Forging Ahead

Entrepreneur discusses his latest endeavor and why Lubbock is a great place for technology startups to take root and grow

 

anthony presleyAnthony Presley never has had a typical job, which is surprising since his current endeavor, TimeForge, is a program designed to make managing retail and food service businesses easier.

"Before TimeForge, I had a software company, and before that I had another software company all the way going back to my eighth-grade year," Presley said. "The first software I ever made money from I was a freshman in high school. So having a real job didn't quite make a lot of sense to me."

However, Presley's roommate did have a traditional food service job his freshman year, and Presley drove him across town every week to get his shift schedule. During those drives, the two discussed ways to make obtaining schedules more convenient for staff.

Years later, that idea developed into TimeForge, a labor management tool designed more for the operations side of a business than the human resources side.

"Human resources in most companies make sure that an organization is following laws and paying people properly," Presley said, "but there's less focus on how a decision affects a company's bottom line."

Take a grocery store, for example.

"If all of your customers come in at 2 p.m., but all of your cashiers are there at 1 p.m., you're following the law," Presley said. "You did everything correct, you paid them properly, you've reduced your turnover, but it doesn't matter because 2:00 is when all of your customers are there. TimeForge is meant to be at the intersection of HR and operations."

From Student to Startup

Though the idea for TimeForge started early for Presley, he didn't develop it for years. First, he studied electrical engineering and computer science at Texas Tech while continuing the software company he started out of his dorm room in Bledsoe Hall his freshman year.

His business grew to the point where he had to choose between finishing his degree and his consulting company. Ultimately, he chose to focus on his company.

"We had a couple of businesses, mostly consulting software, where we'd go build software for customers, kind of one-off systems or manage their networks," Presley said. "Consulting is great, but it requires that you be awake and to bill. So when you have your business and the only way to make money is by billing customers then you've got to find ways that you can make money when you're not working."

With that in mind, Presley turned his focus from consulting to product development. At the time Apple launched its first iPod, Presley and his colleagues were working on a handheld card swipe similar to Square.

"As soon as we got kind of the first version of that out the door, Apple released their iPod and we thought, 'well wait a minute, let's not go compete against Apple,'" Presley said.

Presley and his team changed plans and began developing a new type of hardware. While they worked on this new project, Presley paid an intern to build the first version of TimeForge. Multiple versions of the system were created. Pieces of the program were tweaked and moved. Finally, Presley launched TimeForge online.

"Three days later we had our first customer and went, 'Oh well hey maybe this is a good thing,'" Presley said.

anthony and colleague writing on whiteboard tableWhen building TimeForge, Presley and his team chose to provide services for a niche market. Focusing on retail and food service allowed them to address and better meet the needs specific to those industries – advice Presley recommends to anyone looking to start a business.

"There's that saying that if it works for everybody, it works for nobody. I think that's pretty true when you're building products or you're building services," Presley said. "If you want to go start your own accounting firm, then don't do accounting for everybody. Figure out how to be the best accountant you could possibly be to knee surgeons that only accept Medicaid patients and then further maybe specialize to people who have at least 5 surgeons in their practice. Then suddenly you have a very small niche and if you perform well it's easy to find those people."

Laying Down Roots in Lubbock

Lubbock has proven to be fertile ground for Presley, and he's happy he chose to build his business here.

"I'm a fan of Lubbock," Presley said. "I know a lot of people that come out of the technology colleges at Tech and immediately go looking to live and work somewhere else, and I'd say that's probably not necessary."

In fact, Presley recently sold TimeForge to Truno, another Lubbock company, extending the reach of both companies in both software and hardware in the retail industry.  He's now leading the charge to develop and build products that affect users in all fifty states, and seven other countries, all from Lubbock.

"There's not a lot of large technology companies," Presley said, "and that means it's a great area and a great place and probably a great time. If you're a technology person and you want to get up and running in Lubbock, you probably can."