’s for transparency and to put the customer first” says Gomes.
According to Oksanen this is just better from a customer’s point of view.
“if you buy something for 1 000 euros, you know that out of the 15 per cent commission, 10 per cent of that will go to charity, so that’s around 15 euros.”
ServiceHired.com is set to launch at some point after Slush: “We’re post-revenue, having launched one version of the product,” Oksanen explains. “Getting selected for Slush 2017’s Demo Booth means we’re pushing back launch of the second version.”
But will they remain in Finland for long?
Gomes, at least, seems keen: “There are so many pretty Christmas trees here!”
Text: Heidi Aho