We write a lot about the shortage of workers in the fields of software development and engineering. But the majority of workers in the U.S. — roughly 59 percent — pull down hourly paychecks in jobs such as dishwashers, baristas, sales clerks, landscapers and janitors.
Jobaline, a six-month-old Kirkland startup led by former Microsoft manager Luis Salazar, wants to help businesses find hourly workers in a snap, taking over where existing job search services such as Craigslist, Facebook or traditional job boards end.
Launching service today in Seattle and Miami, the service allows workers to apply in Spanish and English via text message on smartphones or feature phones, as well as through tablets or desktop computers. In that regard, Salazar thinks that the service can help bridge the “digital divide.”
“We love the challenge of how to use technology to reduce friction from inefficient processes and love the way technology can drive positive social change,” says Salazar. Employers create job offers for free in the system, only paying for contact information for qualified candidates that are screened via Jobaline. Prices range from $2.95 for five or more contacts to $6.95 for one contact, introductory prices that are 40 percent cheaper than regular rates.
We caught up with Salazar for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight to learn more.
Inspiration hit us when: “Coffee shops are the de-facto office for all emerging startups, and LinkedIn is the de-facto networking mechanism. After years of using both to further other startup endeavors, our team began to ask itself: How well do these things serve the hourly worker economy, which makes up the majority of the U.S. workforce?”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “VC+Angel: In November 2012, we raised a seed round of $1.5 million from Madrona Venture Group and angel investors based in Seattle, New York City and Silicon Valley. The funding enabled us to build our platform, refine the technology and improve our model based on user behavior and early feedback we received from employers, job seekers and potential partners during a short, semi-private beta period. Beyond the dollar investment, the support we received from Madrona and our network of angel investors has been invaluable. Creating a start-up takes a village, and we sought out investors and advisors who not only support our vision, but whose counsel we take seriously, and whose real-world expertise we can draw from. In other words, we put our investors to work. Since our goals are aligned, we are all highly motivated to see the company succeed. As a result, Jobaline is seeing traction with users and bringing in revenue, even prior to our public launch.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “A combination of our platform technology and our mobile approach. 59 percent of the workforce in the US consists of hourly jobs, yet the majority of that population does not have access to technology solutions currently in place that are struggling to bring an outdated, “classifieds ad”-orientated hiring process into the 21st Century.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Building such a great team, complementing them with investors and subject matter experts as advisors. In short, our best move has been building a great Jobaline team, and applying our learnings quickly (and on a shoestring budget) by listening/watching real customers using the product.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Thinking we were going to be able to sleep more than four hours per day! In general, we’re working to avoid overestimating short-term impact and underestimating long-term impact of activities, such as: prioritizing which bugs to be fixed and features to be released, and adding new team members and partnerships.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Can we get all of them? Gates on technology. Bezos on the marketplace front. Jobs on user experience. Zuckerberg on the social networking elements of the solution.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “Pre-screening interviews via mobile devices becomes a de-facto behavior for small and large companies. In terms of geographic expansion, we are launching publicly in Seattle and Miami on April 30, and users will impact our national roll-out roadmap, and will help us decide where to make the platform available next. That said, the interests from overseas is huge, as the hourly-workers economy is large everywhere: UK, India, Japan, Latam… and the Internet is mobile everywhere. Our solution is currently bilingual, and since we’ve gone from 1 to 2 languages already, expanding beyond that will be a relatively simple exercise.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We are a platform that is both a stand-alone solution, and one that bolsters other existing solutions in the market. We start where job boards, and the “jobs section” of corporate websites end, and supplement those technologies — as well as social media networks. Therefore, instead of fearing us, potential competitors should look to us a possible partner.”
We are truly unique because: “This is not our first rodeo. Our team consists of seasoned executives, entrepreneurs and angel investors who have aligned to tackle a unique, real-world problem. We have passion for building technology that addresses real-life problems and has a meaningful impact in society.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Achieving that perfect balance of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and MPP (Most Perfect Product). Also saying NO to requests from other segments (not hourly workers) or from partners from overseas has been challenging as one always want to do it all.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “I enjoy mentoring entrepreneurs, and aim to actively do so with my blog, but if I had to limit it to one piece of advice, I’d say do what you feel passion for, make sure you and your family can afford you to be an entrepreneur and do not do it for the money.”