San Francisco isn’t an easy place to launch and grow a startup. The Bay Area is insanely competitive when it comes to everything from hiring top talent to drawing investor interest and even securing office space.
Despite the challenging conditions, BlueCrew thrived in San Francisco. The on-demand staffing platform for hourly workers, founded by two Stanford graduate students in 2014, was admitted to Y Combinator’s 2015 summer cohort. While some startups lose momentum after YC, BlueCrew continued to gain steam and grow at a rapid clip. By the end of 2018, BlueCrew had raised $17.3 million in funding and developed its headcount to over 100 people.
As you might expect, BlueCrew has aggressive growth goals for 2019. What might surprise you, however, is that the company decided to move its headquarters from San Francisco to the Merchandise Mart in order to hit them.
“We were looking at our medium-term and long-term growth goals, and we weren’t confident that we could hit those entirely in San Francisco,” said co-founder and CTO Gino Rooney. “Chicago — which has an awesome tech pipeline and is just a great city — seemed like a good match for this next growth phase.”
BlueCrew’s next growth phase will see headcount increase drastically as the company beefs up its tech, operations, product and sales teams. Rooney said the company will make around 50 hires this year, and will add between 50 and 100 new team members in 2020.
We’re excited to be in Chicago and participate in the tech scene here.”
All that growth is powered by demand for BlueCrew’s platform, which is designed to make it easier for hourly workers to find jobs and for companies in need of extra hands to quickly staff up. The platform’s biggest differentiator is that all workers are W2 employees of BlueCrew and not independent contractors, which is the norm for tech companies in this space.
“I think it’s the right thing to do for this type of work, to offer the protection that being a W2 employee offers,” said Rooney. “From a business standpoint, employers want to make sure that the people they’re bringing onsite have proper protection. The companies we work with aren’t as comfortable having a 1099 employee work next to someone on a W2.”
Many companies also aren’t comfortable paying to train temp workers, especially when they’re looking for help on-demand, which is why BlueCrew has developed an algorithm that surfaces new job postings first to workers with the best qualifications. All workers undergo an in-person interview with BlueCrew and a background check before they’re admitted to the platform. Users log their hours in BlueCrew’s app, and the company handles all payments.
Rooney said the platform has seen the most interest from companies in the hospitality, events staffing and light industrial (think warehouses and distribution centers) industries. When it comes to competitors, BlueCrew often finds itself facing off against traditional staffing agencies and Craigslist.
In addition to ramping up its growth plans, Rooney, who went to high school in Oak Park and went to the University of Illinois for undergrad, said BlueCrew is looking forward to integrating into the Chicago tech scene.
“We’re excited to be in Chicago and participate in the tech scene here,” said Rooney. “We want to be as involved with the community and the tech community as much as we can.”