Startup seeks $2M to help employers fill low-skill jobs

An Indianapolis-based tech startup founded by Internet job-board veterans is raising $2 million for a location-based mobile application and website that helps people searching for low- and mid-skill jobs.

The company is Work Here LLC, and the eponymous app helps restaurants, retailers and the like fill high-turnover positions. The people searching for these jobs tend to be more interested in the location of a job than they are in any specific position or industry, company founders said. So instead of showing a text listing of jobs based on a search query, the app displays a geographical selection of jobs based on the user's location.

"Most of the investment to make job search and employment more efficient has all gone toward the higher spectrum of professionals–accountants, doctors, attorneys," CEO and President Howard Bates said. "But for most of the worker population, there has been little investment out there to make their lives more efficient and make it easier for them to find positions."

The company already has raised about half of the $2 million it has targeted for its first financing round, a total that's near the high end for any local startup's seed round this year. Officials said they plan to close the round in coming weeks and launch the app next month.

The company was founded just over a year ago by Rick Wehrle, chief technology officer, and Mike Seidle, chief operating officer. Wehrle, 46, is a Purdue University alumnus and computer scientist who, in the mid-1990s, helped build the predecessor to job-search heavyweight Seidle, 45, earned operations and technology stripes at a variety of Indiana companies, including job-listing aggregation firm DirectEmployers Association.

Bates, 61, who was previously CEO of Smarter HQ, stepped down from that position in January and joined Wehrle's and Seidle's venture. The company has four full-time employees and several contractors. It also has about five beta customers, including at least one national firm officials declined to name on the record.

The app's core users are intended to be job seekers, who will have free access, and employers, who will pay subscription fees.

Users create profiles that in part list work experience, and they can view nearby job openings on a map. They can express interest in multiple jobs through the app, and communicate with employers who are interested in them.

They can also follow companies and be alerted to job openings.

The WorkHere app draws millions of job postings from the DirectEmployers database, which officials said has about 97 percent of all postings in the United States. Many employers will see their openings on the app. But if they want to post an unlimited number of jobs directly on the app, and launch an ad campaign that targets a specific profession in a certain geographic area, the price tag is $499 a year.

The founders got the idea for the company when, at past jobs, they noticed that job hunters would enter search terms like "jobs in Indianapolis," since specific searches like "cashier" might exclude warehouse positions the job seeker might be interested in.

And since low-skilled workers often spend a relatively high portion of their income on transportation, the founders made maps and spatial technology the foundation of their app. Making things more efficient for prospective employees benefits employers, too, officials said.

"A lot of these positions have such high turnover, that [these employers] are always hiring," Wehrle said.

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