Photo: Werk co-founders: Markus Tarn (CTO), Marion Kallakas (COO) & Martin Kalamees (CEO)
Werk, a platform that enables companies to hire skilled and vetted migrant construction workers, handling everything from recruitment, verification, and relocation, has raised a $1.3M pre-seed round led by EstVCA member Change Ventures
, one of the leading early-stage funds in the Baltics.
Participants in the round, which is among the biggest ever pre-seeds in European HR and construction tech, include Foundamental VC
the largest global investor covering the Built-World – ConstructionTech and architecture, engineering and design technology, and angel investors Anthony Danon
and Carmen Alfonso-Rico
(Cocoa VC), Declan Kelly
(Foreword VC), Gonzalo Manrique
(Ironhack), and Andreas Klinger
(On Deck CTO and Head of Remote at AngelList).
Co-founded in Tallinn, Estonia in 2020 by Martin Kalamees
(CEO), Marion Kallakas
(COO), and Markus Tarn
(CTO), Werk will use the investment to further expand its team, and focus on product development and marketing.
Werk brings transparency to the often exploitative world of cross-border blue-collar contracting; supporting workers relocating to other countries by automating paperwork and visa documentation, and only works with companies that guarantee they will provide workers with the same payment terms, treatment, and protection conditions as they would if they were a local.
For contractors, once they input the skills they require on-site, the platform uses AI to match them with suitable, high-skilled workers who have been vetted by industry experts. Once the worker has been hired, Werk handles HR and payroll too.
“From travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, to the war in Ukraine cutting off labour supply networks, there are a number of uncontrollable elements affecting skilled migrant workers looking for construction jobs,” adds Rait Ojasaar, Investment Partner at Change Ventures. “Werk is providing a valuable service for businesses that need labourers, as well as a safe platform for those looking for jobs outside of their native countries. We are delighted to lead this first round of investment.”
With recent 20% month-on-month growth, the startup has already reached over 2,000 verified and vetted construction workers and has customers within Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Werk is developing and testing its cross-border relocation functionality, which automates visa and residence permit processes, the opening of bank accounts, flight tickets, accommodation, access to safe financial services, and support for their families back home. In addition, the startup is testing a social feature which allows workers to speak with one another, receive advice, ask questions about living and working within different countries, and consume relevant construction-related content such as tips and tricks.
Labour shortages have been a major problem for construction companies for years, with the process of hiring blue-collars internationally being extremely time consuming and complicated due to increased regulation, while the limited pool of middlemen can be unreliable and sometimes even operate illegally.
Demonstrative of the size of the problem is that 30% of workers on construction sites in European cities are foreign. The labour shortage issue was exacerbated by the pandemic’s travel and work restrictions. With Ukraine, Belarus and Russia supplying the majority of blue-collar labour workers for other European countries, the recent war has further disrupted Europe’s construction sector, which Werk is now helping to rebuild by providing skilled and vetted workers from countries such as Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines.
- Read more about the investment in Change Ventures' blog post - HERE
Image credit: Werk; https://unsplash.com/@christopher__burns