inploi launched last month and is looking revolutionise hospitality staffing.
Billy Wood

Meet the inploi entrepreneurs looking to create LinkedIn for the service economy

In an era of zero-hour contracts and temporary employment, the working life of hospitality staff is perhaps more insecure than it has ever been.

Whether it’s a student looking for temporary seasonal work or an experienced waitress looking to forge a career in the catering industry, the prevailing view of the sector has been defined by low pay, long hours and minimal job security.

However, a new London startup is hoping to flip the industry on its head with a new platform that aims to both empower workers in a notoriously exploitative industry and provide greater oversight for employers when hiring new staff.

Startup inploi, which launched last month following a £200k seed funding round, dubs itself as the jobs network for the hospitality industry and its founders have ambitious plans for growth as they set about reimagining how hospitality staff look for work.

“In an era where you can get a taxi, a pizza and a date easily from your phone, why was it so difficult to find a job?”

Thought up by twenty-something entrepreneurs Matthew de la Hey and Alex Hanson Smith, the platform has been developed in direct response to some of the prevailing models that have dominated recruitment in the sector for decades and which both Matt, who is Chief Executive, and Alex, who is CPO, have wrestled with in the past.

Matt explained: “We developed inploi in response to our own experiences trying to find work in the hospitality sector as students which consisted of walking down the street looking for signs in windows, and handing out hard-copy CVs.

“In an era where you can get a taxi, a pizza and a date easily from your phone, why was it so difficult to find a job?”

With current approaches to hospitality staffing, such as job boards and agencies, being ‘fundamentally inefficient’ to quote Matt, the pair set about developing a platform that would appeal to both workers, who would be using the site, and employers, who would need to be courted to post jobs on the platform.

By looking at the shortcomings of ‘incumbent models’ such as cumbersome jobs boards and expensive agencies, inploi has hatched upon a new method that combines elements of the sharing economy with professional networking tools like LinkedIn.

It’s already a quietly competitive space, with a number of startups vying for market share amidst a rising clamour of firm’s claiming to have revolutionised the staffing industry for good.

I asked Matt what makes his platform different:

“There are a handful of start-up companies looking at this space - however the majority of them have taken existing solutions and modified them for mobile, failing to address many of the pain points that employers and job seekers face,” he told me.

With inploi, users set up a profile from which they can search for suitable jobs that have been posted by employers, tailored depending on position, rate of pay, geographical location and other metrics, putting them in direct contact and cutting out meddling agencies.

Employers can then pay staff directly through the app and are able to leave detailed feedback instantly once a worker has completed a shift, commenting on how well they have performed and contributing to their overall profile.

Users and employers can communicate directly through the app, which is available on iOS and will be available on Android in August, while candidates are intelligently matched with opportunities based on experience, location and other factors.

“In the long term we are working to build a global tech company providing the go-to marketplace for people looking for work…”

It is in this way that inploi is ‘reimagining the process entirely’ and building a marketplace for employers and job seekers to interact directly, cutting down on time spent pounding the pavements and saving hospitality firms money.

Perhaps the startup’s biggest innovation is in the creation of a centralised, virtual resume which hospitality staff, who are not really part of LinkedIn’s business plan, can cultivate and grow as part of their professional development.

Within this idea is where much of the startup’s potential lies and, as Matt says, feeds into the tech firm’s grand ambitions for the future:

“In the long term we are working to build a global tech company providing the go-to marketplace for people looking for work, and for employers looking for quality staff across a range of industries.

“We want to fundamentally alter the way people go about structuring their working lives, creating a more open and equal economy.

“On one level we are working to create a LinkedIn for the service economy, providing people in what are often informal sectors with a credible, transferable profile that acts as a virtual resume empowering them to access more and better opportunities.”

Such grand plans seem a far cry from the bootstrapped first seven months at inploi, where both Matt and Alex bounced from coffee shop to coffee shop, scraping cash together from part-time jobs to get the startup off the ground.

The small seed funding round at the beginning of the year changed all that, and now that the platform has launched the pair are looking to raise a more significant seed funding round to facilitate expansion across the wider UK.

Already, companies such as Deliveroo and London restaurants like Brasserie Zedel and Bill’s have signed up for the service, and more are sure to follow in the coming weeks and months as inploi scales its operations.

And in an industry all too often defined by exploitation and a lack of transparency, it is more than likely that the app will prove to be a big hit amongst hospitality workers too.

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