Online time tracking and billing software startup Harvest had a very good year in 2011, growing its revenue by 100 percent compared to 2010. And it looks like 2012 will bring about a repeat performance, since the company says it’s on track to do the same again. That’s thanks to tens of thousands of paying businesses employing the platform, amounting to over 100,000 individual paid users. Year over year, the company is seeing 70 percent growth in its paying customer user base, suggesting that it has hit the right notes with its SaaS cross-platform time tracking tool.
The idea behind Harvest, and what’s led to its success according to co-founder Danny Wen, is to make time tracking not so much an arduous chore people have to do after the fact, but instead something that be integrated into their existing workflow with as little friction as possible.
“What we’re doing is taking a look at time tracking, time recording and online reporting for small businesses and reinventing all those things,” Wen said. “Traditionally, time sheets are just a really painful experience for a lot of people. People don’t like to enter time, but businesses really need to know where time is going. So what we’ve been doing over the last six years is making it very easy for end users to enter their time, whether it’s on the web, on their desktop or on their mobile phones.”
Wen noted that many shops still use archaic tools like Excel to manage time tracking, which requires a lot of manual processes in terms of entering, gathering and analyzing data. It’s inconvenient for everyone involved, from employees to administrators, leading to inaccurate or untimely reporting, low engagement and ultimately loss of time and money.
Harvest has been introducing new features as they make sense for end users since launch, and mobile is a key focus that Wen said the company is looking at to help make that a reality. “Mobile is a very important thing for us, because as we look at the end users, that’s something they’ve evolved to use not just for consumer things, like Facebook, Twitter, etc.; they’re also using it for business,” he said. “As a result, we’ve been reinventing how we imagine our mobile timesheets should work.”
The company originally built its product with a desktop focus, Wen told us, but since the demands of its users are shifting, it believes now is the time to look at how it can rebuild its software architecture from scratch, in order to capitalize on the opportunities in mobile and provide a more mobile focused, future-proofed basis for its product offerings, both current and those in the pipeline.
Harvest is one of many companies we’ve talked to lately who are putting a lot of focus on mobile. Some refer to this as a “mobile-first” strategy, and it’s indicative of a growing trend away from desktop computing and towards using portable devices for a lot of tasks. Time tracking, something that ideally is tangential to getting other work done, and not the primary focus, is a perfect match for mobile devices, so it makes sense that Harvest would invest in engineering on that side of the equation. In fact, keeping up and increasing the pace of its impressive growth numbers might depend on the successful execution of said strategy.