Penina First
© Penina First
Finalist 2011 for Europe

Penina First

Swifto, ISRAEL

Swifto is a mobile web-based marketplace for instant local services and needs.

Imagine you wake up in the morning to heavy snowfall and your drive needs shovelling. Or you need someone to pick up shopping, mend a bicycle, take your cat to the vet or just about any other daily task you can think of... What do you do? You contact Swifto, and within minutes rest assured that somebody’s there to do it. The idea originated as GoWorkIt, a site dedicated as a way to find temporary workers in a flash. ‘You can book restaurants and airplanes at the last minute,’ says Penina First, the start-up’s 23 year-old founder and CEO, ‘yet so many simple needs go unmet when friends or word of mouth can’t help.’ In Penina’s mind, the world is slow and old-fashioned about finding people to do odd jobs. ‘You don’t need to read a CV to hire a drive-shoveller or a party-helper! Just mutual trust and their desire to work.’

Fast and local, but going global…

Having launched in Israel and moved swiftly this summer to New York, where it is now in alpha phase with 3,000 helpers, Penina extended the Swifto service to ‘almost any need! People post their request on the platform which alerts the community by SMS, web or smartphone. It details the rate. They decide if they can do it. You receive their details and call them up. Simple as that!’ Services can also be offered and posted online in exactly the same way. The whole process takes on average 12 minutes, which is the beauty of the concept. A proprietary algorithm gives preference to replies in the direct vicinity, for speed is the essence in Penina’s business plan to trump time and get people not just what they need, but right when they need it. Helpers can be paid via a PayPal account, which Swifto releases to them once the job is done or the task is complete. The business model will rely on premium rate SMS notification or a percentage of the overall rate. In Israel, the original site generated 3,000 to 4,000 jobs each month for the 19,000 workers on its books. ‘It’s not rocket science!’ says Penina. ‘We just leverage the speed and use of mobile and smartphone technology, so we’re much more dynamic.’

Taking a risk

‘Penina did a Masters in Biotechnology, which would hardly seem to set her on the road to founding a web and mobile start-up, except for one detail: ‘I had over 30 temporary jobs as a student!’ She also has entrepreneurial mettle: ‘when I was 16, I started writing ideas down in a book. I called it Making Products More Efficient and Better! The first idea was for a talcum powder in the form of a spray.’ She may not need to develop that one just yet, since her original idea quickly drummed up seed funding and won Israel’s Prime Minister Award for Innovation, quite a coup for a young girl now heading a full-time staff of 15. What does her family think of her success? ‘They’re amazed that people want to invest in my project! Perhaps it’s because I’m young, I just don’t see the risk.’ In fact, Penina sees Swifto as pure common sense and would have been the first to use her own service. ‘When I was filming the video for the website, the girl I organised to play the worker didn’t show up. Can you believe it? If my system had been up and running, I would have found a replacement for her in a flash!’

About the project

What's new?

Since participating in the competition, Swifto reoriented drastically its activities to a NYC-based marketplace for dog walking that connects dog owners with highly vetted and screened walkers.
In 2012, Swifto raised $2.5 Million in investment from Benchmark Capital for this new project!

Swifto plans to expand to Boston by the end of the year, and both Chicago and San Francisco in 2014.