L.A. startup helps businesses find blue-collar workers via text

Apr 28, 2017, 6:00am PDT

From LinkedIn to ZipRecruiter, technology has streamlined job hunting and hiring like never before.

You can play games now to assess job skills, and even apply to work at McDonald’s via Snapchat.

But blue-collar day jobs are often still filled the old-fashioned way — by trawling Home Depot parking lots or tapping staffing agencies that take a cut of workers’ wages.

Work Today aims to streamline this $134 billion market with a new labor marketplace that connects the country’s 53 million blue-collar workers to daily jobs via text.

The Los Angeles startup has raised a $1.1 million seed round from Mucker Capital, Social Capital, Hone Capital (formerly CSC Venture Capital), Belgian fund E-Merge and GAN Ventures.

With Work Today, each morning users receive job offers on their phones including what the job is, where, when and how much it pays. The workers reply “yes” or “no,” then get details about where to show up and whom to ask for.

Work Today bills the business and pays workers the same day, charging a 20 percent service fee for each hour worked — to the business, not the worker. The average hourly payout to workers is nearly $14.

It’s a system that saves businesses time, delivering a vetted, experienced workforce with a text rather than hours of posting jobs and hunting for workers.

“I was raised by a single mother with my two little sisters. I saw what she had to do to make sure we had food on the table and clothes on our backs every single day,” founder and CEO Joe Nigro told me via email. “There is nothing more inspiring to me than building a business that can help anyone find consistent work, get paid instantly and give someone the ability to take care of their family and responsibilities.”

Before founding Work Today, Nigro was VP of growth at the recently shuttered HomeHero, which provided non-medical senior care, and GM at Handy, an app that books help around the house and acquired his startup Unsully.

His experience at those startups made him realize that workers don’t necessarily want to have to download yet another app — and many don’t have smartphones with that capability.

“The data doesn’t lie,” he said. “Text is by far the most engaging communication medium out there. Additionally, many of our workers don’t have smartphones — SMS is instantaneous and accessible to everyone.”

He hit the streets to prove his theory that texting was a way to connect businesses and workers, creating business cards in English and Spanish and handing them out at every Home Depot parking lot, unemployment agency and staffing firm he could find. Within a few weeks, he couldn’t handle the amount of volume coming in, and the company was born.

Since its launch in May 2016, Work Today has accumulated 50,000 workers on the platform and matched more than 150,000 jobs. The company is growing 30 percent month-over-month.

Currently the top three categories represented on the platform are construction, demolition and warehousing, but the company had a middle school book a substitute teacher, signaling how the service can be applied to other industries.

Work Today will use its seed round to expand from Los Angeles into Orange County and San Diego, as well as recruit more talent and test new sales channels.

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