WorkHere Aims to Be LinkedIn for Non-Cubicle Dwellers
In the current era, it’s almost a given that people working in so-called white collar jobs will maintain a LinkedIn account. Whether for the purpose of storing a resume, communicating with potential employers, or connecting to one’s professional network for help finding a job, LinkedIn has become the default online network for cubicle dwellers across the country.
But what about job-seekers who don’t work in offices, or those who work in high-turnover sectors like retail and food service? How about folks who don’t have cars or access to decent public transit—how are they supposed to connect to work opportunities within walking or biking distance? LinkedIn probably doesn’t quite meet their needs, says Mike Seidle.
Seidle is the co-founder and chief operating officer of WorkHere, an Indianapolis startup behind a new “work-life social network” and mobile app for job seekers and employers that puts location at the forefront. WorkHere’s users open the app and see a Zillow-like map with icons representing nearby job openings. They can also choose to follow and get alerts from employers that aren’t hiring at the moment but may be in the future.
“We started the company because there’s nothing like LinkedIn for 75 percent of the workforce,” Seidle says. “For part-time, retail, skilled, and semi-skilled workers, there’s no easy way to network or for employers to recruit talent.”
Seidle said WorkHere, which went live in April, came out of lunchtime discussions held among a group of people who worked in human resources about the difficulty of recruiting employees. “Job boards of the 1990s and 2000s were built for people who sit in front of computers all day,” he explains.
At that time, there were multiple seekers for every job, he says, and smartphones hadn’t yet taken over. WorkHere aimed to create a new mobile-first system where job-seekers can interact instantly with employers and find nearby places hiring as easily as finding the closest place to get a latte.
“Location is the most important signal because most people search for jobs by location,” Seidle says. “You can create a profile on the network and follow people and places. Workers can connect with employers and engage with the hiring process, and employers can reach back out to those who expressed interest in a job.”
WorkHere is free for job seekers, and employers pay a subscription fee. The company officially launched in June 2015 after raising a $1.7 million seed round led by VisionTech Angels, with participation from other angel investors across the country.
WorkHere CEO Howard Bates says the company plans to spend 2017 on another fundraising round and a “very significant” expansion of its user acquisition efforts. Right now, WorkHere has 26,000 users in Indianapolis, the only city in which it currently operates, and Bates says its currently adding “300 to 500 users per day.” The company also works with a number of partners like Ivy Tech Community College to boost awareness among the people it hopes to reach.
“We want to make an inefficient, fragmented market more efficient,” he adds. “We’re trying to serve people with vo-tech skills. We have good traction with people in the military, especially those coming back from war zones. Some other colleges are using the app with students looking for part-time jobs. We’re the largest worker network in Indiana right now, and, in 12 to 18 months, we hope to be the largest in the Midwest.”
The newest addition to WorkHere’s 12-person team is Lisa Helms, a former HR executive with Salesforce who was hired last month.
“I’ve seen the way technology has evolved in the space—it has its own conventions, and it’s really changed how we engage with the workforce,” she says. “Most of us in the professional world stay at jobs three to five years, but the market we serve has a much higher churn dynamic. Many of our users are always looking for a better job, and many of our employers are in constant need.”
As WorkHere increases its user base in 2017, it will narrow down which city’s job market it will tackle next. “We’ll probably expand to larger metro areas bordering Indiana, like Chicago or Dayton,” Bates predicts.