Storytelling about QReserve with Brandon Aubie & Graeme Brown
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 92. This week we have storytelling about QReserve with Brandon Aubie & Graeme Brown. During this episode, Brandon, Graeme, and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing QReserve.
Brandon and Graeme are experts in scheduling needs and resource management. Their passion to help people collaborate really comes through during the podcast.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 30 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Brandon and Graeme on from QReserve, where we’re learning about their company and the use case or business case for their company. So without any further ado, Brendan, why don’t you introduce yourself first, and then Graeme, you introduce yourself and then introduce QReserve.
Thanks, William. It’s great to be on the show with you. So my name is Brandon Aubie. My background is actually in academics, which was the origin of QReserve. So I did a PhD at McMaster University. And then I ended up getting a job there. And I learned about a lot of interesting struggles that people have working in universities, and actually ended up building key reserve as a result of that, left my nice cushy University job and went out and started the startup. And so we get into the problems we solve in a minute.
And, William, it’s also nice to be here, this is Graeme Brown, on also one of the cofounders of QReserve. My background is business as both an operator of technology startups as well as an investor. And I’ve also spent some time in both the private and the public sector, a lot of my focus has been on the use and monitoring of assets, specifically, infrastructure assets, and QReserve, for me kind of filled the missing link.
You have a lot of software that’s been developed to manage buildings, not as much relating to equipment, and people. And I think that is the more complex use case. And there’s a lot of exciting opportunities for that in the future. And that’s one of the things that QReserve is passionately pursuing. So love to talk about it.
So it’s, it’s interesting, because like, on the balance sheet, we talk about plant property, equipment, all the things that kind of depreciate, but we don’t talk or even consider kind of things, people. The human, you know, talent, part of our business. I mean, it’s, it’s common for all of us to say that people are the most important asset, but you know, that we don’t really do anything to kind of back that up. It’s getting better, I actually have to say over the last decade or so I have seen have strides to make that better. Or at least fulfill on those statements. So in a nutshell, QReserve, the problem that it solves, you know, Graeme, let’s let’s start with you. When when you talk to practitioners, what problem does it solve? What unmet need is the reason that you created a business?
Well, I’ll kind of riff off of Brandon’s typical line, QReserve was really the brainchild of him and the, the lab that he worked for at McMaster University. And the problem that they were originally looking to solve was, they had very expensive brand new research equipment, millions of dollars of it, that they had received the grant. And typically the grants, at least in Canada, they’re funding primarily the cost of the equipment. And for a set period of time, the cost to operate it. And after that research project that’s kind of justified that grant for that piece of equipment is concluded, that piece of equipment’s there, but there isn’t always the operating expenditure, or the operating dollars to continue to operate that that piece of equipment.
So, you know, historically, you might have found lots of buildings within universities and hospitals having very expensive pieces of equipment, and not being used. Because there just wasn’t the money there to use it properly. And where Brandon ended up working after his PhD, he had some very kind of innovative and forward-thinking, lab leaders that were saying, you know, what, like, maybe we should look to find ways to get this out there and kind of market it. So we can generate some revenue from it, to help us sustain its operations over the long term. And they realized that kind of doing that and in order to do that, it was hard to do that manually at scale.
And so they looked to develop some sort of technology solution to help with that, and, and that’s ultimately where QReserve was born from. But with that, you know, kind of marketing and helping people find equipment, it inevitably leads back to people. Because like, we’re not at a stage where the fancy pieces of equipment we have are fully automated, that doesn’t require at least a minimal if not a major human influence to it. And so it’s the scheduling not only the equipment but the people. There’s a lot of complexity there. There’s a lot of rules, who can use it, what kind of training you need, what kind of like raw inputs might be required, the timing, the time between when it’s used, and when someone else can use it. Lots of complexity that it’s hard to solve with a pen and paper calendar.
And so Brandon kind of dove into that, there is a lot of potential use case, not just within University labs, which, you know, QReserve has been continuing to pursue, and so that that company was spun out. And now here we are, and, and I think that, you know, kind of looking at and providing a perspective of today, I think everyone’s aware of how important, you know, scheduling is. You know, we’ve got a global pandemic, in Canada, there are various forms of going to scheduling for vaccines. There’s lots of people wanting limited supply. There’s lots of rules about, you know, when you can book, you know, based on kind of your, your, your demographic based on, you know, if you’re doing multiple vaccines, when your previous one was. These are things that are hard to do manually or in someone’s brain at scale.
