In every company we meet there is a shred of brilliance. Without fail, entrepreneurs who make it as far as our office have hit upon some unique insight, built a compelling product and found customers, investors and employees who believe in them. However, as we well know, not every startup is successful. Timing is a tremendous factor in driving the outcome of our investments. At Trinity we look for both — the insight captured in the idea itself, and a market that is receptive, even eager, for the solution on offer. Workpop captured our imaginations from the first moment, and equally importantly, we believe it is an idea whose time has come.
I first began discussing the concept for Workpop with the co-founders, Chris and Reed, in early 2014, as they were envisioning a new kind of hiring tool for the modern, mobile worker. Reed, who grew up in a Florida town with an economy deeply impacted by the recession and close of the space program, had seen firsthand how frustrating the job seeking and hiring process is for a large working population. Instead of harvesting applicants and throwing them at any opening available, the team focused from the beginning on building trust between job seekers and employers. By coaching applicants as they build their profiles, Workpop directs them toward the jobs they’re most likely to get, and helps them understand the path to the jobs they want. By building workflow, verification, and communication tools into a safe recruiting system, Workpop can greatly accelerate the hiring process for employers while channeling meaningful feedback to job seekers. The team has built a platform that brings job seekers and employers together, aligning them toward a common mission.
This was an idea that immediately resonated with me. In late 2012, my wife, Deepa, and I co-founded a small retail business in San Francisco called Schmendricks, which made authentic Brooklyn style bagels. Like most retailers, Schmendricks needed a steady supply of hourly workers to bake bagels, prepare orders, and work the cash register. Deepa, who was the one actually running the business, constantly struggled to find the help she needed. She found herself sending endless e-mails and sorting through hundreds of resumes, wasting valuable time interviewing candidates that eventually weren’t even the right fit for the job. We wished for a better way.
But is the timing right? Silicon Valley is littered with the bodies of “job board” startups. Over the years VCs have poured money into dozens of companies with unique takes on the problem of pairing the right person with the right job, as quickly and efficiently as possible. While there have been some successful outcomes, the market proved a minefield. Now we think there are three reasons why this is the right time to try to solve this problem for the 76 million hourly employees in the US, and the companies that hire them, once and for all.
First, the mobile revolution is putting connected devices in the hands of the most vulnerable segment of the economy. Where before job seekers without internet in the home would struggle with public library computers to draft and send off resumes, today nearly everyone has access to a low-cost smartphone with a camera, data plan and app store to connect them with the opportunities they seek.
Second, social networks are rich with personal and professional data, reducing the friction for candidates to prove their qualifications and rise to the top of the hiring pool. Beyond validating location and duration of previous employment, social networks can enrich applicant profiles with references from prior coworkers and managers, without requiring any work from the referrer.
Finally, the business models of job boards haven’t fundamentally changed over the last decade. By and large, you either pay to post or to advertise your post. There is simply no major site where employers can go online and share available work for free.
We also see the “gig economy” of Uber, Instacart and ZIRX turning a greater portion of the workforce into contract labor. Workpop can help these taskers create the optimum, personalized mix of roles to fit their schedule and earnings requirements. For every potential Uber driver looking for supplemental income, a world of high-quality hourly jobs will be just as easily a tap away within Workpop.
After several months of the most rapid prototyping, iteration and development we’ve seen from an early stage company, we’re thrilled to announce our partnership with the Workpop team, Reed and Chris, as well as Ben, Jay and Jesse. Starting in LA, Workpop is launching a fundamentally better experience for workers and the businesses – small and large – that hire them. It is empowering job seekers to find engaging work that fits their schedule, needs and interests, while helping them develop skills and a reputation in the workforce which can lead to better opportunities and new careers. And it is enabling businesses to hire faster with better information, retain the best people, and help their employees grow. It’s a huge opportunity, and we couldn’t dream up a better team to go after it.