Traba, a jobs board designed to help entry-level workers find available shifts at fulfillment centers and event venues, today announced that it raised $20 million in a Series A round. Khosla led the financing with participation from Founders Fund, General Catalyst, SciFi VC and Atomic, valuing Traba at $120 million post-money.
CEO Mike Shebat says that his experience as a warehouse manager at McMaster-Carr, an Illinois-based industrial supply company, inspired him to co-found Traba in 2021. In an interview with TechCrunch, he pointed out that staffing for warehouses remains notoriously challenging , with annual turnover rates exceeding 40%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seventy-three percent of warehouse operators responding to one recent survey say that they can’t find enough labor.
After a one-and-a-half-year stint at McMaster-Carr, Shebat joined Uber, where he was a founding member of the budding UberEats division. He met Traba’s second co-founder, Akshay Buddiga, through OnDeck, an online entrepreneurship bootcamp. Buddiga was previously a product operations analyst at Zenefits and a senior engineering manager at Fanatics, the sportswear retailer.
“During the pandemic, a lot of changes happened on a macro level that made Traba’s creation the perfect timing… Deemed ‘essential workers’ during the pandemic, warehouse workers finally experienced what increased flexibility looked like and want to return to the workforce with more flexibility, pay transparency and quality work,” Shebat said. “During economic crisis and recessions, warehouses have even more uncertainty on their order volume. Cash-constrained and risk averse, they have a hard time predicting full-time workforce needs. Therefore, they start relying on temp labor more so than they do when they can predict order volume and customer behavior.”
Traba connects workers — who must submit to a background check, powered by Checkr — with open shifts at distribution centers, warehouses and event venues. Contractor profiles allow workers to upload work histories and certifications and view their ratings and reviews; employers using Traba can rate workers and vice versa.
Shebat said Traba lightly vets hirers. In addition, company ratings are the platform’s attempt to shield workers from bad actors, particularly in the warehouse industry, which tends to be accident-prone. The injury rate among warehouse workers is estimated to be 5.1 per 100 full-time workers, one of the highest of any profession.
“Even though this is very entry-level work, where most workers are making minimum wage in their alternative jobs, we have a $13 minimum wage on our platform. The range is $13 per hour to $38 per hour — $16 was the average wage last month,” Shebat said. “By Traba requiring a minimum wage of $13, it self-vets for hirers that tend to treat workers better. We have also turned away or ‘fired’ companies that do not have proper standards, like having no A/C in a hot warehouse or complaints of abusive supervisors. We do a lot of work to ensure that they are getting amazing workers so we want to also ensure the worker has a great experience.”
On Traba, workers can find shifts based on their preferred types of work, locations, transportation modes and hours. Companies only pay for the shifts filled by the platform.
“The biggest value-add for the technical decision-maker is automation,” Shebat said. “Currently, the process of managing a staffing agency relationship requires a lot of manual work — paper timesheets need to be filed and cross-checked against the agency invoice, the invoice needs to be filed with accounting and then paid, and there’s little reporting visibility for decision makers. With Traba, time tracking is done in the worker app, meaning timesheets are automatically updated and visible in the business app immediately after the shift, and invoices are generated from these timesheets after business approval.”
Shebat spotlighted Traba’s recently introduced instant payments feature, which pays out payments to workers’ bank accounts or debit cards in as little as 15 minutes after a shift. Another new capability, “favorites-first” or “favorites-only,” enables businesses to post shifts that give priority access to workers who’ve proven themselves in the past, he explained.
When asked who he sees as Traba’s chief rivals, Shebat listed some of the major staffing firms in the US: Allegis, Randstad, Adecco and TrueBlue. He’s not ignorant of rivals in the tech sector, either — Wonolo and Instawork being among them. Shiftsmart, one of the larger players in the space, raised $95 million in December on the back of a network of 500,000 contractors.
Broadly speaking, startups focused on hourly workers have received investor attention lately. When I Work, Fountain, Seasoned, Homebase and Workiz raised hundreds of millions of dollars in venture financing combined within the last year. That’s not to suggest gig marketplaces are a surefire hit — Jyve, which connected gig economy workers with retailers, shut down last August after raising $35 million. But there’s plenty in the way of capital — and competition.
It remains to be seen whether that’ll change in light of economic headwinds. Booth Shebat argues that Traba is well-positioned for growth regardless. Annualized revenue stands at over $1 million in eight months of operation with 12,000 workers on the platform, and he expects revenue to increase 5x over the next year. On the roadmap is expanding Traba’s 22-person workforce to 50 by the end of the year.
“We plan to expand geographically … primarily to Texas and other light-industrial states [and] Mrrow the sales organization,” Shebat said. “We’re also creating several new product releases to improve our worker app, business app and backend tools — primarily dynamic pricing, communications tools between worker and business, automations for efficiency gains and financial solutions to workers.”
The Series A brings Traba’s total raised to date to $23.6 million.