Queensland startup JESI secures $4.5 million for tech helping businesses keep remote workers safe

Joe-Hoolahan-JESI

JESI co-founder and chief Joe Hoolahan. Source: supplied.

Queensland worker management startup JESI has secured $4.5 million in Series A funding, marking the first investment by new VC firm Future Now Capital Management.

Launched in 2014, JESI is a Software-as-a-Service solution that allows enterprise customers to know where their remote employees are at any given time.

Previously, the focus has been on the safety of workers who are travelling or working alone in isolated or remote locations.

But, according to JESI co-founder and chief Joe Hoolahan, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant this tech has suddenly become applicable to remote workers all over Australia, and in all kinds of sectors.

While there are other solutions for keeping track of assets — for example, company cars or heavy vehicles — JESI’s unique selling point is its focus on individual employees.

“We’re more about the person than the device or the asset,” Hoolahan explains.

The startup has been up and running for some six years now, but its main focus has been on enterprise sales, which can take some time.

But, he says the business has been seeing steady revenue growth of about 10% month-on-month. And, over the past three months, it’s seen the most usage of the platform in its history so far.

This Series A funding will allow JESI to capitalise on that, Hoolahan says.

While the startup has secured smaller chunks of capital in the past, including from the Queensland Business Development Fund, this funding is intended to ramp up growth, and really start scaling.

The team has already grown from eight people to 14, the founder adds. Within the next six months, Hoolahan expects the startup’s headcount to grow to 32.

The COVID-19 impact

JESI has continued growing throughout the COVID-19 crisis. But, like most founders, Hoolahan had a moment of panic back in March, when the reality of the pandemic set in.

“We’re an organisation based around journeys and travel,” he says.

“That impacted us 100 per cent directly.”

However, it’s also a business focused entirely on managing a remote workforce. As we know, that’s a challenge that has been unceremoniously thrust on all businesses, of all sizes, in 2020.

On reflection, Hoolahan sees JESI as being perhaps more important now than ever — it’s designed to help employers look after their team members when they’re isolated or working independently.

So, instead of focusing on journeys, the team started focusing on activities.

“It’s not just about the person travelling down the red dust road or in the aeroplane,” he says.

“It’s about every single person that finds themselves displaced or working from home or isolated and remote.

“That’s the core of our business.”

A new normal

The shift to remote work as the norm has led to more of a focus on employee mental health and wellbeing. And that’s a change that Hoolahan doesn’t see going away any time soon.

“I think it’s certainly changed forever,” he says.

It’s also about recognising people as individuals, he notes. While some people have adapted to working from home and would be happy to continue with this arrangement permanently, others thrive in an office or a different physical workplace environment.

There’s also a duty of care for employers, particularly large employers, simply to know where their people are, he notes.

During Victoria’s second COVID-19 lockdown, Hoolahan worked with one business that realised, out of thousands of employees, five were in Melbourne, and therefore isolated.

And, in a future when people move between home, the office and on-site, keeping track of employees becomes particularly tricky.

“There’s another layer of complexity from a duty-of-care and legality point of view,” Hoolahan says.

The definition of what remote or isolated work means has changed, he says.

“Now, it impacts every employee.”

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