INSIGHTS with Alexander Grimm
aspaara, a community member and tenant at Bluelion, founded in 2015, assists businesses in reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and increasing employee happiness. The main expense factor as well as the most important production aspect are talents. Proper resource planning, is challenging due to a number of limitations. Their AI-based optimisation engine MatchingCore®, solves precise scheduling requirements while adjusting to the very unique circumstances of their clients. asspara assist their clients in optimising their workforce planning, which enables them to enhance productivity. In this interview, CEO and Co-Founder Alexander Grimm, shares his experiences, perspectives, and journey in starting aspaara.
If you would explain your startup to your grandmother, what would you say?
When I met my co-founder Kevin Zemmer during our PhD studies, we were active runners at the SOLA-Stafette. It’s an active relay around Zurich that consist of 14 challenging laps. You were only allowed to participate if you have a team of 14 runners with a minimum of two women. However, among our friends we had teams that couldn’t start since they didn’t have enough women in their team, or female friends that didn’t have a proper team. Hereby we decided to launch a platform that makes a match between talented runners and open running opportunities. We evolved quickly from a sports platform to a platform that optimises the allocation from talents inside the company on one side and work opportunities on the other. Today, we serve professional services to clients in Switzerland and in Europe as well as manufacturing companies, automotive repair and also generate in the healthcare sector.
What made you decide to start a company?
We really wanted to optimise with artificial intelligence, the way how people work. Nowadays companies allocate their talents and work opportunities in a hierarchical approach, which isn’t fun to everyone. We want to increase the possibility that every talent inside an organisation gets to benefit from those activities, from which he/she can gain the most out of, as well as the organisation itself. We finally want to establish a human centric approach to enterprise resource planning.
Starting a company, involves many risks and opportunity costs. How did these affect your thought process and tempt you to start aspaara?
For me, it was always clear to found a company. I never wanted to do something differently. So this thought process never arose to be very honest. In my opinion, opportunity costs are only there if you don’t take a decision. If you always keep your options open you can’t progress, which is the costliest thing at the end. Important is to decide your path and to follow through with your decision and to not question what the alternative costs would be.
Time is always scarce for startups. How do you set priorities and allocate very scarce resources?
There is always a lot of things going on and we are growing quite rapidly, so many things need to be orchestrated, which is honestly very challenging. In our company we have different processes on how to allocate these resources. We have frequent OKR (objective and key results) sessions inside the company with the entire team. Meaning, every team member can discuss how to allocate the resources. The leadership team then sets the objectives for a quarter. With this, we have quite a good process in aiming as close as possible to the goals that we set, and to involve everyone who’s in our team.
A lot of early-stage startups rate funding as the highest priority milestone on their journey. What are your thoughts about this?
For us, our clients are the focus. A company can purely exist with happy clients, which is what we are aiming for. We were bootstrapped for about five years by being a profitable company. However, with our successful financing round we can now further foster our growth.This however was never the aim and isn’t the goal. It was a decision we took to have a better solution for our clients. So, happy clients equals happy company!
How did you evaluate if you are on the right path, or if you need to pivot?
We have three levels of goals; the North Star, some Mid-term Goals and the Quarterly Goals. With these we feel quite confident to track our progresses. In addition to this we monitor our health metrics depending on clienteles but also on team health. Since we optimise the work life balance for talents for our clients, we also want to make sure that our internal talents are healthy. Altogether it needs a healthy team to get healthy clients. We don’t trade one against the other. We want to walk the talk and optimize in a holistic way and have a talent centered approach of setting priorities.
What do you think are the strength of the Swiss Startup Ecosystem and do you see any potential for improving it?
The strength of Switzerland in general is that I think, according to the rankings, it is among the top three of the most innovative countries in the world. I think that this is mainly due to the academic and startup environment. We have a lot of innovation going on and a lot of international talents that join the ecosystem in Switzerland and in particular, in Zurich. I think that it’s a great strength of having a startup in Switzerland because you can contribute to these innovative environments.
From my perspective, the startup ecosystem, for example in Europe, could be improved by reducing regulations that hinder innovations and give them at least an ecosystem or sandbox system, where you can try out more innovative methods. My wish would be to have a closer relationship and discussion with the policymakers, to find ways for benefiting and helping the society in a whole.
aspaara was able to contribute towards the Covid-19 pandemic with their software. What would aspaaras future role be, if another scenario in this aspect were to happen again?
What we hear from our clients on a daily basis, is that the labor market is very tight and is going to be tighter in the future. Since, for example, baby boomers are leaving the labor market, it is transforming into an employee driven labor market. Therefore, the competition is big. With our software, we try to improve the well-being and the proper allocation of work opportunities to talents, since they are moving more towards the center of these considerations. I think irrespective how the labor market will evolve in the next couple of quarters and years, it’s best for companies, talents and the society as a whole, to have a human centered way of working and living.
Are there any latest news you would like to share?
Breaking News is that we, for the first time in our company’s history, have successfully finalised a financing round to foster the growth beyond Switzerland and the scalability of the platform. We have successfully raised 2 Million CHF to create the next-generation ERP that is finally human-centric. With that we would like to grow significantly to be and become the dominant player in this market.