And we’re seeing more use cases for complex scheduling solutions. And that’s kind of where we’re taking QReserve people have kind of awoken to that. And also with the people being out of the office being out of their place of work, you know, those set precedents of kind of doing it the way we always did, there’s a fantastic opportunity to really re-envision how we do business, and how we interact with the things that are valuable in our organization to maximize their use.
And it’s going to be something other than a Google Calendar, or a piece of pen and paper calendar. So we see kind of an infinite amount of value that solutions like QReserve can provide. But the real value I think, is on the people side, where there’s we’re just awakening to what we could do with with with tools with modern tools.
What’s its interesting, I see I see something similar that happens in software, right? So we sell software, to folks, but sometimes that software, if not all the time, it comes with headcount. Or it should come with headcount. So we don’t factor that into our buy, we don’t factor that into the sale. We think of the license and what we’re going to pay on an annual basis, etc, we don’t really factor in maintenance. And we don’t factor in kind of administrative costs that are going to go along with that. And so, y’all are doing that and thinking about equipment in the same way of like, okay, the, you’re going to either through grants, or through from a corporate perspective through you’re gonna buy equipment, but you’re not just buying the equipment you’re going to need and you have to factor in, there’s a human cost.
And that’s going to be ongoing, and whether or not it’s someone, you know, just operating that equipment, or someone maintaining the equipment, but I love the fact that you’re thinking about costs, you’re thinking about getting the practitioners and the buyers to think about costs in a different way, which you know, translates very easily to software for us. Because we don’t we don’t factor that in when somebody sells an ATS or CRM or payroll technology or whatever. We don’t really think and it’s not sold from the vendor side, as headcount, you know, or even talked about is headcount. So I really like that y’all are kind of hitting this head on and showing people like, well, it isn’t hidden cost, like hidden costs is actually something that’s hidden. This is actually something that’s foreseen.
And you’re talking about it and you’re getting, you’re educating people to, there’s more Cost of Ownership here, whether or not you lease it or whatever, there’s more cost involved, and that’s a good that’s fine. You can deal with the cost. If if you plan for it, you can deal with it. So So Brandon, you know as you as you’ve gone down this journey, obviously researched it, you went out and you saw the problem firsthand in the in the labs in the rooms, what have you, what are you seen lately.
When you’re talking to people about this, both, you know, the cost and think about cost differently, but also as Graeme said, about scheduling and making sure that, you know, you see that no matter how great you know, no matter how great robotics is like as a, for example, you’re still going to have some human some element of human in that. And that’s going to be something that you need to factor in and plan for. So what conversations are you having now with folks about that?
One of the very interesting things that we learned early on, but that is still very present today is that people think they need something. So say they think they need a tool, they need access to a special kind of microscope. And so what they’ll do is they’ll go out and say, who has this microscope? Where does this microscope live? How much does it cost and so on. But what often ends up happening very quickly, is that it turns out, they don’t necessarily need that microscope. First, they need somebody who understands their problem related to that microscope first. And this comes up so often.
And one of the reasons why we are focused on at least initially, equipment and finding the equipment is because that’s what people think they need. Right? Right. But we’ll see, we’ll hear like we do feedback surveys, and we send it when someone sends a message to someone and says, I want to book time in your microscope, we’ll follow up and say like, well, what happened? Well, often, it turns out, they say, Oh, yeah, it was a great connection. And turns out their project was really aligned with my interest. They didn’t actually need that microscope, they needed this other microscope that we have over there. But that doesn’t matter.
Because the key is that that microscope was the connecting factor. And so like Graeme was saying, all of this really comes down to people and their expertise. And the equipment is really a side effect of that. Now, of course, sometimes you need something access to it. But it’s really emphasizing that people like listen, this is a way to connect to other people and have that collaborative type of work. Because what I mean, I found in the university setting, but what we’re learning now is we work with larger like, say multinational pharma companies. These are basically like cities and countries on their own. And just because I work at the same place as someone else, doesn’t mean I have any clue that they exist, or what they can do. Or how they can help me.
