Living in the world’s most populated country China, you’ll doubtless have experienced the frustrations of standing in line all too often. For modern people in a rush, little can be more frustrating. But now Filipino startup TimeFree Innovations has a go at easing the pain of this problem.
TimeFree Innovations is a software development company that provides virtual queuing solutions to help manage customer flow and create more positive customer experiences. Philip Adrian T. Atilano, founder of the company, was inspired to develop TimeFree, the company’s flagship product, by the terrible queuing experiences he and his friends had suffered. When Atilano was at college in Vietnam, for example, students had to wait in line at the school’s finance office to pay their tuition. Driven crazy by the hours-long waits, Atilano and his friends came up with the idea of a system that informs users when their turn has come.
TimeFree is an SMS-based virtual queuing system. Users first select their target transaction from the kiosk and enter their mobile number. They can then walk away from the queue to do whatever they want, and the system sends an SMS message to the users when their turn is near. In addition to saving the time of individual users, TimeFree also claims to help businesses to increase customer engagement, monitor staff performance and derive proprietary reports and analytics.
Atilano acknowledged that the SMS message is somewhat obsolete now, but he noted that the smartphone penetration rate in Philippines is still not very high. Moreover, an advantage of SMS-based communications is that the users do not have to download the app, as Atilano told TechNode at a backstage interview during DreamPlus Day competition.
The service is mostly used by bank clients at present, but the firm is trying to apply it into more sectors. With a particular focus on services with a high volume of face-to-face transactions, TimeFree is in talks with telecom carriers, clinics, and utility companies, said Atilano.
“We are going through a target customer learning process. Whereas everybody else is focusing on one industry, at this time we really have to test out different scenarios and identify which industries would be our key sector to focus on before moving to the next.”
After establishing a presence in the Philippines, the startup launched a service in Hong Kong earlier this year and plans to explore other regional markets in Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, in the near future. When asked about plans for the Chinese mainland market, Atilano said they are still trying to study different markets rather than going in directly, as TimeFree monetizes its service through subscriptions.
Starting as a small project in 2009 when the founding members were still in college, TimeFree was founded in 2013 after the team received seed funding. Since then, the co-founders quit their day jobs to work full time at the startup. Later, TimeFree was taken up by Filipino incubator IdeaSpace, receiving US$25,000 funding last year. The company now has five full-time and eight part-time employees.
TimeFree is planning to release a new mobile app that monitors queue flow in real-time by Q4 2014, allowing users to check the people ahead of them online rather than at physical outlets.