‘Uber for Labor’: Start-Up Facilitates On-Demand Employment

“It’s like an Uber for labor.”

This is how Woody Klemmer described Laborocity, a start-up he co-founded with his business partner, Joe Barba. Laborocity is a venture that seeks to connect people with varying degrees of skilled labor to businesses and individuals who need short-term workers.

Laborocity vets potential “Doers,” those who provide the labor, and once they are approved, they are eligible for jobs in fields like construction, events, hospitality, general labor, and consulting. Doers apply for a specific job via Laborocity’s online interface and are matched by the staff to employment opportunities. Laborocity targets mainly unskilled labor, but has begun to venture into highly skilled verticals such as consulting and health care to expand its breadth of competency.

Barba is a Philadelphia-based entrepreneur who, prior to Laborocity, had been in charge of his own company, LaborOnDemand. Klemmer had previously been the founder and CEO of Boston-based GladlyDo, which operated in the same space as LaborOnDemand, but focused primarily on the Boston area. Laborocity as it exists today was founded in 2017 when Klemmer and Barba decided to integrate their two businesses into LaborOnDemand and rename it.

Both Klemmer and Barba had long been of the entrepreneurial mindset. Both men had started ventures in high school and college with similar visions and competencies around the unskilled labor market. As Klemmer puts it, “parallel to my story in Boston, [Barba] had an almost identical story in Philadelphia.”

Surprisingly, they had never run into each other despite operating in the same field. Barba read about Klemmer’s venture in an article and called him to learn more. Klemmer ended up pitching to Barba and his partner in Philadelphia, and it appeared to be a natural collaboration from the outset.

“Everything I needed they had and everything they needed I had, so immediately it was a match made in heaven,” Klemmer said.

Laborocity started with four employees at inception and has since expanded to 18 with focuses in sales, technology, operations, and management. They currently have a 100 percent retention rate for businesses utilizing their service.

Laborocity currently is available in Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, and areas of New Jersey and Delaware. Since Barba and Klemmer’s individual businesses had strong bases in Philadelphia and Boston, respectively, their next step was to begin to expand geographically.  

“Our recruiting team is very good—they can spin up a new location within a couple of days typically,” Klemmer said. This process begins with the recruiters finding a supply of workers either generally or for a specific customer and then building up a workforce in the region.

“We can grow horizontally without actually having to touch down and put an office in that particular area,” Klemmer said, describing the advantages associated with having this recruiting system.

Doers must go through an interview and third-party background check, and the required qualifications are stringent. Fewer than 5 percent of applicants become Doers, and “we are very adamant on only supplying the best of the best,” Klemmer said.

Laborocity also provides both workers compensation and general liability insurance to Doers in the event that there is an issue on a job, which is an important incentive for high-in-demand Doers. Laborocity has also had to field a large influx of Doers due to its quick expansion.

“99 percent of our workers are between the ages of 21 and 29,” Klemmer said, indicating that the target workforce is generally Millennial and unskilled. Initially, the business had targeted college students as Doers, but expanded into non-college students when it moved toward a more business-to-business model due to issues with scheduling.

“We described our college kids as our Uber Black car, and when we got to a certain level of demand where we had to fill the jobs, we opened up our UberX,” Klemmer said.

He qualified this by noting that there are still important qualities necessary to be a Doer.

“I need people that can show up and are responsive, receptive, and trainable,” Klemmer said.

Doers are typically paid by the hour, and there is a double confirmation system for wages to ensure that all parties are adequately compensated. Laborocity uses Stripe’s services for secure payment, which Klemmer said has been largely successful.

“We haven’t had many issues at all with fudging hours or anything similar to that, it’s more confusion over issues such as whether or not to count lunch in their hours,” he said.

Since Laborocity is moving into both the consulting and healthcare verticals, it has to make adjustments to its processes.

“We do all the screening upfront, we just adjust the questions,” Klemmer said, describing the recruiting strategy behind bringing in these Doers. These fields will also require stricter vetting from Laborocity in terms of qualifications. The move is a change from current practice, but will provide the start-up opportunities for growth and increased reliability.

“Our plan is to build an amazing, profitable business, and if we can accomplish that goal, we will have many options,” he said.

Image Courtesy of Laborocity