While there’s been plenty of recent debate around the gig economy, Jarah Euston argued that it’s time to rethink a bigger part of the workforce — hourly workers.
Euston, who was previously an executive at mobile advertising startup Flurry and a co-founder at data operations startup Nexla, told me that although 80 million Americans are paid on an hourly basis, the current system doesn’t work particular well for either employers or workers.
On the employer side, there are usually high rates of turnover and absenteeism, while workers have to deal with unpredictable schedules and often struggle to get assigned all the hours they want. So Euston has teamed up with co-founder Amol Jain to launch WorkWhile in the hopes of creating a better system, and they’ve also raised $3.5 million in seed funding.
WorkWhile, she explained, is a marketplace that matches hourly workers with open shifts — employers identify the shifts that they want filled, while workers say which hours they want to work. That means employers can grow or shrink their workforce as needed, while the workers only work when they want.
“By pooling the labor force … we can provide the flexibility that both sides want,” Euston said.
WorkWhile screens workers with one-on-one interviews, background checks and tests based on cognitive science, with the goal of identifying applicants who are qualified and reliable.
Employers pay WorkWhile a service fee, while the platform is free for users. And because the startup aims to build a long-term relationship with its workforce, Euston said it will also invest by providing additional benefits, starting with sick leave credits earned when you work and next-day payments to your debit cards.
“It’s hard to find a job that works with you and doesn’t give you a take it or leave it schedule,” said Michael Zavala, one of the workers on the platform, in a statement. “WorkWhile was exactly what I was looking for with the ability to create your own schedule for full time.”
The startup is launching in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County and Dallas-Forth Worth.
Given the broader economic and employment trends during the pandemic, there should plenty of people looking for more work, while Euston said she’s seen a “feast or famine” situation on the employer side — yes, some companies have had to freeze or cut staff, but others have grown rapidly, including WorkWhile customers including restaurant supplier Cheetah, meal delivery service Thistle and horticultural e-commerce company Ansel & Ivy.
The funding, meanwhile, was led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from Stitch Fix founder and CEO Katrina Lake, Jennifer Fonstad, F7, Siqi Chen, Philipp Brenner, Zouhair Belkoura and Nicholas Pilkington.
“The majority of hourly workers are honest and reliable but some have difficult personal circumstances they need help with,” Vinod Khosla said in a statement. “Companies treat these employees as high turnover and expendable but, if given respect and appropriate support, they can become longer-term, model employees. WorkWhile wants to help solve this problem.”