Wildfire 2018: LineShift

LineShift is focused on helping manufacturers prepare for the future of work and maximize the potential of their people and processes. With technology rapidly disrupting the manufacturing industry, LineShift wants to make sure that the people currently working in this industry are prepared to tackle the changing environment, and that companies are making the most of innovations in the industry.

The Garage sat down with the LineShift team- Don Meier (Kellogg ‘19), Kristen Johnson (Kellogg ‘19), and Brian Griffith (Kellogg ‘19)- to learn more about LineShift and the startup’s future goals.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is LineShift and what sparked the motivation for your startup?

Don: LineShift is a company that helps manufacturers and most importantly, the people in the manufacturing workforce to prepare for the future. This is especially important as technology, such as AI and automation is disrupting the manufacturing industry. We help companies and the people in them to assess their processes, consider investing in innovative new technologies and empower their workforce to take on high value roles.

The motivation to start LineShift was sparked by friends and family who work in the manufacturing industry. In fact, there are multiple people on this team who have personal connections to family members who have had careers in the manufacturing space, and have seen first-hand how the industry is being disrupted.

How do you assess workers’ skill-sets?

Don: Instead of looking at workforce from an aggregate perspective, we look at it on a person-by-person basis. We do everything from a soft skills assessment, where we conduct a questionnaire designed to test mechanical and mathematical skills. That is the core skills based assessment part, but we also individually interview everyone to understand what their achievement motivation is and what their goals are. We think the interview is a critical part of the assessment as it gives us a holistic view of how this person can succeed, and how we can continue to grow their career and do what is right for them. So the questionnaire and interview are part of the assessment portion, and then the next step is understanding what the company’s processes and growth constraints are, and helping the company optimize its resources and workforce.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Kristen: The biggest challenge that we are facing right now is getting the problem right. The problem that we are trying to tackle is extremely complicated and multifaceted, so we really need to simplify it and identify what is going to resonate best with our customers. One of the other things that we struggled with was trying to find the right customer for the pilot program- somebody who we could learn from and who could in turn learn from us as well. Recently, we have also refocused our efforts to better qualify our leads and make sure that the customers that we are going after are in the right stage of their business for this kind of solution, and are the right size as well. We want to make sure that we have a strong initial push and then build momentum from there.

How has The Garage helped you and what are your plans for Wildfire?

Don: The Garage has given us access to mentors and connections that we would not have otherwise been able to connect with. This place has a great culture of entrepreneurship and encapsulates what every co-working space tries to achieve. Everyone is always helping each other out and constantly learning from one other. The Garage has created this culture of giving back and not being afraid to take risks or fail, and it has been tremendously helpful to be a part of this community.

For Wildfire, we want to spend time building out our new solution and then move into customer acquisition and further study how we can add value to customers. Our first pilot showed that there is definitely interest in this field, but there are a lot of problems that many companies are trying to solve. So we want to attract the right customers for our second pilot, to prove that this is a viable business to go after. Ultimately, we want to build a combination of a product and service that is going to solve a problem in a repeatable way and constantly add value.

Which entrepreneur do you admire and why?

Kristen: While working for a member of Congress, I got the opportunity to meet with a group of people who were working to build furniture from reclaimed wood. What made their company, Purposeful Design, different though, was that they specifically employed men who were coming out of recovery houses in Indianapolis. This included men who may have been homeless, may have struggled with some kind of addiction, may had gone to jail, or had some challenge in their background that prevented them from getting another job. This company trained these men to make absolutely beautiful furniture. I think there is an important lesson to learn from this: often times people are extremely undervalued. The core missions of LineShift is to prepare people in the manufacturing workforce for the future and give them the opportunity to best use and maximize their skills. And if we do so, we can make really incredible things happen, not only for these undervalued people, but also for the world. I think that there is a lot to be said for companies and entrepreneurs who look at people as a solution rather than something that they need to work around.

Brian: All the founders I admire are extremely humble about what they have accomplished. When someone asks them what they are most proud of, I rarely hear them speak about the valuation of their company. They proudly speak about being able to give their team an opportunity to create a successful product and live comfortable lives. For one of my Kellogg classes, the co-founder of a company called Andela came to talk. Andela is a company that is training engineers in Africa to become coders for the biggest technology companies in the world. The premise of their business is that talent is evenly distributed across the world, but access and opportunity is not. I think that this sentiment really resonates with me as well, and is the premise of LineShift. We truly believe that there is a lot of talent and potential out there, it’s just a matter of unlocking it and giving it the tools to succeed.

You can learn more about LineShift on their website or say hi on Twitter.


This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the startup teams admitted to Wildfire, The Garage’s Summer Pre-Accelerator Program. For more information about Wildfire, click here.