LinkedIn, now with more than 830 million users, has carved out a place for itself as a hub for the world of professional workers: a social network optimized for people in knowledge and related industries looking for jobs or recruiting to fill job openings; for people to connect with others in their profession; and for those thinking about the world of work and professional development.
Today, a startup called JobGet is announcing $52 million in funding to fuel its ambitions to build a similar kind of go-to hub for a related but actually very different, sector of the labor market: waged or hourly workers.
Built specifically for them, JobGet provides them with listings for jobs and an opportunity to connect with others doing similar work; access for recruiters to tap people for openings they might have; and down the line more tools such as training and development to help them along their own career ladders.
"Our ultimate vision is to become the home for the hourly workforce," said CEO and co-founder Tony Liu, "not just job search but career progression, connecting with their community and more."
The funding, a Series B, is coming in the form of $40 million in equity and a further $12 million in venture debt. JAZZ Venture Partners and Sanabil Investments are jointly leading the round, with Pillar VC and unnamed others also participating. Liu said in an interview that the purpose of the debt is to "give us optionality" for potential partnerships and acquisitions, while the equity will be used to hire more talent and build out its product set organically.
Currently, many countries, including the U.S. where JobGet is active, are teetering on recession and grappling with inflation, two factors that might eventually tip into rising unemployment rates for hourly workers. Liu believes that even if that were to happen (it hasn't yet), regardless of the state of things, there would be a need for a platform like JobGet.
"Recession can be two-sided," he said. "It doesn’t matter which way the market grows because we always see people, job seekers or employers, needing to hire. For us we haven’t seen the impact so far in the market."
What there is however is a large number of jobs that have yet to be filled, to the tune of 10 million job openings; and even if unemployment is in a period of decline, there are still 6 million U.S. workers out of work.
JobGet already seems to be making some headway in connecting with hourly workers looking for work and employers looking to hire them. It has racked up 2 million downloads (it's not disclosing active users) of its mobile app, with a further 10 million using its website, Liu said. The number of companies, meanwhile, posting on the site is now at 50,000, up from just 1,000 three years ago when the startup first opened for business. The list of companies include Home Depot, California Pizza Kitchen, Showcase Cinemas and Taco Bell, it said.
Conversations between organizations and individuals on the platform tripled in the last year to 300,000, with multiples more continued over email.
Relatively speaking, those numbers are still just a drop in the bucket for the total number of people doing shift work. In the U.S. alone, that number is above 83 million, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Liu came up with the concept for JobGet in much the same way as many ideas are hatched: from a direct experience. In his case, his family emigrated to Canada from China, and he grew up in what he describes as a "blue collar immigrant family."
Basically, the kinds of jobs that his parents could get were limited by their language skills, and his mother ended up working in kitchens as a cook. Growing up on a different trajectory where he was exposed to other kinds of demographics, Liu wondered why his mother's job prospects, and the way she went about looking for jobs -- often going in person from place to place and filling out forms -- wasn't more similar to how others in salaried professions looked for work.
The differences between those two labor demographics, of course, don't end just there, but one of the positive outcomes of all of our tech progress has been the ability of some entrepreneurs to identify those gaps; to understand that just because you're a lower-paid shift worker doesn't mean you don't deserve and expect nice things too; and to build to fill that need. And that is what JobGet is trying to do here, too.
"We are trying to take a human-centric product approach," Liu said.
The company is actively recruiting staff now and has made some interesting recent hires on the executive front, including Ryan Eberhard, the former CPO at ZipRecruiter, who is now president; and Louisa Cartwright, formerly VP of People at Headspace, joining in a similar role at JobGet.
The company is still very much at a nascent phase both in terms of its bigger product roadmap, and what it is doing with its business model. Currently companies pay for job listings, and that seems to be the primary revenue line, with no plans as yet for advertising or paid memberships -- two other areas where LinkedIn monetizes.
That does raise the question, too, of why we need a "LinkedIn for hourly workers" if LinkedIn already appears to provide quite a lot of services targeting those users.
Liu said he believes that LinkedIn is perhaps "unnecessarily more complicated" than it needs to be for the shift-working world. "It's really much more geared to the 'white collar' space," he added. As one example, he cited an application for a dishwasher position, which "had so many questions. It is just too disconnected." Others like Facebook have also tried to do more in this space; and indeed Workplace, the work version of Facebook that targets businesses with large numbers of shift workers; potentially lays the groundwork for catering to that demographic. But it too seems to have many other things to tackle, Liu said.
This leaves an opening for a new player, which JobGet hopes to be.
"We're delighted to continue to support JobGet's explosive growth,” said Zack Lynch, managing partner, JAZZ Venture Partners, in a statement. “The company has deepened its executive bench with rich expertise that will turbocharge their efforts to transform the job-seeking experience for hourly workers."