Before starting a full-time 9-5 career, most people start with part-time jobs to work their way through school or get some experience in the working world, whether as a waiter, bartender, or cashier at a grocery store. With professional networking sites like LinkedIn primarily used by professionals and executives, Chicago-based Shiftgig believes it fills a gap in the professional networking space with its platform for people in the service industry. Since launching in January the company has built up a base of over 120,000 users and 4,000 employers to date, and it recently added $3 million in Series A funding from I2A Fund, FireStarter Fund, and Red Barn Investments.
Co-founder Eddie Lou spoke with BetaKit to discuss why he believes the site has been able to gain traction in a busy professional networking space. “We’re a place where people in the service industry, people who work in restaurants, in nightlife, hotels, catering companies, and retail, connect with each other and connect with potential employers,” said Lou. “While LinkedIn is a place for white-collar professionals and Facebook is a place people hang out with their family and friends…there really wasn’t a community in the full-service industry online.”
Like any professional networking site, users fill out their profile with their work history and education, and users can upload several photos. In addition they can ask for recommendations, search job boards specific to their industry, and follow companies. Employees can post jobs jobs, and request an in-person interview with anyone on the platform. As of now, all of the site’s features for both users and employers are free, with the company still finalizing how it will monetize the platform.
Lou also said users can showcase their online networks, which he said can sometimes be the deciding factor in requesting an interview. “They can indicate how many Facebook friends and how many Twitter followers they have. Often times managers and businesses in the service industry want people who are well-connected and have social influence,” Lou added.
The site is one example of how companies are increasingly looking to capture a niche market segment in the professional networking space. There are other sites that attempt to provide an online profile or portfolio for employees and a job board for employers, including Dribbble for designers, GitHub for developers, and more recently sites for young professionals as a precursor to LinkedIn like Identified, which secured $21 million over the summer. There are also professional networking sites built on top of Facebook like BranchOut and companies like MyEdu that focus on showcasing a student’s years in school to connect them with employers. Shiftgig has a different target audience, aiming to fill the void for service industry professionals, though they could use any number of other platforms to connect with work and build their online reputation.
With the recent funding under its belt, the company is currently working on a number of features that are tailored to the different verticals and industries it supports. The company has also recently expanded geographically to now include eight major U.S. cities including Washington, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, with many more on the company’s roadmap. With a growing user base and a niche approach, Shiftgig is primed to fill the professional networking void for the service industry, though it will have to prove it’s a better place to find jobs and build an employee profile than other more general-purpose solutions.