By Nancy Dahlberg

Since the last recession, PTO has become one of the most requested employee benefits, right after health insurance. Companies tout their generous plans during recruiting.

Problem is 55% of U.S. employees don’t take it.

PTO Genius aims to change that. The Miami-based startup is the winner of SuperConf’s startup launch competition.

“There are all these psychological and behavioral reasons why we don’t take time off. That’s a U.S problem – the workaholic problem,” said Ulises I Orozco, CEO and co-founder.

These workers risk burnout, a health and productivity concern. And companies also want to chip away at the unused PTO, which can quickly add up when rolled over and become a burden for companies, especially in states where they have to pay out PTO upon separation. PTO Genius addresses both these issues.

The startup, co-founded by Orozco, Emilio Pineda and Adam P. Gordon, has been in development for about a year. After much user research, the team is well underway building the product – the last piece should be finished within a month. The SaaS product will be marketed to human resource companies and departments, an industry the PTO Genius team has a lot of experience with.

Orozco co-founded Gradvisor, a Miami-based startup also in the HR benefits space, and has been an entrepreneur in technology for 20 years. Pineda worked in the customer-success space for large enterprises and Gordon founded a company that brought Stevia to the US. Recently, Mike Viola joined the team as chief revenue officer; Viola was co-founder of Oasis Outsourcing, the largest privately-owned PEO in the U.S., which was acquired by Paychex. Viola worked in the sector for 30 years.

PTO Genius can proactively encourage people throughout the year to take time off when it is less disruptive to the company, such as a note that the upcoming Friday looks like a good day to enjoy a three-day weekend. And if employees won’t or can’t take time off, PTO Genius can allow employees to convert their hours to pay down student loans, contribute to a child’s college fund, fund retirement or convert to cash for an immediate need, for example. Companies can control which features of PTO Genius they want to activate.  

“We also built a booking engine so we facilitate the process of getting away. We bubble up deals,” Orozco said. An employee could be reminded of the two weeks she has in the bank, and with the great flight deals to Paris (post-Covid) she could take a week off and cash in a second week to pay for the trip.

 Selling to the HR vertical takes months, and the COVID-19 crisis is slowing things down. But in every recession, there are always companies that are still thriving and those people are being overworked because they are sacrificing right now, Orozco said. “They are going to need to be recharged so our strategy is shifting toward encouraging the reduction of burnout for these companies that are on the front lines.”

What’s next? Strategic alliances with PEOs (Professional Employment Organizations, or outsourced HR departments) that are interested in adding PTO Genius functionality into their offerings.

 “It’s an exciting time for us,” Orozco said. “It’s a huge market and there’s not much competition outside of leave management. We’re re-imagining the power of PTO that traditionally has not been done.”

As the SuperConf grand prize winner, PTO Genius won $10K in cash and $10K in services from Digital Ocean virtual cloud, Figma design tools, Decent Labs development agency, Postmark transactional email services, CorpLaw.us legal services and Sentry error monitoring.

The launch competition was supposed to be the highlight of SuperConf, a homegrown tech conference for developers, designers and entrepreneurs planned for March 13-14. COVID-19 had other plans. The conference was cancelled but the launch competition went virtual. To be selected as finalists to compete, the startups could not have previously launched.

Judges of the virtual launch competition were Shruti Ghandi of Array VC; Nico Berardi of Animo Ventures; Josh Constine of TechCrunch and now SignalFire; Brian Breslin of RefreshMiami; Louis Kang of Neoteny Ventures. The online community also got a vote, actually two, in the final outcome.

“Every single time we hold SuperConf, I’m beyond impressed with the companies. This year is twice as impressive as these founders hustled through and made it work even with crazy obstacles,” said Auston Bunsen, founder of SuperConf.

Runner-up in the SuperConf competition (winning $5K in services from Digital Ocean)  was CommandDot.

Co-founded by Alex Cohen and Zane Shannon, CommandDot supercharges shortcuts for your email. CommandDot lets you stop switching between your inbox and calendar, making scheduling meetings, making introductions, and attaching documents just clicks away. The opportunity is big with 800 million knowledge workers that live in their inboxes.  “We really think we can be the future in how work gets done in email,” pitched Cohen, the CEO.

Also competing in the finals were:

Approvely.io – Stripe for high-risk merchants

Artify – a web-based graphics editor with thousands of assets

Cargologik – A software management platform for freight forwarders

Funday – Doordash for the beach

SalesAmp  – attribution metrics for your hubspot install

Sustalytics — Analytics to reduce overproduction of clothing.

You can view their pitches here:  https://superconf.com/companies

“General Electric, Disney & Microsoft were all launched at the beginning of a time with economic turmoil – the founders that pitched this year are no different,” said Bunsen. “I am sure that at least half of the companies that launched at SuperConf 2020 will grow to be huge companies with millions in revenue.”

Pictured at top, left to right, PTOGenius co-founders Adam Gordon, Emilio Pineda, Ulises I. Orozco.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter and email her at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Nancy Dahlberg
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