Nick Holzherr

Former Apprentice contender Holzherr launches digital HR start-up

Whisk founder Nick Holzherr has launched Air – a platform designed to help SMEs rid themselves of time consuming admin and make it easy to deploy workplace-improving practices.

Air offers various HR features like a central employee directory, time off booking, smart notifications and iOS and Android apps so businesses can manage HR on the go.

Nick, who was awarded an honorary doctorate from Aston University last summer, studied international business and modern languages in 2009 before launching multiple successful business ventures – including online recipe app Whisk which raised US$2m and has expanded internationally.

He first pitched the idea for the Whisk app to Lord Sugar in the final of series eight of BBC’s The Apprentice – and has since been featured in leading publications including The Guardian, BQ, The Telegraph, Newsweek and BBC News Online.

Speaking about Air, Holzherr said: “Managing HR is too hard right now - most processes are manual and different processes or software usually don’t link together.

"Small business owners spend an average of four days each month battling internal admin and even then, most business owners don’t have access to basic tools that can help them manage their people and culture better.

“Air is an HR platform that grows as your business grows. You can add additional HR features into your workflow, each time without setting up yet another software system. Key is that each app you add integrates seamlessly with every other app on Air.

“20 years ago people used bloated enterprise software platforms that were hard to use. They had every feature you could want, but navigating to just the essential features was cumbersome. Then 10 years ago the trend was that every feature became a separate app delivered by a different company.”

But why the move from recipe app Whisk to a HR app? Nick explains: “I first became interested in the general HR space through personal frustrations when running my previous businesses.

"HR admin took a chunk of time out of each week, and things felt a little hap-hazard at times. This was despite the fact that we tried a few different software solutions - none of which really solved our issues.

“When I did research into the HR software space more recently, I first discovered what a huge opportunity this is from a business perspective - 99% of businesses in the UK are SMEs yet there are very few people building good solutions for small businesses - most focus on the larger businesses.

“Second, I realised that a hub-and-spoke software model would allow us to enter the UK market with a new approach that balances a simple user experience with powerful functionality - something that hasn't been made available before in HR.”

More than 100 companies have used the alpha version of the platform already, and Nick plans to allow Air customers to vote for what apps his team should build next.

“We'll be continually improving the core of the platform while building out hundreds of add-on apps,” he explains.

“Add-on apps will include things like Payroll apps and tools to help businesses manage their culture.

"We'll also be adding integrations for Air into the best HR and Accountancy tools that businesses use frequently.”

Did you know...

Nick was the cover star for the first ever BQ Magazine in the West Midlands back in Spring 2013... 

In his lead feature, he joined fellow contenders and Midlanders Ruth Badger and Joy Stefanicki to explain what happens to candidates who don’t win.

You can read what happened when Steve Dyson put ‘Twenty Questions’ to the three here...

Published: 29 March 2017

Article by Bryce Wilcock
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