And so making it easier to connect these people together is becoming more and more important, and people are starting to realize that. And what’s interesting is, as everyone came home, you no longer had those little interactions in the hallway, it was harder for you to say, hey, do you know someone who can help me with this, you know, so when you help me with that, and more spontaneous way, because everything is becoming a lot more asynchronous, and access to information is more and more important. And so what we want to try and do, we’re hearing from people is that we need to automate the boring things so that these more interesting connections and information sharing can happen. Right. So what I mean by that is, say we have some resource that you want to access.
And people through QReserve, they can access everything from these super expensive complex microscopes, down to rehearsal studios, or people can even rent artwork through QReserve. When someone’s doing that the tools needed to like say, follow the rules to make sure you have training, make sure you can afford it, and so on. That’s the boring thing. So we are finding ways to automate that so that a person’s time isn’t spent on managing those simple little rules and bureaucratic processes. But instead, they can focus more on working with the person and making those more valuable connections.
Because really, at the end of the day, it’s building those connections so that they can help them later on and more in the future. So people are really coming to us saying we have all these complex needs. Help us get rid of the boring stuff, put that into your system, let a computer do that, so that we can actually work with people and get our jobs done.
So a couple things, and Graeme, I’ll pivot to you and ask you about this. And you know, we can go back and forth. But do people see equipment? Because one of the things that phrases that caught my ear was that people think about the equipment. And they might mean they might not know exactly that they need that, but they think they need that. Do they? Do you think that psychologically or otherwise?
Do you think that they think that equipment is a magic bullet? That, that it solves the problem without either consultation or really understanding what the equipment can do the limits of the the the actual equipment do they do they think of, well, if I can just get access to this, that’ll solve, you know, not all my problems, but that’ll solve my problems. So do they look at equipment as a magic bullet?
I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t want to characterize everyone. Right and say there might be some people out there. But a lot of it is you got to kind of think about think from the perspective of the person that’s looking. I you know, like we, there’s lots of extremely talented people out there, you know, sprinkled throughout organizations, no one really can. Going back to what Brandon was saying, no one really has a great idea of what everyone else is about. Even people have worked together for 10 years, right, you might have only kind of scratched the surface.
And we all don’t walk around with our resumes on our shirt, you know, a lot of people that are primarily defined by the title they have, it doesn’t necessarily equate to what they can do. So when it comes to people trying to solve problems, naturally, you’re the most aware of what you can do and so if there are ways in which you think you could solve a problem yourself. You pursue those? And so that might be okay, well, I think I could get that solution by using that piece of equipment. But what ultimately ends up happening is when you interact with someone that is kind of responsible for that equipment, you know, and there’s someone that that cares, right cares about kind of the success of your initiative, they might ask you, what are you trying to do, and you might get some great advice from them, because they might know a little bit more about that specifically. And where we’re starting to see pickup for people using QReserve is, again to what Brandon was saying. And by the way, Brandon’s the is the smart one in the bunch. I’m still trying to figure out what I bring to the table.
But what it ultimately ends up happening is, you’re able to have that interaction, they’re able to help you. And when it comes to people, using the and searching out skills and abilities and availability, to bring people into your project is where I think there’s a ton of potential value for organizations where if the most valuable thing is people, but we aren’t really aware of what each other can do, right. And LinkedIn isn’t the appropriate place for us to know those important skills. And LinkedIn doesn’t tell you about the availability of the person. And you know, we’ve got very rudimentary scheduling tools. From a calendar perspective, lots of people use Outlook, there isn’t really a great way to build rules into their, you know, finding a way to make and discover each other’s abilities. There’s a ton of potential there.
And that’s what we’re starting to see people use QReserve for, they and again, originally, it’s about kind of booking things, I need to book a room, I need to book a projector, what about kind of building a team really quickly to iterate and solve a small problem? And the the real interesting thing about QReserve is, it’s essentially a marketplace in a box for an organization. So I know that you’d like to talk about, like, how and why do people procure, alright? QReserve is a way for an organization or a department or a division, or a section to create their own little internal marketplace where there could be equipment on there, there could be rooms on there, there could be people, and you’re able to be found quicker if you’ve populated that profile, with more information about yourself. And what happens on QReserve is the people that post and keep that information up to date, are the ones that are found the quickest.
