ServicePoint is a services engineering company combining software development with process engineering and R&D - both technical and marketing. ServicePoint's founder is serial entrepreneur Bill McMullin. This is Bill's third start-up, having successfully sold two companies previously, including InfoInterActive Inc. to America Online in July, 2001 for CDN$43M. Click here for more information on the ServicePoint team.
Everyday, we watch carefully how and where average people physically transact. When we do this, we are on the lookout for line-ups, useless paperwork, unwanted travel and humans doing the work of computers - which point to opportunities for us. When we identify frustration and waste, we do a forensic-like investigation (inconvenience is almost criminal), dissecting the business and the work-flow. If there is an opportunity we'll build a better more automated way to achieve the same or better result.
Why do we do it?
The simple answer is that creating convenience is a great business. There's insatiable demand and low supply. Identifying opportunities for convenience is easy (inconvenience is almost rampant) - but building convenient, secure and reliable solutions is hard work that requires a unique blend of business and technical innovation, and of course, money. As the saying goes, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it! We know that consumers usually prefer the most convenient, self-service ways of getting things done. Most people don't see standing in a line-up as a social event - whether at the bank, airport, or checkout. Same goes for talking to a salesperson.
We also know that service providers want to be more efficient and innovative in how and where they deliver services. The needs of consumers and service providers have collided, creating the perfect storm of opportunity for ServicePoint. We see convenience as a "product" category with unlimited growth potential.
- In 2006, company founded as "HR Central" focused on an offering for "verified credentials" in a "credentials registry", essentially a "credit bureau for credentials". The registry would contain facts about people which do not change over time (such as education and employment history) and so could be collected, verified and stored once then retrieved as required from a credible source for a modest fee.
- In 2007, a criminal records checking service is launched as the first example of a credentials-related service. The 100% online service is offered first to businesses (HR managers) under the "HR Central" brand, then to individual consumers under the "TrueCheck" brand. For the first time in Canada, consumers could order a police-signed clearance certificate from police, without ever visiting a police station. The service quickly showed promise and was consolidated under a single brand (TrueCheck).
- In 2008, the TrueCheck service grows steadily through online advertising and referral. A platform for additional credentials-related services is envisioned in the form of retail kiosks which would bring the convenience factor to "street level" and combine the efficiency of mechanized application and issuance with the power of retail marketing. Anchor tenants would be criminal record checks and government-issued photo ID's such as passports and drivers' licenses, with additional services such as credit card applications and credit history reports. A prototype kiosk was developed capable of collecting photos, scanning original documents, capturing mag-stripe information from ID cards, and collecting signatures. A human operator would interact with the applicant in a highly efficient manner to ensure the quality of the application documents. Meanwhile work began on an application for the real estate industry aimed at appealing to consumers seeking richer, more "self-serve" information for researching the sale or purchase of a home.
- In 2009, the TrueCheck business is acquired under an exclusive license. After a year of seeking participation from Passport Canada, local Registries of Motor Vehicles, and national photo retailers, and in light of other more promising opportunities, a business decision is made to stop pursuing the kiosk project. A new company ServicePoint Management Inc. is established to act as the parent company of all new ventures (TrueCheck Inc., formerly HR Central Inc., remains separate). The team turns its focus to the $6 billion+ Canadian real estate services industry, currently dominated by humans (i.e.. agents) doing jobs better suited to computers. Extending on work that began in 2008, ServicePoint begins to develop a system that will dramatically improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of buying or selling a property. In an effort to be in control of its destiny (rather than trying to sell its applications to real estate professionals), ServicePoint creates its own subsidiary, ViewPoint Realty, a full-service, technology-driven real estate brokerage, licensed to operate in Nova Scotia. ViewPoint prepares to advance the industry by giving consumers access to information, imagery and tools not previously available in a self-service manner, including MLS® services.
- Finally, an opportunity from a previous venture is presented when America Online (the acquirer of Bill McMullin's previous company) invites ServicePoint to take over the assets and service contracts of its wholesale services business, resulting in a contract to operate the Internet Call Manager service from a data centre located in the same building. In addition to a revenue opportunity, key technology assets are acquired leverage into the ViewPoint Realty business.
- In 2010, the formal launch of the ViewPoint real estate services site takes place with heavy radio advertising into the spring. The results are immediate and striking with tens of thousands of visitors within a few weeks. Customers also warmed to the variety of real estate services with dozens of listings within a few months. The combination of a fast, easy-to-use map with every property drawn on it along with every MLS® listing, the latest in photography and deep analysis was a real hit.