It’s not easy finding quality workers in a pinch, particularly if you’re in the service and hospitality industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an annualized hotel and motel employee turnover rate of 73.8 percent, and food service isn’t faring much better — the National Restaurant Association puts it at 72.9 percent. Unsurprisingly, there’s a labor shortage: The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates that, as of last month, there were roughly 900,000 job openings in hotels alone.
Brydge investor Ron McCulloch and former Avalon Ventures director Tim Chatfield say they’re doing their darndest to close the gap. In 2016, the pair cofounded New York-based Jitjatjo, which offers an end-to-end web staffing platform with a two-sided marketplace through which businesses can book workers with as little as one hour’s notice (or up to several months in advance). Until recently, it has chosen to laser-target New York City, but Jitjatjo expanded to Chicago four months ago. The company claims 250 percent year-over-year revenue growth and a 350 percent uptick in job postings since launch, and to date it has matched workers in a pool of “several thousand’ with “tens of thousands” of shift assignments.
The icing on top? Fresh venture capital.
Jitjatjo today announced that it has raised $11 million in series A funding led by Morningside Technology Ventures, which brings the company’s total raised to $17.9 million following seed and preseed rounds totaling $6.9 million. The new funds will drive “continued growth” in its New York and Chicago staffing networks, said Chatfield, and bankroll the buildout of a new headquarters in New York and “enhancement” of its product offerings, in part through hiring more engineers.
“Throughout the process of building a marketplace that provides high-quality service delivery at a vast scale, we have amassed a significant amount of data across the entire workflow, which not only improves our underlying matchmaking algorithms, it builds significantly on our understanding of human behavioral patterns,” he added. “After a wildly successful performance in our initial launch market, demand has been increasing exponentially and our partners have been eager for the Jitjatjo talent network to expand into other markets.”
Jitjatjo’s customers — which include Acme, Cosme, Barclays Center, Columbia University, Zuma, Blackbarn, Tao Group, Black Barn, Mulberry & Vine, City Bakery, Gabriel Kreuther, and other restaurants, bars, and stadiums — use the company’s suite of tools to supplement their workforce. But unlike personal ads and gig sites like Fiverr, it’s a largely autonomous process — machine learning algorithms take into account experience, location, skills, availability, history, ratings, and other factors when pairing workers with available jobs.
Booking takes as little as 30 seconds, and employers get a detailed roster in advance and a real-time view of hirees’ location, plus access to an anonymized group messaging chatroom viewable by every onsite Jitjatjo worker. The platform handles timesheets, too — recording start and end times automatically and presenting a one-sheet for approval post-shift.
On the other side of the equation, matched users — all of whom are W2 employees of Jitjatjo and required to undergo a skills assessment, interviews, and background checks — complete the necessary paperwork digitally, through Jitjatjo’s mobile app, which is also where they plot out their hour-by-hour and day-by-day availability. Jitjatjo says it pays within “hours” of a job’s conclusion through a debit card or direct deposit, and those who complete more gigs and exceed expectations are more likely to earn a coveted “absolutely” in-app rating from an employer, which weighs the matching algorithm in their favor.
They’re also afforded the chance to rate employers and won’t be paired again with those they dislike. Chatfield says the average worker earns up to $30 per hour.
Jitjatjo in many ways channels Jyve, a San Francisco startup that also provides and pairs customers with workers from a “talent marketplace” — albeit strictly retail customers. Talent-finding app Pared is a closer match — it similarly targets the service and hospitality industry — but it’s currently only available in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.
Despite emerging competition in the roughly $3 trillion global gig economy, Morningside’s Mick Sawka contends that Jitjatjo’s deliberate, tech-driven rollout to service venues has been — and will continue to be — central to its success.
“In a very short time, the Jitjatjo team has executed a clearly defined vision to address several inefficiencies in [the] contingent labor industry,” he said. “We especially look forward to the extended applications of their technologies.”