And I think that’s what every organization should be really excited about is there might be people in there that are just there to collect their paycheck. But there’s a lot of other people that have a ton of ambition to do well for that organization, and wants to grow and to build their own resume. And they’re having a hard time being discovered within their own little kind of Island State that that is that country. How do you put yourself out there? What are what are the tools that an organization could use to allow those ambitious individuals to put themselves out there to let their colleagues know what they can do?
We’re not aware of many, but QReserve is one of those. And that’s what we are excited about kind of putting out there to the world. And what’s great is the world’s finding out about us from word of mouth, right? And what Brandon and I will be focusing on is accelerating that exponentially in the next year or two. Because I think there’s a lot of excitement about that. And so there’s an unlimited amount of potential.
So one of the things I love about QReserve is that, you know, not only are you solving for accessibility, and kind of a line of visibility into what’s there, what’s not there and then scheduling. But there’s a potentiality. And I’m sure you’re all thought through this, but there’s a potentiality to think of equipment as a profit center. Rather than as we traditionally or historically have looked at equipment as a cost center.
And it depreciates and you know, but if we get usage, meaning we maximize the usage either through our own means or through other people using the equipment and paying to use their equipment etc. Sure, we could, we could look at equipment not just as an investment or an expense. But we could look at it as also as a way to do what we needed to do, but also for a way for us to make money from that equipment. Is that am I on the right line of thinking? Brandon?
Absolutely. Yeah, this is absolutely one of the core problems that we were looking to solve from day one. So out of university, you know, there’s different types of facilities. So some I would call more pure research, you bring grant money in your use your tools, you publish papers, and you progress the world. Another big part of universities, though, are exactly what you say. So you have to bring revenue in to support your facilities, and to pay all of those PhDs and scientists who are working there.
And typically, a university cancer researcher is not very good at marketing. And they are being told, go study cancer and find these cures, but the same time run a business and bring people in to pay for everything here. One of the hardest things there is that you will typically be able to talk to people, you know, and it’s a it’s a tight knit community. But how do you get other people in there. And it’s not because people don’t want to work with you, it’s really usually just a lack of information. And one of the problems like really the day QReserve started, was I needed a tool at my university.
I would have paid someone, I would have done anything. I just didn’t know where it was. And so I played email tag for literally three weeks trying to track down this tool that was available. When I when I thought I should just be able to like search this like a library database and find out who has it. And so all of these new revenue opportunities really start to arise when people can find your resources and more easily access them. But then again, once you start doing this, and you start running facilities as a business. Even inside other businesses, right, like you might be working for a large multinational pharmaceutical company, but your little department still has to run its own internal business. And so making that as efficient as possible is important.
You don’t want to be paying someone a full-time salary, just to sit there with pen and paper and schedule equipment out. If you can automate that, make sure people are trained, make sure they have all the right credentials to do something that saves you money, and it makes it more profitable to run your facilities. And so a lot of this is really is built in that marketplace that people can work both internally, but also externally and help more efficiently bring revenue into your business, your organization.
So, so a couple of questions before we get to the. Oh go ahead.
Yeah, the other the other kind of really interesting feature that was added a couple years ago and really piqued my wife’s interest, and I’ll bring her out, because she’s the HR expert in my household. she’s, uh, she’s got the I think that CHRP are now it’s a CHRL on, she’s a Director of Human Resources for her company. And what really excited about one of the features we Added to QReserve was a wish list function.
And essentially, when we, when Bandon was talking about having something that already exists, and trying to find ways to let people in the organization know it’s there, so it can be used. The flip side of the coin is a bunch of people needing something, maybe not needing a full piece of equipment, or a person, they need a skill or an ability, and being able to communicate that collective need off a common platform to create a business case to go out and get it. And that’s a real interesting thing. So universities are using in hospitals are using QReserve to help break down silos between specific business units or labs. To help them collectively identify things they need to build a better business case to go out and acquire it. It’s harder to justify, you know, hiring someone for a specific skill, if they cost $100,000. And you’re expecting to only really need $40,000 worth of that, that that lever over a year.
