The Seattle startup tries to lift a burden a lot of workers carry these days: swapping shifts. Its mobile app is intended to replace more cumbersome methods.

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What: Shyft, a Seattle startup that has created a mobile app aiming to make it easier for workers to swap shifts.


Who: Co-founders Brett Patrontasch, Daniel Chen, Chris Pitchford, and Kyle Liu. Patrontasch is chief executive, Chen is chief technology officer, Pitchford is director of growth, and Liu is lead mobile developer.


Birth of an idea:Patrontasch had founded another company, Scholars at Your Service, which employs student painters. He saw the difficulties the student painters had trying to coordinate their schedules.


Shift swapping: Currently, shift workers typically swap shifts using a variety of methods, including text messaging each other, posting on a group Facebook page or calling each other. Shyft aims to simplify that.


How it works: After downloading the iOS or Android app, workers can indicate the store where they work and the region they’re in. When they want to trade shifts, they can post a message that gets pushed out to others on Shyft who work in their store and in their region. Co-workers who can fill the shift can respond via the app. Once the swap is finalized, the app posts that the shift has been covered and notifies the manager if the manager is also on Shyft.


Who uses it: So far, more than 8,000 Starbucks baristas across the U.S., 3,000 McDonald’s workers, 2,000 Old Navy employees, and workers from other companies, according to Shyft.


What’s the opportunity: Kevin Spain, general partner with venture-capital firm Emergence Capital in Silicon Valley, says that while the market for software for deskbound workers is not going away, there’s a gap for apps that address deskless workers. Those workers, he says, represent 80 percent of employees worldwide and most of them now carry smartphones.


One word — mobile: “That’s why you’re seeing a lot of entrepreneurs thinking of mobile as the next big opportunity of enterprise,” said Spain, who is not connected with Shyft. He thinks the growth trajectory for workers’ mobile apps will progress along the lines of the fast-growing software-as-a-service market.


Techstars: Shyft is in the current Seattle class at Techstars, a mentorship-driven startup accelerator. Techstars gave Shyft $120,000 in funding. Patrontasch invested about $100,000 from his personal savings and raised $280,000 more from friends and family.

— Janet I. Tu