But what if you could pool those resources across five areas and find a way to bring that person in, fill them up? scratch the itch of the organization as a whole and do it cheaper than kind of outsourcing? How do you How are we doing that effectively at scale? I think I think tools to help us in that area to kind of help that discovery, to help building that business case is a real exciting component that’s out there. And then, you know, having a better understanding of who those people are in the organization. What they can do, also helps with, you know, succession planning, and we’ve had a number of customers being really excited about you know, understand Who’s attached to specific function? You know, what they do, what those special skills are.
And Even having those people help identify the kinds of skills and ability that the next person that comes in to replace them would need to be able to operate effectively. How do we how do we tease out that information from an organization? How do we enable individuals that might not normally be doing HR related functions to be providing valuable HR related data? And how can we be taking information from our general the general operation of our business and be providing those kind of hiring and procurement leaders with the information they need to do their job as effectively as possible? Right?
There’s, there’s so much power to information that’s out there, the bottleneck is, you know, transmitting that information, gathering it from people collecting it, and then ultimately acting upon it. And there’s lots of opportunity there.
Love that. Two questions left. One is going to be any reluctance that you’ve found so far, the you know, to the universe of nos, right. So. So when you when you pitch this to people? What’s kind of the top thing that that you have to not overcome? But you need to explain to them and kind of get over that hurdle? And then the second is, is, without getting into the dollars and cents too deeply? What is the what’s the financial model for y’all? How do y’all make money?
Yeah, so I’ll definitely answer the first one, that the exciting, but also difficult component of bringing out kind of a new way of doing business is you’re running up against individuals that have done it a different way. And there’s sometimes a set precedent, but the biggest hurdle that we have is, there isn’t a cost center for putting something like she reserved into an organization, they’ve really kind of relied on people.
So we’ve been leveraging very intelligent people, you know, managers, directors, VPS, to be doing these kinds of processes in their brain, and they’ve been doing a decent job. But there’s a lot more that could, that could be done. But there is no existing budget, you’re not replacing a an enterprise system with another enterprise system. This is bringing an enterprise system into an area where there wasn’t one. So some organizations don’t have the budget to be implementing new technologies, or it takes time, there are budgetary cycles, you need to build a business case for something like this, wait for funding, then, you know, depending on the size of the deployment, you know, some organizations are using cube reserve for, you know, four figures.
Others have more complicated use cases, and want a larger deployment. And so it gets more expensive. When you get past a certain cost point, there are procurement issues that come up, there are kind of gates that organizations have put in to kind of make sure that they’re not taken advantage of. But ultimately, it takes time. So what we’re finding is, you know, we’re having to help the people that are finding us that are desperately wanting to put cube reserve into their organization, ready to work with them to help them communicate the value to their, their larger organization. So that’s really the biggest kind of gate that we’re dealing with. But that’s eroding.
And then kind of back to what I mentioned, kind of that kind of the top of the coffee chat was, you know, there’s been a big mind shift in individuals. A lot of those gates about this is how we normally did things have evaporated and eroded because, you know, we aren’t doing things the way we always did. And so that that has come with an excitement in many organizations with kind of looking at ways of improving.
Yeah, that’s one of the silver linings of COVID, has forced us to kind of rethink work and rethink all things related to work real quickly, just and again, in general, the financial model for QReserve, is is it a subscription-based?
So yeah, typically, the software license, we do a subscription-based model. Yeah, there’s different options depending on how you deploy it and work closely. So you can do onsite or cloud and different costs there. There’s also the so like Graeme was saying, It’s not often a cost center or something. So right what we have found works well as somebody has a very specific problem. They need to help book this one thing, so they bring QReserve in. And then they’ll say, Oh, we can use this for meeting rooms. Can we use this to have a database of all of our staff, and we grow it like that. So it’s typically subscription-based. And then also we can do support packages on top of that, and have more interaction with the team on a person-to-person level. Depending on what the requirements are for everyone.
I love it. Guys. This has been fantastic. And I love the problem that y’all are addressing. And I see it y’all are attacking software, but I mean equipment, but I can also see this being just as effective with software. And so I just love what you’re doing and thanks for coming on to Use Case Podcast.
Great, thank you so much William.
Thanks for having us William, really appreciate it.
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to Use Case Podcast. Until next time.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.